April 23, 2015 – Cadets from the Space Physics and Atmospheric Research Center introduced military and commercial space professionals to a new instrument to analyze the ionosphere, April 13 at the 31st Annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.
Cadets 1st Class Nikolas Taormina and Alex Strom from the Academy’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department briefed symposium attendees on the Academy’s Integrated Miniaturized Electrostatic Analyzer Reflight, designed to measure plasma densities and temperatures to improve the forecast of the ionosphere.
The symposium included representatives from 40 countries and 1,200 organizations. This was the first year SPARC cadets presented at the trade show.
“Presentations such as this are an important part of the cadet learning experience,” said Matthew McHarg, Space Physics and Atmospheric Research Center director. “We in SPARC want cadets to understand a critical part of research is communicating the results. If we never report our results, the research isn’t effective. This symposium is the major meeting at the national level for the entire U.S. space industry and a fantastic opportunity for cadets to practice briefing and writing for this audience.”
Cadets from the Astronautics Department spoke at a press conference there on the Academy’s FalconSAT program, which allows cadets to design, analyze and operate small satellites to conduct Defense Department space missions.
“Our relationship with the Space Foundation sponsoring the symposium is as old as the symposium itself,” said Col. Martin France, head of the Astronautics Department. “I first started working with them and their educational outreach programs more than 30 years ago. Today, we support their audience with an astronaut program to bring Colorado kindergarten through 12th grade students to the Academy to meet astronauts and learn about space and science, technology, engineering and math careers. We also helped them this year with the first-ever high school space competition, co-sponsored with the Air Force Association, called Stellar Explorers. It was held simultaneously with the symposium and consisted of teams from five Colorado high schools. We look forward to that program growing each year until it’s comparable to the large cyber warrior competitions conducted every year.”
Senior cadets pursuing space-related careers after graduation also participated at the symposium, attending sessions geared toward young professionals.
“The cadets learn a lot about the size and value of the overall space program, nationally and internationally,” France said. “They also meet many important players in the space business and get an important glimpse into the diversity of the industry, including national security, civil, private and international space organizations. Many don’t realize how big space is until they go to the symposium.”
Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James was a featured speaker at the symposium. She said Airmen need to help get the word out to others on how important space is.
“Space affects people in their daily lives,” she said. “From precision timing used for ATMs and international banking, to GPS systems in cars and phones, space is even more important for our military strategy and a key domain for our combatant commanders.”
James said the Air Force must change its mindset and think about space differently than in the past.
“We need to be ready,” she said. “We constantly talk about readiness in the Air Force and readiness in space is no less important than in any other domain. We need to be ready in case a conflict extends to space, while promoting the responsible use of space. We need to wrap our heads around the idea that space may not always be a peaceful domain and respond accordingly.”