AFSOUTH working with Colombia to develop space program

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American Airmen from the Space community traveled to multiple U.S. space operations locations with Colombian air force counterparts in February as part of a U.S. Southern Command subject matter expert exchange.

According to Lt. Col Trae York, 12th Air Force and Air Forces Southern Director of Space Forces, the objective of the exchange was to expose the COLAF officers to small satellite development and launch processes.

“The exposure will help the Colombian air force to understand the full scope of the effort required in order to meet their stated space goals of having the capacity to develop and launch small satellites,” said York, who along with Lt. Col. Erick Fonseca from the 35th Fighter Wing at Misawa Air Base, Japan, facilitated the exchange.

The group traveled to multiple locations in Hawaii to gain this exposure including the University of Hawaii’s Space Flight Lab, 21st Space Operations Squadron Hula Detachment, and the Pacific Missile Range Facility. At these locations the COLAF officers, Capitan Fabio Sandoval, a program manager and Capitan Andrea Correchea, a radar expert, were able to interact with several space experts to really take-in all that is required to develop and launch small satellites. This involves a myriad of considerations ranging from acquisition to safety checks for the satellite and rocket, and all of the capacity and processes required, York said.

The trip to multiple locations in Hawaii was necessary because the Air Force currently does not launch or develop small satellites.

However, Air Force Space Command is implementing a Joint Capability Technology Demonstration to demonstrate the capacity and capability to develop and launch small satellites; this JCTD is called Operationally Responsive Space 4, or ORS-4. ORS-4 utilizes the ORS office as the primary program office and cobbles together University of Hawaii, commercial space launch capability, and U.S. military range capacity through the Pacific Missile Range Facility to develop and launch a University of Hawaii small satellite on a RocketDyne Super-Strypi launcher.

“The JCTD is an opportunity of limited time and duration,” York added. This necessitates some urgency in helping the COLAF realize opportunities available to reach their goal of launching small satellites.

“The compelling reason for Colombia to desire small satellite launch capability and capacity is because space enabled capabilities can be integrated into civil and military planning and operations to better enable those operations,” he said. “This is across multiple disciplines including humanitarian assistance / disaster relief, counter-narcotics, Earth monitoring for deforestation or illegal mining, tele-medicine, tele-education, and more.

“Having a specific understanding of the political, military, informational, economic, safety, costs, benefits, and requirements is paramount to meeting their stated goals,” York said. “The COLAF officers came away with this understanding.”