Space force

Space Force will pioneer “integrated testing” and digital range concepts

Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen. David D. Thompson delivers remarks at the Army and Navy Club in Washington, D.C. during a reception welcoming members of the US Space Force to join the club, January 5, 2022 Thompson talked about the Space Force mission. (US Air Force photo by Eric Dietrich)

WASHINGTON: The Space Force’s new training strategy will combine traditional development and operational testing into a single regime — a move that senior officials say should reduce costs and accelerate the acquisition of new capabilities.

The key is that integrated testing will “save time,” Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen. David “DT” Thompson said Tuesday during a briefing on the service’s new Space Test Enterprise Vision.

“Instead of conducting two separate tests, with two separate test results at two different times, we will both reduce the schedule and then, we believe, we will be more efficient – simply because we will be conducting one integrated testing activity that reduce requirements for development testing and operational testing,” he said. “So we need to prove that execution and collect data to show that’s the case, but we’re absolutely confident that we’re going to to save money.”

Major General Shawn Bratton, head of Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM), explained that traditionally the Department of Defense differentiates “between development testing, which is generally the responsibility of the acquisition community to test the equipment against specifications. And then operational testing, where we switch it to the operational side and really explore the resilience of the system – how does it perform in the environment and what are the performance metrics of the system? »

Instead, Space Force will explore integrating these two efforts, “where we might have a single, different testing activity, providing data to Space Systems Command for development testing, as well as myself and to STARCOM for operational testing purposes, but we believe that if we can integrate the testing activities, it will allow us to be more efficient more quickly and speed up the testing part of the acquisition process.

Bratton noted that Space Force officials have been working with the Department of Defense’s Office of Operational Test and Evaluation as it develops its test plans, and that other services are also experimenting with the concept of test integration.

“So we’re not completely alone on this, but I think we’re all in on it,” he said.

Bratton said STARCOM is still working on developing an “architecture” for the future National Space Test and Training Complex (NSTTC), but initial work has been done and is feeding into the Space Force investment strategy. for testing and training operations, including for the fiscal year 2024 budget cycle is now in the early stages of planning across the DoD.

“I don’t have a draft architectural document in my hands. What I did in personnel was sort of, ‘Here are the capabilities we need for NTTSC, and here is where we’re going to invest in those capabilities and technologies for exercise ’24,'” he said. declared.

Thompson said Space Force has about $70 million available for fiscal year 2022 and $89 million for 2023, “specifically related to what I’ll call improving the test and evaluation enterprise. “.

However, he explained that these sums do not cover all investments in testing and training activities.

“There are a lot of additional investments supporting it and improving it, not factored into these numbers,” Thompson said. “For example, today we have a functional training and testing line of about $20 million a year that will support this business. There is a significant investment in manpower to support these activities and Deltas. There is modeling and simulation happening at Space Systems Command and Space Warfighting and Analysis Center and others who will provide models that will help with that.

Modeling is crucial for the future NTTSC, as much of the testing and training will take place in the digital realm, Bratton noted.

As he told reporters during a briefing last month, STARCOM faces challenges in undertaking live testing and in-orbit training, due to legal, technical and financial constraints. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty, signed by most nations of the world, prohibits any country from claiming sovereignty over parts of outer space or celestial bodies, such as the Moon. Moreover, even small satellites are not cheap to launch. And unlike other services, the Space Force doesn’t have old spare satellites floating around (literally and figuratively) for trainees to play with.

Numerical models and simulations will therefore be essential for both testing and training. Bratton emphasized on Tuesday that the idea is to “reuse” numerical models developed and validated by the Space Warfighting Analysis Center (SWAC) for force design development, then provided to acquisition gurus at Space Systems Command. (SSC) to develop new weapons. systems. In turn, he said, STARCOM will provide feedback to the SWAC and SSC that will allow them to refine the models.

The result, Bratton said, is that the NTTSC will not be a single facility.

“I don’t imagine that everything is located in the same place. And the reason I say that is because we’re working really hard on the connectivity in what we consider the digital range or the digital aspect of the NTTSC in the connectivity down to the program offices, and up at SWAC,” he said.