Retooling the Space Ground Enterprise

As the Air Force retools its space ground enterprise, it must remain focused on agility, automation, security, and resiliency, the new commander of 14th Air Force (Air Forces Strategic) said Sept. 11 in Washington, D.C. The current space ground architecture was “designed in a different era for a different time,” said Lt. Gen. David Buck. However, he said, “Like every other environment, space is contested, degraded, and operationally limited.” Maintaining separate ground stations for every satellite system requires individualized operating systems, each operated by proprietary software the government does not own, which isn’t good for security, agility, resiliency, or affordability, Buck said. That’s why the Air Force is moving toward one system in which the government—not a single contractor—would own the mission data and technical baseline, he said. The Air Force also is working to change the space culture by changing the mission force construct to have operators work on the mission for six months, then have six months off for advanced training, requalifications, professional development, and leave, he added. The service also is transforming its space training so that after a “Space 101”-type course at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., new space operators will go to a different location for unit-mission-specific training. “It’s not only changing the ground system, it’s changing the mindset,” Buck said.