Space Force will invest in test infrastructure to evaluate new systems

General David Thompson said the Space Force will invest in digital technology for virtual testing and training, as well as facilities.

WASHINGTON — The US Space Force in a vision document calls for the service to invest in infrastructure and a trained workforce to support testing of new satellite designs and other systems.

In the “Space Test Enterprise Vision” published on May 10, the Space Force says that traditional methods for testing hardware and software are no longer adequate for evaluating future systems.

Satellites have typically been tested for technical performance, but not for survivability against antisatellite weapons, Gen. David Thompson, deputy chief of space operations, told reporters on May 10.

“We’ve been testing and training space capabilities for years,” he said. “But in previous years we didn’t have to worry about specific threats in the domain and we didn’t have to test our systems against those threats or train our gatekeepers to operate against those threats,” Thompson said.

Because of these changes, the Space Force has to create a “test enterprise and culture among testers,” he said. “That’s what this vision is really about, and the infrastructure and investment that we’re building around it.”

Thompson said the Space Force has requested $89 million in fiscal year 2023 to begin design and development of a National Space Test and Training Complex, or NSTTC. This will include a digital environment for virtual testing and training, and some real hardware that might be needed for real-world testing.

Funding for this effort is likely to increase in the coming years, Thompson said. He noted that there is additional money in the Space Force budget for testing and training spread across multiple accounts.

A key change the Space Force recommends in the Space Test Enterprise Vision is to combine the traditional phases in military weapons systems — developmental testing and operational testing — into a single test activity, said Maj. Gen. Shawn Bratton, commander of Space Training. . and Readiness Command, or STARCOM.

STARCOM is the designated command to map out a plan for the future testing company.

“We believe that if we can integrate the testing activities, it will allow us to be more efficient, faster and speed up the testing part of the procurement process,” he said.

The idea of ​​consolidating testing into a single, integrated activity was discussed with the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation, and the Defense Department supports the plan, Bratton said. That said, the Space Force will have to “test that on the run and collect data to show that it’s effective.”

Bratton said STARCOM will take the lead in devising a strategy for future testing and training and will work closely with space acquisition organizations and operating units to ensure all needs are taken into account.

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