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Legacy Continues As Space Test Program Celebrates Its 40th Anniversary

Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center Commander Lt. Gen. Michael Hamel delivers  keynote remarks at the recent Space Test Program 40th Anniversary. (Photo by Elizabeth Martinez, Kirtland AFB)

Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center Commander Lt. Gen. Michael Hamel delivers keynote remarks at the recent Space Test Program 40th Anniversary. (Photo by Elizabeth Martinez, Kirtland AFB)

Los Angeles Air Force Base -- The Department of Defense Space Test Program celebrated its 40th anniversary here Nov. 8 with past and present personnel examining its history, current missions and looking toward the future of space research.

"The output and results of this program over the four decades have just been absolutely extraordinary. The number of programs that can trace their roots back to working with the Space Test Program is legendary," keynote speaker Space and Missile Systems Center Commander Lt. Gen. Michael Hamel said.

The technologies behind most military satellite programs such as GPS, military communications satellites, space-based surveillance and weather systems flying today had their initial demonstrations as Space Test Program risk reduction experiments.

"STP is the test bed for our future space capabilities and for our future space leaders. It provides the opportunities for innovative space technologies to be proven on orbit which ultimately provides solutions our joint warfighters need to succeed," the Space Development and Test Wing Space Development Group Commander and STP Director Col. Stephen Hargis said. "STP also provides the unique environment where our personnel, especially junior officers, can work on a mission from conception to launch."

During its productive history, the Space Test Program has flown 467 experiments and conducted 187 spaceflights as of November 2007.

Access to space is provided through all spaceflight means available including the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station and commercial and military expendable launch vehicles. STP is also the front door for all auxiliary payload launch service requests on Air Force expendable launch vehicles.

Based at Kirtland AFB, the DoD Space Test Program is administered by the Space Development Group, Space Development and Test Wing, Space and Missile Systems Center, Air Force Space Command. STP is a cost-effective way to evaluate early operational capabilities, demonstrate new space systems and technologies and reduce risk by flight testing prototype systems and components.

Space Test Program services are available for two categories of customers: experiments selected by the DoD Space Experiments Review Board that are eligible for STP funding and customers supplying their own funds.

The Space Experiments Review Board serves as the focal point of space technology demonstration in the Department of Defense. Experiments that have a high potential for providing a new warfighting capability or enhancing an existing capability compete for Space Experiments Review Board approval and eventual spaceflight through the Space Test Program.

Each year the Space Experiments Review Board releases a rank-order listing of all experiments they wish to have spaceflight-tested. This list is provided to STP, which then manifests as many experiments as its budget will allow.

The SERB met from Nov. 5-7. This year's list is scheduled for release early next year.

DoD customers with their own funding can access all the services of the Space Test Program provided through the Space Development and Test Wing without having to compete at the Space Experiments Review Board.

The Space Test Program was established in 1965 by the Department of Defense as a multi-user space program whose role is to be the primary provider of spaceflight for the entire Department of Defense space research community. The U.S. Air Force is the executive agent for the program.

The Space Test Program's legacy began when it launched Thor-Burner II out of Vandenberg AFB, Calif., on June 29, 1967. This rocket took two satellites into space to improve geodetic survey accuracy worldwide.

The Space and Missile Systems Center, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., is the U.S. Air Force's center of acquisition excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems including six wings and three groups responsible for GPS, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control network, space based infrared systems, intercontinental ballistic missile systems and space situational awareness capabilities. SMC manages more than $60 billion in contracts, executes annual budgets of $10 billion and employs more than 6,800 people worldwide.