Patrick Space Force Base, Fla. --
On Sunday, July 24, 2022, a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 53 Starlink satellites soared into the sky as U.S. Space Force Brig. Gen. Stephen Purdy, Space Launch Delta 45 Commander, and 27 Civil Air Patrol (CAP) cadets watched from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla. Viewing the 32nd launch of the year kicked-off a week-long tour for the cadets.
During their visit, the 27 cadets watched the Starlink 4-25 launch, toured Hangar C, numerous historic launch pads, the United Launch Alliance Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center, the Morrell Operations Center, received a Space launch Delta 45 Welcome Mission Brief, and much more.
“My favorite part about this trip was seeing Artemis 1 in the Vehicle Assembly Building because I have watched it be built for 10 years,” said Cadet Lt. Col. Haley Tharp, Civil Air Patrol West Virginia Wing. My college major is spaceflight operations so it was a big deal getting to see that.”
The Space Force Operations Academy is a National Cadet Special Activities program offered to cadets, giving them hands-on diverse experience and insight into career exploration. It also exposes cadets to potential government, military, and civilian careers that support Space Force operations.
“The purpose of this event is to give highly interested and motivated CAP cadets a deeper insight into Space Operations than what they would typically get on a general tour,” said Lt. Col. Gary Dahlke, Civil Air Patrol, USAF auxiliary, activity director for the Space Operations Academy.
“I definitely can say I learned a lot from this activity, more than what I thought when I first arrived,” said Cadet 2nd Lt. Leo Sun, Civil Air Patrol Minnesota Wing. “Hearing current goals from companies and how SLD 45 is working with them to meet their goals is really fascinating.”
Since 1994, the U.S. Space Force, previously Air Force Space Command, has sponsored two Space Force Operations Academy activities which are held at Patrick SFB and Peterson Space Force Base, Co. Cadets from across the country are chosen to partake in these special activities.
“Cadets are competitively ranked based on their participation, academics, and evaluations made by superiors,” said Dahlke. “It is a large formula that is developed based on how the cadet does in various aspects of CAP. The individuals chosen for this activity were the highest ranking in those aspects.”
“It means a lot to be given a rare opportunity to walk in an environment I had only ever read about or seen online,” said Sun. “Standing at spots where major milestones in our space program took place is really inspiring. I hope to bring this inspiration back to my home squadron and community.”
Dahlke states that many cadets will come away from this activity aligning their career paths with some aspect of spaceflight, whether that be with the Space Force, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), or another corporate entity involved in space. Dahlke believes many of these individuals will end up supporting some aspect of space exploration.
“I have always known what I wanted my career to be, but sometimes I get stuck and things like this trip re-spark my interest and fire me up,” said Tharp. I am full force into applying for internships with the Space Force, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance. With my end goal being a career in launch control, I like the teamwork and dependability each company and organization have as well as their drive for the space mission – I want to be a part of that.”