COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—The fledgling Space and Readiness Training Command (STARCOM) is examining the challenges U.S. Space Force Guardians face in training and testing on space systems with the expectation that a lot of this work will be done digitally and is also exploring live training needs, Maj. Gen. Shawn Bratton, commander of STARCOM, said on Wednesday.
STARCOM isn’t looking to replicate the kinds of static test ranges the armed services have where soldiers, Marines and airmen test and train in live environments such as the Air Force’s Red Flag exercises held several times a year to conduct aerial combat training.
“There’s no sovereignty in space and we’re not looking to impose that sort of model at all in the space domain,” Bratton said at a media roundtable during the annual Space Symposium here. “We think a lot of it will be done digitally.”
STARCOM, which stood up eight months ago, needs to think through what live training would look like and would have to account for “norms of behavior” in space and be “safe and professional,” he said.
The U.S. Space Force’s Space Warfighting Analysis Center (SWAC), which does wargaming, modeling and experimentation, is developing “digital models” for the Space Force’s “future force design” and STARCOM expects to benefit from these, he said.
These models will enable STARCOM to “do testing in the digital space for new systems that are fielded as well as training activities,” Bratton said. “And we’ll use those same models that begin with SWAC and kind of work their way through the [Space] Systems Command and eventually STARCOM will also be using those. That requires a shared infrastructure that enables us to pass models and there’s a technical challenge there that I really think industry is going to help us solve.”
U.S. Space Force currently does exercises through Space Flag, which Bratton said is a virtual effort. There are some activities that could be done live “and we’re thinking about how do to that,” he said.
Bratton highlighted the Air Force Academy’s FalconSAT program, which involves cadets designing, building, testing and operating small satellites for Defense Department missions, giving them training experience.
“We’re trying to assess if that’s a good model for us to expand in the Space Force where operators, whether space, cyber or intelligence can get some hands-on experience before they show up at their first operations unit,” Bratton said. He added that the first time he “touched a spacecraft” is when he joined his first operational unit.
STARCOM has done some live activities in the electronic warfare area, Bratton said. Future needs will be driven by future systems that are fielded and the test community’s requirements.
STARCOM is working with SWAC and Space Systems Command, which does the development, acquisition, fielding and sustainment of space capabilities for warfighters, to define the baseline architecture such as ground infrastructure for training and testing command and control and space domain awareness, Bratton said.
One type of training exercise that would be difficult to conduct live is moving and maneuvering a satellite on orbit, Bratton said. Currently, working through a scenario where something is approaching a satellite and whether it presents a hazard and how this is communicated and responded to is done digitally, he said.
Operators currently face these challenges of movement and maneuver in space but Bratton said STARCOM wants to do more of this in training so Guardians are more prepared before having to contend with these situations in their missions.
“The difficult question is, does that need to be live or can we do it digital?” he said. “And that’s really what we’re working through now and talking to partners both within the Space Force and in industry on how do we balance that live versus virtual training? How do we assess the value of a live sortie if you will, versus a digital sortie? So, we need all the training objectives.”