The U.S. Air and Space Forces have partnered to create the new Space Test Course, which will instruct Guardians on test and evaluation processes, in order to conduct robust and methodical system testing on space-flight equipment at the Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
Space Force Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen. David D. Thompson and Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David W. Allvin signed a memorandum of agreement Feb. 23, 2023, establishing the new course.
“Ensuring our Guardians can effectively test and validate space-flight equipment is crucial to mission success and protecting the space domain for the Joint Force,” Thompson said.
This agreement marks the culmination of a multi-year effort that began in 2018 when what was then the Air Force Space Command stood up a test and evaluation directorate.
“The Air Force and Space Force will always be linked through our heritage,” Allvin, a 1994 USAF Test Pilot School graduate, said. “This MOA represents another way our partnership will build a better combat-ready force.”
The Space Test Course was developed under the leadership of Space Force Col. Michael Hopkins, Space Force Test and Evaluation director, and Air Force Col. Sebrina Pabon, U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School Commandant, to meet the requirement for space domain-focused test and evaluation training.
“I am extremely proud of what the team has accomplished and am looking forward to the official partnership between the Air Force and Space Force for Space Test and Evaluation education and training,” said Pabon.
Guardians enrolled in the 12-month program will receive formal instruction and practical experience covering the full spectrum test and evaluation of mission systems and topics critical to the space domain, such as orbital mechanics, electromagnetic spectrum, sensor sciences and the space environment.
While the traditional Test Pilot School focuses on developmental testing, an evaluation of specification compliance and early technology maturation, the Space Force is moving to an ‘integrated testing’ approach where principles of developmental testing are linked to operational testing, a form of testing that focuses on a system’s performance and usefulness in an operational environment, as well as the development of new tactics and procedures.
This integrated focus will prepare graduates to evaluate a space system’s entire life cycle and consider potential concerns and future risks a system may encounter.
With this partnership between the branches, the Space Force will enhance its ability to present the combat-ready forces required to protect U.S. space capabilities and defend the Joint Force from space-enabled attack.