Recasting Aerospace Support/Strategy Team

Book iconFirst published May 2013, Crosslink® magazine

Delivering unrivaled space and missile system capabilities to the U.S. military and its allies is a primary goal of the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) at Los Angeles Air Force Base. SMC, along with The Aerospace Corporation and its contractor partners, has been very successful in achieving its goals over the last several years. An unprecedented number of new satellite systems were launched in a relatively short timeframe, including: Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF), Global Positioning System-IIF (GPS IIF), Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS), Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS), Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS), and Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS).

Aerospace has always positioned itself to support SMC and its other government customers in all phases of the space system acquisition process with world-class talent across the company. Personnel within the Aerospace program offices and the Engineering and Technology Group (ETG) have demonstrated an exceptional capability to supply expertise in the various disciplines of science and engineering to meet a wide range of technical issues throughout the lifecycle of a space program. As is often the case with extremely complex, sophisticated systems, many challenges arose during qualification and acceptance testing as programs were developed during the last decade. In addition, optimistic timelines to conduct spacecraft assembly, integration, and testing were exceeded as Aerospace experts collaborated with contractors and government teams to ensure that the systems being developed would meet warfighter needs. The teams aggressively resolved design, production, and testing issues, resulting in the delivery of exquisite capabilities to the warfighter.

It is now time to reflect back on the lessons learned from these recently delivered capabilities and determine how to position Aerospace for the future, given fiscal realities, technical capabilities, mission threats, and the current state of existing space capabilities. After completing several first-of-kind systems, SMC is looking to the future to deliver an evolving set of space and ground capabilities. Likewise, Aerospace needs to realign its focus as it works with its customers to achieve the next series of successes. Just as Aerospace gradually shifted its technical support to the tail end of the systems engineering processes for recently fielded systems, it now needs to shift talent back to the front end of the systems engineering processes as new systems are conceived and the capabilities of existing systems are exploited in new ways. In many cases, this is simply a matter of applying existing technical capabilities to the engineering challenges associated with the enhancement of existing systems, or the birthing of new systems. This may include requirements formulation, rather than requirements verification, or the examination of attributes of new technology developments, rather than conducting technology demonstrations. It may also include supplementing existing space architectures with new, cost-effective space payloads that are integrated with more affordable commercially available satellite buses or hosted on other satellite systems. Aerospace is now taking a step back to view the entire space enterprise and formulate concepts that support a sustainable future. This will involve leveraging the mission capability and development gains from the recent past. The lessons learned from the past decade are rich with guidance on the way forward.

In an effort to look toward the future and assess the best way forward, the Recasting Aerospace Support Team (RAST) has been formed at Aerospace to unite efforts already under way in program offices and within ETG to align and exploit existing Aerospace skills and products. RAST is one key means of implementing the corporation’s strategic plan for innovative architectures and improved decision support, as well as providing guidance to program offices and ETG. The RAST membership has broad knowledge of technical skills, analytic tools, mission assurance activities, systems engineering design methods, acquisition processes, and lessons learned from across the corporation.

Interaction among RAST members provides a forum for sharing tools and processes that have been used in the past to successfully support Aerospace customers. RAST has already supported two SMC program offices where the government was in the process of formulating the right skills mix needed for existing and new acquisition programs. ETG has also developed a suite of powerful tools to evaluate space and ground system architecture concepts, including end-to-end system simulations, mission-level cost benefit trades, mission utility analysis, system-level concept of operations, enterprise decision support, and requirements impacts. These capabilities enable Aerospace to support SMC as it works to develop the next generation of resilient, affordable, and unrivaled space systems.

– Wayne H. Goodman, vice president, Space Program Operations

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