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Air Force, Space Force select students for space test fundamentals course

Colonel Pabon, TPS Commandant with Major General Azzano, Air Force Test Center Commander

Col. Sebrina Pabon, Test Pilot School commandant, talks with Air Force Test Center Commander, Maj. Gen. Christopher Azzano, during the Space Test Fundamentals Course student selection board at Edwards AFB, California on Oct.1, 2020. The board selected students for the three planned courses for 2021 with the initial course scheduled to begin in January 2021. (U.S. Air Force Photo/2nd Lt. Christine Saunders)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

The Air Force Test Center’s Test Pilot School is one step closer to standing up the Space Test Fundamentals course.

“Today, here in this building, a board is selecting the first class of space professionals to attend our new space test fundamentals course,” said AFTC Commander, Maj. Gen. Christopher Azzano during the Multi-Domain Test Force activation ceremony held Oct. 1, 2020 in the TPS Scobee auditorium. “How fitting that we’re talking about a new paradigm for domain-integrated test in the halls of our own test pilot schoolhouse.”

The U.S. Space Force Test Directorate and Air Force Test Center’s Test Pilot School completed the selection board for the inaugural Space Test Fundamentals course.  The school located here at Edwards, AFB received 166 applicants prior to its Sept. 15 application deadline. 

The board selected students for the three planned courses for 2021 with the initial course scheduled to begin in January 2021.  The course is a 13-week, hands-on program designed to train personnel in the fundamentals of space domain test and evaluation.

“This is the most in-depth, hands-on space domain test and evaluation course available,” said Col. Sebrina Pabon, TPS commandant and 2006 TPS grad.

Pabon, the first female and second flight test engineer to command the school since its inception in 1944, also mentioned the Space Force needs to be able to test systems to make sure they function as designed and meet the requirements in a safe, secure, efficient and effective manner.

The development of the course is part of the broader U.S. Space Force’s effort to increase the trained cadre of test and engineering professionals to meet the demands of the new service. 

 “This course coalesces test and space expertise from Test Pilot School, the Space Force, NASA, the Air Force Academy, and others,” said Col. Nick Hague, USSF Test and Evaluation director, and NASA astronaut. “It is just the first step in training the cadre of space test professionals we need – space operators, engineers, space acquisition test managers – to deliver on-orbit capabilities for the nation.”

 The curriculum is based on the same test and evaluation foundation that grounds the current USAF Test Pilot School. 

“A lot of the content that will be going into the STF course was cherry-picked directly from what we teach on the air side, from the foundational TPS content,” said Dr. Andy Freeborn, a flight test instructor pilot who manages the STF course. “Subjects like statistics, reporting, and overarching test processes are domain agnostic.”

The course is currently broken up into six modules to include: introduction to air vehicle flight test, introduction to systems testing, basics of the space environment, a field trip to see U.S. space development, test, and operations facilities, a capstone exercise featuring a graduation project, and lastly a course wrap up.

The USAF Academy is on board to teach a week of instruction specific to astronautical engineering such as orbital mechanics, satellite bus design, and space environment.

The course is open to all DoD officers, enlisted and civilian personnel who meet the eligibility criteria.  TPS plans to notify all students selected as primary and alternate by November.

The course expects to host 15 students per class and is scheduled to be held three times a year. A new course facility is under construction with ability to host a maximum of 30 students per class and an overall training throughput of up to 90 students per year.

The Space Test Fundamentals selection board this week also happened to coincide with the conclusion of USSF’s second round of a 3-week space test course taught in cooperation with Nation Test Pilot School.  The National course was put in place to bridge the training gap while planning for the stand-up of the more extensive Air Force TPS 3-month course.