Providing World Class Mission Assurance: How the 5th SLS is working with Hacking for Defense to assure access to space

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Thomas Sjoberg
  • Space Launch Delta 45 Public Affairs

“Data analytics for mission assurance is becoming ever more vital as the frequency and quantity of space launches increases each year,” said the student. “The United States Space Force must harness their data, technologies, and processes to generate real-time risk analytics that enhances our ability to minimize risk and guarantee 100% mission success.”

The 5th Space Launch Squadron’s Falcon Flight has been working with four students from George Washington University through a National Security Innovation Network program called ‘Hacking for Defense’ (H4D) to better leverage historical SpaceX launch data to more efficiently and accurately assess mission risk and execute launch vehicle processing.

The Department of Defense sponsors the H4D program, which provides engineering, business, and policy students with opportunities to work on government-sponsored national security problems.

With today’s ever-growing threat in space, U.S. Space Force Gen. John W. "Jay" Raymond, Chief of Space Operations, has made it clear that innovation and partnership are critical to the USSF to protect U.S. security and maintain everyday life for the United States.

The H4D team has been helping Falcon Flight find new innovative ways to accomplish their mission of providing world-class mission assurance of SpaceX Falcon launch vehicles and launch site operations.

“Currently our process involves manually reviewing a large amount of data to identify potential issues that may arise or deviations from baseline launch vehicle processing,” said Capt. Tory Robinson, 5th SLS Falcon Flight chief of electrical systems. “Our goal is to streamline this data so that we can more efficiently infer areas of interest, potential risk, and provide mission assurance. This is becoming more important as our launch cadence increases year after year.”

Robinson said the students provide an unbiased look at Falcon Flight’s problem set and offer a fresh set of eyes. The students also come from multidisciplinary backgrounds and have skills that allow them to attack issues from different angles such as science, business analytics, and software development. 

“I think it's important to look at new ways of doing things and innovate in everything we do,” said Robinson. “I also think it is equally important to prioritize initiatives and be willing to pivot or drop initiatives that are not working or providing added value. We took this project on because we knew we had a lot of data available to us and thought we had the tools and know-how to produce something to better allow us to do our jobs. Now we hope to iterate on it, automate it, and let it do work for us.”

Kyle Lyon, a graduate student at George Washington University, is one of the students that have been working with Falcon Flight. He said he chose to get involved with H4D because he wanted to tackle a complex challenge that impacts the lives of millions of people and in this case, the world.

“This project is critical because the Space Force is taking a tremendous leap into becoming a data-centric organization, and our team gets to support them as they enter this new paradigm,” said Lyon. “The payloads on these rockets have real-world implications for people worldwide; whether these space-based assets facilitate communications, navigation, weather tracking, or even surveillance, the Space Force plays an integral role in ensuring these payloads can support and defend the nation.”

An H4D initiative called, “get out of the building”, gave the students a unique opportunity to visit Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, March 14 – 16, 2022, to learn about the problem set they are dealing with.

“The CCSFS trip enabled our team to put everything into perspective,” said Lyon. “We were able to put our feet in the Space Force's shoes and get a better understanding of why this issue is so important.”

Lyon said that meeting with Falcon Flight in person helped the H4D team get a clear view into the space industry and why it is essential commercially and for national security.

Falcon Flight will continue to work with the H4D team virtually to develop new solutions and continue to assure access to space.

“Anytime we can more accurately and efficiently buy down risk, we are more effectively able to assure access to space at a more rapid pace,” said Robinson. “This is important as the Space Force looks to replenish and field an ever-increasing number of space-based capabilities.”