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    Army space ops officers gain NASA experience

    LTC Jon Vos at Army Detachment NASA

    Courtesy Photo | Lt. Col. Jon Vos, an Army space operations officer, stands in front of an...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Rognstad 

    U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command

    PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colorado -- Army space operations officers (Functional Area 40s) utilize space capabilities to provide integrated and timely capabilities to the warfighter. There are more than 400 FA40s stationed across the world, but only one currently works at NASA, with another coming onboard in November.

    FA40s are often provided opportunities to broaden themselves and further their careers by taking on assignments outside the typical military career track. The NASA Army Detachment at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, does exactly that, immersing them into NASA operations and staff organizations. They gain an understanding of how another government, non-military organization accomplishes a technical, highly visible mission by participating in NASA’s decision-making process at the tactical level. Usually there are two or three FA40s working at the detachment, serving three-year tours.

    Examples of day-to-day duties for an FA40 at NASA include everything from developing new hardware to return astronauts to the moon, to providing quality control on spacecraft hardware prior to integration and launch.

    “We are able to learn best practices from NASA, as well as provide military expertise to them for the mutual benefit of both organizations,” said Lt. Col. John Vos, an FA40 at NASA.

    Vos, who has been an FA40 since 2010, is on year three of his tour in Houston, and said other than learning the language and syntax of NASA-speak, the most challenging part of his experience thus far has been the certification process to become a capsule communicator, or CapCom for short. CapComs are liaisons between in-space crews and mission control on the ground.

    “It takes many hours of study to understand the systems, the language, the rules, and the procedures to be on the floor of mission control,” said Vos. “The CapCom’s job is to integrate the team of astronauts and mission control as best as possible, to understand the situation and systems, and then to translate what the ground team is doing to the crew on station, guide the crew through procedures, and then advocate for the crew to ensure their needs are being met. It took me the better part of a year executing two-to-four simulations a month under the mentorship of a certified CapCom to get qualified to work on the real mission control floor.”

    Lt. Col. Adam Springer, a former FA40 at NASA, was a CapCom for the majority of his tour, which recently ended.

    “Training to become a capsule communicator is a lengthy process,” said Springer. “It’s comprised of 127, plus or minus, classes on communication systems, engineering, leadership, and everything under the sun. The training is focused on making sure we can take the technical data from the flight control team and communicate it in a way that the astronauts on board the space station understand what actions they need to take, and when they need to take them.”

    Only when the flight director of mission control deems one worthy can they then become a certified CapCom, like Springer and Vos.

    Aside from CapCom training, many day-to-day duties of a NASA FA40 involve operations to include capsule launch and recovery in NASA’s Vehicle Integration Testing Office. Maj. Karoline Hood, an FA40 whose tour at NASA ended in June, worked in the office, and said it was definitely one of the highlights of her career.

    “It was an incredible experience. I got to go down to Kennedy (Space Center) and launch and recover commercial spacecraft,” said Hood. “A lot of people think the hardest part is getting the spacecraft up into space, but there’s actually a lot of challenges getting it back to Earth.”

    One of the capsules, Resilience - a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft - was recovered by Hood and her team while she was at NASA. The same capsule was used for the SpaceX Inspiration4 launch on Sept. 15 – the first all civilian crew sent to space.

    Col. Andrew Morgan, commander of the detachment, and a NASA astronaut who served as flight engineer on the International Space Station for Expeditions 60, 61 and 62, said all of the FA40 roles at NASA directly support its astronauts.

    “These officers fill a variety of roles from leading teams performing crew-space vehicle integration, supporting launch and recovery operations, or working as a console operator in the Mission Control Center,” said Morgan. “Having FA40s at NASA is a great way for NASA to learn from the Army, and the Army to learn from NASA.”



    Date Taken: 10.28.2021
    Date Posted: 11.05.2021 14:06
    Story ID: 408217

    Web Views: 248
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