U.S. Air Force Astro Lab Tour


February 16, 2015 – The AIAA Rocky Mountain Section Speaker Program and the United States Air Force Academy Space System Research Center (SSRC) will host a tour of the Astro Lab at the USAF Academy in Colorado Springs on March 5, 2015.

The SSRC, within the Department of Astronautics, works closely with other USAF Academy research centers for the singular purpose of helping cadets “Learn Space by Doing Space.” The SSRC is largely funded through government sponsors (primarily the Air Force Research Laboratory) and gifts, focused on cadet education while achieving read DoD R&D objectives.

The primary focus of the SSRC is executing the Capstone Astronautical Engineering course, where cadets form an integrated aerospace “company,” complete with a management and systems engineering structure. In the end, cadets led by faculty design, built, test, and fly real satellites, aka “FalconSATs.” Each satellite program is executed within a nominal three-year cycle, beginning with a structural engineering model and avionics test bed, then concluding with a flight model.

Over 350 cadets to date have graduated with real hands-on satellite experience, with many going to initial assignment in labs and acquisition product centers. SSRC has launched five real satellites since 1997, preceded by balloon experiments and “Get Away Specials” on the Space Shuttle Hitchhiker Program.

FalconSAT-3 launched in 2007 and has been SRRC’s most successful program, operating on orbit for over six years. Hundreds of contacts have been made with the satellite, operated by a cadet-driven space operations center. FalconSAT-5 performed on orbit for over a year, with 600+ contacts exposing over 160 cadets to satellite operations. FalconSAT-6 and -7 are currently in the build and test phase, both scheduled to launch in 2016.

The SSRC supports many other efforts such as a summer space program which has put 36 balloons into near space, hosting payloads built by over 200 cadets. Additionally, SSRC’s Summer Seminar classes have high school students building rockets, learning about orbits, and flying educational satellites. Finally, SSRC has a robust rocket propulsion program, which has resulted in multiple high-altitude rocket launches and new work with electrical propulsion.

To tour Astro Lab, register here by February 26, 2015. Your full name, driver’s license information, and birth date are required at registration to get on the USAF base. Contact Heather.A.McKay@lmco.com with any questions.

The social begins at 6:00 p.m. MST, with the program following at 6:30 p.m. MST. This program is open to the public, but you must be a U.S. citizen to attend.