The U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., graduated the newest class of Space Test Fundamentals professionals during a ceremony at base theater, Aug. 20, 2021.
STF Class 21-2 finished a three-month long course and dubbed themselves the first “production” class in reference to an aircraft’s development and procurement cycle with STF Class 21-1 as the “prototype.”
“We are excited to continue to develop and evolve the course to meet the United States Space Force’s needs to produce adaptive, critical-thinking test professionals to conduct full-spectrum test and evaluation of space weapons systems,” said Col. Sebrina Pabon, Test Pilot School commandant.
The three-month program leverages world-class USAF TPS expertise and is designed to provide hands-on training in flight-test fundamentals, systems test, space science application, advanced space system test and evaluation, and broad exposure to the foremost centers of space operations and testing.
Throughout the course, a variety of case studies, guest lectures, and site visits were utilized to learn from those currently operating in the space environment and those who have paved the way. The students also met with various mission partners industry leaders.
The guest speaker for the ceremony was Space Force Col. Michael Hopkins, a NASA astronaut. He most currently served as commander on the Crew-1 Space-X Crew Dragon spacecraft. His prior experience includes graduating from TPS as a flight test engineer and he also served at the 418th†Flight Test Squadron at Edwards AFB.
He remarked that the total number of STF graduates is only 32, a small number that makes them rare and unique, he said.
“You now have a unique talent and skill set,” Hopkins said. “Unique not only for Space for and the Army, but for the U.S. military as a whole. When you take your backgrounds and you take these test fundamentals that you learned and put them together, that results in a very unique cadre that has an extremely important role to play for our nation.”
He urged to graduates to not lose sight of that fact and underplay their accomplishments.
“Your work’s not done, not even close,” Hopkins added. “As you go back to your units, share the knowledge that you gained with your colleagues. Take a look at the legacy systems that you operate on and think back: ‘if I applied these test fundamentals that we’ve learned had been applied when these jobs or these vehicles were new, would they be different?’”