More than 140 American citizens from four countries descended upon Patrick Space Force Base for the BRAVO 1 Canary Release Hackathon July 18 – 22.
The event, which also featured activities at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, and Eglin AFB, Florida, was designed to bring people together from a variety of backgrounds including the military, industry, and academia to develop solutions that enhance mission capabilities for the Department of Defense.
Members from all branches of the U.S. armed forces, some traveling from Korea and Japan, joined engineers, scientists, and coders from across the United States for the Hackathon, which for the first time, was held at three bases simultaneously.
“Future success in conflict is going to be based on how well we can leverage data,” said Stuart Wagner, the Air Force’s chief digital transformation officer. “The speed at which we are able to transfer data from communication systems and weapons systems so we can make decisions will allow us to out-maneuver our adversaries. We believe this will help us win future fights.”
At Patrick, 16 teams worked to develop numerous innovations that could enhance launch operations.
U.S. Air Force Capt. Alex Straub, 96th Test Wing Seek Eagle Office stability and control engineer at Eglin AFB and an Air Force Phantom fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, joined four other fellows to develop a software prototype that could forecast launch scrubs.
“Our project compiles weather data and historical launch data at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station to see if we can assess those parameters and see if there is any correlation between them that would enable us to predict when a launch is going to scrub or not,” Straub said.
In less than a week, Straub’s team assessed more than 32 million data points as they worked to compile the information they needed through hours of research.
“The goal is to design a model that can tell if conditions are trending toward what previously resulted in a scrub,” she said. “It would be phenomenal if we could provide that forecast several hours before or even days before a launch.”
Every time a launch is cancelled, otherwise known as a “scrub,” transporting astronauts and payloads to the International Space Station or satellites into orbit is delayed.
In the early morning hours of Halloween in 2021, NASA’s and Space X’s Crew-3 mission was scrubbed due to weather after four astronauts had boarded the Crew Dragon capsule Endurance.
At the time, the 45th Weather Squadron gave an 80% favorable chance for liftoff. However, a large storm system which brought elevated winds and waves over the Atlantic Ocean resulted in Crew-3 staying on Earth for the spooky holiday. They would not be launched into space until Nov. 10, 2021.
Straub said her team hopes to develop a prototype that could provide a 12-hour launch/scrub window so planners would be better able to plan for launch missions. Other teams worked on solving a range of issues such as improving radar, weather forecasting, as well as tracking and identifying radio signals.
“This has been amazing,” said Lt. Col. Shyam Munshi, Space Launch Delta 45 director of innovation and the leader of the Forge, Patrick SFB’s innovation hub and the site of the Hackathon at Patrick. “Everybody here, regardless of rank or affiliation could be the catalyst of amazing change.”
For this hackathon, Munshi said, organizers asked people from a variety of backgrounds to evaluate problem sets that SLD 45 is having so they can bring in different viewpoints to start solving some of those problems.
“We had 144 people participate in this event, which was awesome,” Munshi said. “We gave them two problem sets to work through and they started identifying subsets of problems, before long, we had nine problem sets, of which seven were generated by the teams working to solve the two main ones. That was possible because of the intelligence and different viewpoints in the room.”
An innovative mindset and a constant focus on enhancing capabilities is a priority for SLD 45 and the Space Force, Munshi said, because the “launch operations tempo is not slowing down.”
Since Jan. 1, SLD 45 has supported 32 launches at a record-setting pace. The Delta is on pace, with support from NASA and Space X, to exceed 60 launches in one year.
Munshi stressed the Space Fore must remain focused on innovation and he wants the American public to know the service members, government civilians and contractors at SLD 45 are doing all they can to ensure a competitive advantage for the United States.
“The threat is real, and we are focused on it,” Munshi said. “We are trying new things, and we are being smart, diligent, taking deliberate steps based on today’s environment and technology and assessing the landscape of what’s possible today. We are also deliberately choosing where to spend our resources in ways that bring quicker advancements, which is what the Hackathon is all about.”
Wagner said several organizations made the Hackathon possible and thanked them for doing so. He gave special thanks to the following organizations:
- 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing
- Air Combat Command
- Secretary of the Air Force Chief Information Office
- Secretary of the Air Force Special Programs Office
- Secretary of the Air Force Special Access Program Central Office
- Office of Secretary of Defense Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office
- Space Launch Delta 45
- U.S. Space Force Chief Technology and Innovation Office
- Department of the Air Force Chief Data and Artificial Intelligence Office