A few questions about USAF space operations careers

Discussion in 'Life After the Academy' started by usafa2022, Jan 21, 2016.

  1. usafa2022

    usafa2022 Member

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    I googled around a little and didn't find much detailed information on space ops in the AF, but it sounds like a really exciting career field for officers. It's my understanding that AFSPC officers (I think its AFSC is 13S but idk) direct the operation of satellites and plan missions. Does this mostly entail managing enlisted airmen like most other officer AFSCs, or can it be actually operating satellites, planning missions, and working on the control center floor during a launch? The actual operations are what I'm most interested in.

    Also, what does the path to becoming an AFSPC officer look like? What are the degree requirements, skill sets, and training like? I know USAFA used to offer a space operations major but it has been discontinued.

    I would assume the civilian applications for the space field are many since the commercial space industry has been growing so fast. Do space officers typically move on to similar jobs in industry? Watching SpaceX develop and test that reusable rocket has been awesome, and being part of something like that either in the AF or commercially would be pretty amazing.
     
  2. Falcon A

    Falcon A Member

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    I retired in Dec 2007, so my data may not be as current as others. I had a great 24 1/2 year AF career of which 20 years were in and around space related activities. I was able to do acquisition management, engineering, development, testing, mission planning, satellite operations, and launch operations. You are correct that the standard AFSC for space ops in the AF is 13SX for officers. Some start off their careers directly in space ops, but others get there from the missileer career fields, or from the acquisition and engineering career fields (I did the acquisition and engineering route). I'm also hearing cyberops is a path.

    My bias and belief is that it is best to have a technical or engineering degree. Some are able to succeed without one, but most of the folks that I know that really excelled and had a great space-related career had the technical background. The education I got at USAFA prepared me well, and I believe it would do the same for you or anyone else fortunate enough to attend

    As you might expect, whether you will be supervising personnel will depend on the path you take and the job you have. Some of the satellite operations are done by officers or by enlisted with officers supervising, but many of the satellite operators are also civilians or contractors. Just depends on the system. Sames goes for mission planning. Unlike the Army, Navy or USMC, it is unlikely you will be a supervisor as an O1/2nd LT.

    Launch is a niche unto itself and has 2 paths. First path is Range Operations. This is the job of operating the radars and the communication systems at the 2 AF run launch bases (Patrick AFB/Cape Canaveral AFS in FL and Vandenberg AFB in CA). The Range job is to track the rocket on ascent and be ready to destroy it in order to protect public safety. The other path is Launch Operations. The law directs the USG (AF included) to procure launch services from US industry. For AF launches, AF members (and support contractors) assist with satellite mission integration, do technical reviews and then serve on console with their US launch industry counterparts on launch day. (NASA does the same for the launches of their NASA satellites.) In truth, US industry builds the majority of the satellites and launch vehicles.

    As far as moving to industry, many AF officers after serving their 5-8 year ROTC or USAFA commitments do transition to the aerospace industry. Many also go on to serve full careers and then make a transition after they retire. I'm now working for NASA and still doing launch (we just launched a mission with SpaceX on 17 Jan 2016 from Vandenberg). . . I am blessed. How do you make a career like that happen? . . . I don't know . . . but you first have to jump in the pool . . . good luck and best wishes.
     
  3. usafa2022

    usafa2022 Member

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    FalconA, thanks for the reply. I remember reading that the missile and space fields were separated a couple years ago (different AFSCs), so you can no longer start in missiles and move into space. I wasn't aware that you could transition to space via engineering though. I assume you mean AFSC 62 developmental engineer? That sounds interesting since it might be a way to build some engineering experience before transitioning into space ops. Could be helpful for a future career in industry maybe?

    Also, do you happen to know where I could get some more info on the day-to-day duties of a space ops officer? The 62 AFSC actually has an online forum just for 62's now, so maybe there's something similar for 13's?
     
  4. Falcon A

    Falcon A Member

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    Yes . . . the missile career field has been separated from space ops and IMHO that was a good move, and I believe you can still transition from missile to space, but believe that may now be more difficult than it once was. 62XX or in some case 63XX are good career fields in the engineering and program mgmt AFSCs by which to enter space related activities. Best to be assigned to Space and Missile Systems Command (SMC) at LA AFB to make that happen. As far as a forum for 13SX's, I'm not aware . . . I'm probably too old :) but you might check out the web pages for Schriever AFB, 50th Space Wing, Buckley AFB, as well as the NRO web site. You might find what you are looking for there.
     

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