AEDC test engineer attends Space Test Course

  • Published
  • By Deidre Moon
  • AEDC Public Affairs

Savannah Langer, an aerospace engineer for the Arnold Engineering Development Complex 718th Test Squadron, attended a newly-established four-month training course for space testers at the 412th Test Wing’s U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School based at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

The program, known as the Space Test Course, is an initiative by the U.S. Space Force Test and Evaluation and is a training offered to space testers that is similar to the TPS course that has been available to members of the U.S. Air Force since 1944.

“It is meant to match the credibility and rigor of the TPS course that has existed for the ‘air side’ for decades,” said Langer, who attended the STC from July to November. “Relatively speaking, space warfighting is a newer thing, and the Space Force is very young, still finding its footing when it comes to tradition, training and career development.”

She added that testing for space systems is unique in that it relies heavily on integrated developmental and operational testing, so the STC took this into account.

“While the Space Force is currently modeling this course after the traditional Test Pilot School, the goal for the Space Test Course is to maintain the common Department of the Air Force test and evaluation basics that all testers should know, as well as address the nuances of space testing,” Langer said.

The course began just last year, and Langer was part of the fifth class ever offered.

Though classes are currently four months each, there are plans to have a yearlong course by calendar year 2025 where participants can earn a master’s degree.

Langer mentioned that she applied to the course in August 2021 and was excited to have been selected to attend.

“As this course was specific to T&E [test and evaluation], it is very relevant to my job here at AEDC as a space test engineer and analyst,” she said. “As students, we had practice in test planning, execution and reporting that will be beneficial for me going forward.

“Independent from T&E, there were many math, science and engineering topics that I was able to learn more about, which will certainly help me with a broad range of testing in the future. But one of the most valuable outcomes of the course was the abundance of connections I was able to make. The class had 22 students, all from a wealth of backgrounds: 19 officers, 2 civilians, 1 enlisted, 2 Air Force personnel, 20 Space Force personnel, operators, engineers, researchers, testers and program office personnel. Beyond that, the course instructors and other contributors at both the TPS schoolhouse [where the STC is held], as well as around the country, will be valuable contacts to have to help foster better collaboration in the years to come.”

While interesting, Langer said the coursework was also demanding, with class typically beginning at 8 a.m. and ending at 4 p.m. daily.

“The course consisted of several weeks-long academic classes all taught in overlapping or sequential blocks, and these courses were accompanied by almost daily quizzes or tests and a few projects,” she said. “Some of these classes overlapped with the air side TPS, and the STC students were able to connect with those students. Lectures also included subjects pertaining to DAF [Department of the Air Force] testing guidance. There were labs that the students took part in involving an educational CubeSat, with each lab focusing on a different subsystem on the satellite.

“Sprinkled throughout the 17 weeks, the class was also visited, either in person or virtually, by many influential members of the space test community; a couple being Col. Michael Hopkins, U.S. Space Force Test and Evaluation director, and Col. Sacha Tomlinson, Test Enterprise Division chief for Space Training and Readiness Command.”

Additionally, Langer said her class took park in three testing campaigns: a glider test to examine lift-to-drag ratios, which related back to early testing of the space shuttle; a rocket launch test; and a capstone project that integrated tasking and receiving data from real satellites with F-16 flyovers of target areas.

She even had the opportunity to visit Space Force bases and take a two-week trip to space test locations around the country.

“While at Vandenberg, the class got to tour and speak to several squadrons there and hear about their missions,” Langer said. “The two-week field trip started in Los Angeles at SpaceX and SpinLaunch, after which the class headed to Colorado for a week of visits to Schriever, Peterson and Buckley Space Force Bases, as well as the Air Force Academy for a tour of the cadets’ university satellite operations facility. We then visited a couple of defense contractor locations. Following the Colorado leg of the trip, the class headed to the Washington, D.C., area, spending one day at the National Reconnaissance Office and another at the Pentagon. Finally, the class headed to Texas for visits to NASA Johnson Space Center and SpaceX Starbase.”

Overall, Langer said the course was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“The class was awesome. I got to meet a lot of great people and expand my knowledge of the space test community. The course is improving every year, and I can’t wait to see what it becomes and what it is able to do for the future of space testing.”

If interested in learning more about TPS or the Space Test Course, visit