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Out of this world: 50 OSS acquires Augmented Reality

First Lt. Curtis Lingenfelter, 50th Operations Support Squadron space ground link system satellite vehicle operator staff instructor, uses an augmented reality headset June 25, 2020, at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. The 50th OSS is currently in the process of acquiring six more virtual reality headsets to allow its students to visualize different orbits and satellites while in training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Whitely)

First Lt. Curtis Lingenfelter, 50th Operations Support Squadron space ground link system satellite vehicle operator staff instructor, uses an augmented reality headset June 25, 2020, at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. The 50th OSS is currently in the process of acquiring six more virtual reality headsets to allow its students to visualize different orbits and satellites while in training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Whitely)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

The 50th Operations Support Squadron is acquiring augmented reality headsets for training its students at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado.

 

The OSS plans to use AR to show warfighters the scale of different orbits, how fast satellite anomalies can take place in real time, and explore the different mechanisms of satellites.

 

“A lot of what space operators do is push buttons, but being able to see what’s really happening and the effects of those buttons being pushed is huge,” said Airman 1st Class Jeremy Block, 4th Space Operations Squadron satellite vehicle expert. “Now that space is getting more contested and competitive, we want to be able to show our students a simulation of what it might look like.”

 

Popular examples of AR include Pokémon Go and Snapchat filters. However, the 50th OSS will use AR headsets to create a more immersive and realistic experience.

“Augmented reality is taking what we see in front of us and getting more information out of it,” Block said. “It’s looking through a digital lens and getting more from the landscape”

 

The objective to train operators with AR started when Block came up with the idea to implement virtual reality training. This would’ve required the OSS to purchase computer towers as well as VR headsets. However, after performing a cost analysis, the unit decided to go with AR headsets.

 

“We don’t know what we are capable of unless we test or challenge ourselves,” said Master Sgt. Micky Sederburg, 50th OSS superintendent. “There [are] numerous perspectives in our forces that are untapped and we need to encourage everyone of all ranks to keep innovating and taking full advantage of the programs and initiatives that allow these opportunities to grow our missions.  Innovation is exciting and provides an opportunity for ownership of the Airmen’s’ respective missions which increases motivation and performance.”

 

 The 50th OSS is responsible for transforming Schriever’s Airmen into space warfighters, they do this by sending all new Airmen in space career fields through an extensive course that prepares Airmen to work in units such as the 4th and 2nd SOPS.

 

“An operator can see where their assets are and what a threat may look like in that location [in space],” Block said. “We’re warfighters, we have to know what we’re doing, what the threats are, where they are, what [satellites and orbits] look like, and that’s what [using AR] is going to accomplish.”

 

The goal is for the headsets to provide kinesthetic learners with a more comprehensive understanding of the course as opposed to the typical visual, audio, reading and writing curriculum.

 

“This is going to help us operate in a contested environment,” Block said. “It’s going to show people how fast things can happen and it’s going to make [class] more realistic.”

 

Although the OSS already has 3D modeling software that emulates a similar scene, they hope the hands on interaction helps Airmen better understand the curriculum.

 

“It’s going to be used in our classrooms to help [students] visualize orbits around the Earth as well as to see the constellations for each of our satellite programs,” he said. “That physical application is huge when learning about these systems.”

 

The unit will bring in six AR headsets for Airmen to use in training. They hope to use them early on in the course when teaching the fundamentals of different orbit types.

 

“As technology progresses and we move forward, everything is changing,” said 1st Lt. Curtis Lingenfelter, 50th OSS space ground link system satellite vehicle operator staff instructor. “If we look at the technology we have today versus 10 years ago, it’s completely different. The way we can visualize [our satellites] down here will help us prepare for whatever threats may come tomorrow.”

 

The Squadron will use a program called “Solar,” created by Charles River Analytics. The program allows Airmen to create an operational picture of space which lets them visualize the true scale of different satellite orbits compared to the Earth. Solar is coded in Unity, a development platform which allows the OSS to alter the software to fit their training requirements more efficiently.

 

“We’re constantly evolving and we’re constantly pushing the boundaries of what we already have,” Lingenfelter said. “And that’s the biggest part of how we’re going to be able to move forward as a Space Force.”

 

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