Captain Kirk, as we all know, learned to pilot spaceships at Starfleet Academy, which offers a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge in the fictional “Star Trek” universe.
With President Donald Trump’s launch of Space Force last year, our military journalist Tom Roeder and I immediately began to wonder about the really important things like a motto, uniforms and, of course, where the real Starfleet Academy could be built.
Is it possible, we wondered, that Starfleet Academy is based here in Colorado Springs, like the Space Force and US Space Command are now (temporarily, at least)?
The more I poked around, the more I realized that Starfleet Academy was already there.
The Air Force Academy has been training cadets specializing in space operations for decades.
“Space has long been an essential part of the Air Force and the Academy as the mission has been to fly, fight and win…in the air, space and cyberspace,” wrote academy officials said in a statement.
Gazette reporter Erin Prater reported last week that when the Air Force Academy’s class of 2020 graduates this spring, about 60 cadets studying space operations will likely transfer to the Space Force, as will the Air Force. US Naval Academy commissions naval officers.
When it was created in December, the Space Force became a department of the Air Force, just as the Marines are part of the Navy. If you want to be a naval officer, you don’t go to the non-existent naval academy, you go to the Annapolis Naval Academy.
If you want to join the Space Force, your best bet right now is going to Air Force Academy.
Talks are underway to offer academy juniors interested in joining the Space Force several job fields to choose from, including space operations, intelligence, cyber, acquisitions and engineering.
A Space Force Liaison Office is already being formed at the Academy. “In a very short time, the Academy and Space Force have formed a close bond, and efforts are underway to improve space integration into the program,” Academy officials said.
US Senator Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, who was at the school when the commissioning decision was announced, argues that the location of the academy here is a strong case for locating Space Command headquarters there. and the Space Force permanently. Trump announced Thursday that Colorado was a strong contender for both, but the decision won’t be made until the end of the year.
The cooperation between Space Force and Air Force Academy “is incredibly important,” Gardner said during the announcement. “Having that kind of background knowledge here, having the thinkers and leaders here will mean a lot to the Air Force Academy, to Colorado Springs, Colorado, as a whole, and to our national security mission.”
U.S. Representative Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, was also on hand for the announcement and spoke about the “synergy” that will occur between Air Force Bases Peterson, Schriever, and Buckley and the academy, and the benefit of being able to “send cadets around town to see space operations and talk to space operators.
The academy’s legacy now includes “the inspiring task of shaping the Space Force,” AFA Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria said Dec. 20 at the official birth of the Space Force.
Really, the Air Force Academy became Starfleet Academy a long time ago. The Academy’s space program, made up of aerospace experts, mechanics and engineers, was established in the 1980s.
Each cadet takes a basic astronautics course as part of the core curriculum, and courses focused on space topics include space law, politics, military strategic studies, history and engineering, Academy officials said.
The Cadet Space Operations Squadron is a pilot program in which cadets train and lead other cadets in the operation of AFA satellites. Academy cadets began designing and building their own satellites in the 1990s, and one of their birds, FalconSat-6, was recently launched aboard a SpaceX rocket and is now zooming around from Earth at 357 miles.
Lt. Col. Dan Showalter, assistant professor of astronautics, manages a team of more than 40 cadets who work on the design, construction and engineering testing of satellites, and more than 80 cadets who support in-orbit operations. The AFA is the only undergraduate facility in the world to build its own satellites.
According to Roeder, the academy’s unique FalconSAT advanced engineering program is supported by a team of technical experts, machinists and engineers.
Two of the cadets who completed FalconSAT were named Rhodes Scholars.
The Academy has six research centers focused on space-related technology and policy, including the Center for Space Systems Research, the Astronomical Research Group and Observatory, the Research Center for Knowledge of space situation, the Laser Optics Research Center, the Space Physics and Atmospheric Research Center and the Eisenhower Center. for space and defense studies.
Each summer, Academy cadets also participate in space-related internships, including work at SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, Northrop-Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, NASA, the National Reconnaissance Office, the MIT, Air Force research labs, and various operational labs. Air Force Space Command organizations, according to Mark Kuykendall, chief of executive communications at the academy.
The academy has been training space cadets for some time: 41 of its graduates have gone into space.
Retired Lieutenant General Susan Helms, class of 1980, has already set a world record for spacewalks: 8 hours and 56 minutes. On the first of her five spaceflights, a 1993 mission on the space shuttle Endeavour, Helms became the first military woman to launch into space and logged 211 days in space during a career of 12 years at NASA, according to Kuykendall.
Colonel Jack Fischer, Class of 1996, spent 35 days in orbit aboard the International Space Station, according to Kuykendall. He returned to Earth on September 3, 2017, after completing a mission that included two spacewalks totaling 6 hours and 54 minutes. Fischer told Kuykendall that his childhood dream of becoming an astronaut led him to the academy. “It all started with a trip to see my grandfather at the Johnson Space Center when I was 6,” he said.
“No other institution on Earth can provide the same fundamental space-related education, training and practical experience to prepare future Space Force officers,” Academy officials said.
When Space Force is complete, the Pentagon believes it will number around 15,000 people, including enlisted men and women, officers and civilians. This means the academy is going to be a busy training ground for US space troops.
A future Captain Kirk might already be taking lessons there.