By Senior Airman Andrew Bertain | Peterson-Schriever Garrison Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Students from the inaugural U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School Space Test Fundamentals course, Class 21-1, visited Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, recently.
The STF course curriculum included a two-week tour of Schriever AFB; Buckley AFB, Colorado; U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado; Kirtland AFB, New Mexico; and Vandenberg AFB, California, before a final capstone project that tied the whole course together and validated the desired learning objectives.
Since 1951, the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB, California has taught students how to predict, test, and validate data gathered from flight test missions using the newest technologies and information. In response to a sharpened focus across the Department of Defense on the space warfighting domain, the first STF course began Jan. 4, 2021.
“TPS trains and educates primarily pilots and engineers to systematically and rigorously evaluate weapons system performance against design requirements,” said Kevin Rhoades, Space Training and Readiness Delta (Provisional) deputy. “The school also evaluates new and innovative technologies to determine their possible application to future weapons systems. At the beginning of this year, the USAF TPS began it’s first-ever ‘Space Test Fundamentals course’ to meet the needs of the U.S. Space Force. This course is designed to expose students to the test process, methodologies, and analytical tools used to determine results.”
While at Schriever AFB, the class received mission briefs and demonstrations from several units under STAR Delta (P) designed to immerse the participants in the space warfighting domain.
“Space Test Fundamentals is a first-of-its-kind course designed to train and educate test professionals for the space domain,” said U.S. Space Force Capt. Austin Cooner, STF course class 21-1 member. “Our class visited STAR Delta at Schriever AFB to receive mission briefs from the 25th Space Range Squadron, 17th Test Squadron, STAR Delta Operating Location Alpha, 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron, and the 527th Space Aggressor Squadron, each of which has a unique role to play in the test community. The value of networking with current and future space testers can’t be overstated.”
While with the 3rd SES, the class learned the principles of rendezvous and proximity operations, delving into the complex process wherein one space vehicle maneuvers to match the orbit of another vehicle.
“The 3rd SES is sharing their experience with RPO to help build a community of space experimenters and operators capable of leading and ensuring safe and responsible space operations,” said Capt. John Newell, 3rd SES engineering flight commander. “TPS’ inaugural Space Test Fundamental’s Course was here to gain insight into what RPO currently looks like, with the goal of melding USSF RPO expertise with the TPS aeronautics expertise to reimagine how we operate in, and think about, space operations.”
While the students of STF class 21-1 benefited from training with space units and learning their missions, the USSF also gained vital feedback on how the space domain can be better integrated to improve joint warfighting.
“This course directly supports the Space Force’s requirements to design and field the best possible capabilities that meet warfighter needs to support the nation’s national security interests,” said Rhoades. “The results of rigorously and systematically testing space systems directly impacts systems in the process of being fielded, as well as improves design requirements for future systems. Specifically, lessons learned from testing current systems can be applied to future systems to enhance their capabilities. Testing can also help validate new tactics, techniques, and procedures.”
As the USSF structure continues to mature, the need for more Guardians and Airmen to go through this tailored space course will also increase, providing more warfighters the ability to lead and conduct full-spectrum test and evaluation of systems operating across the air and space domains.