New USSF T&E Director visits AFOTEC

  • Published
  • By Katherine C. Gandara, Public Affairs Advisor
  • Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center

Astronaut Col. Michael S. Hopkins visited Headquarters Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center Jan. 21 as part of a three day visit to Kirtland. During Hopkins’ visit to AFOTEC, he participated in a briefing and discussion about the future establishment of the U.S. Space Force Operational Test Agency.

Hopkins will play a significant part in developing guidance from the USSF perspective for the Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM) Operational Test Agency. “The culmination of experience from a career as an astronaut and Air Force pilot is key to preparing me to take on this new role,” said Hopkins. “Each aspect of my career allows me to lean on the experience I’ve gained." Hopkins became the first U.S. Space Force officer assigned as an astronaut when he voluntarily transferred from the U.S. Air Force while in orbit on the International Space Station in December 2020.

AFOTEC is assisting USSF in the transfer of operational test responsibilities of more than 30 major space programs. “AFOTEC has four decades of space system test experience and we’ll continue to leverage the test culture and extensive operational test and evaluation expertise at AFOTEC to make the Space Force test standup a success,” said Col. Matthew Magness, AFOTEC vice commander.

AFOTEC’s Lt. Col. Kevin Huber is the AFOTEC liaison to STARCOM. His primary job is to help with STARCOM’s OTA standup by working the implementation plan and functional annexes as well as helping STARCOM develop processes and procedures.

The purpose of operational test and evaluation is to test a system in the actual or simulated environment that it was designed for with users of the system in realistic operational conditions. This determines if the system is operationally effective and operationally suitable for combat.

Each military service has an independent operational test agency that reports directly to their service chief to plan and conduct operational tests, report results, and provide evaluations of operational effectiveness, operational suitability, and survivability (including cybersecurity) or lethality.

“My intent in this new role is to ensure that the new Space Force OTA is set on the right trajectory and I leave things better for the next teammate,” said Hopkins.

“AFOTEC is committed to the successful stand-up of the Space Force operational test and evaluation process for the indefinite future,” said Maj. Gen. Jim Sears, AFOTEC Commander. “Our test organization is equally committed to the successful transition of the USSF Operational Test Agency.”

For more than forty years AFOTEC has tested and evaluated new systems and new capabilities in operationally realistic environments. AFOTEC’s four detachments and 12 operating locations across the country execute operational tests to gather the data needed to produce independent, fact-based test reports about system effectiveness, suitability, and mission capability. These reports inform decision makers as they allocate the nation’s resources and the nation’s warfighters who use the systems. AFOTEC continues to contribute to ensuring quality systems are fielded to support all branches of the armed forces, other government agencies, and U.S. allies.