ASTRO - Designing the future T&E capabilities today

  • Published
  • By Garo Panossian
  • 412th Range Squadron

The Applied Spectrum Technology Research Office (ASTRO) executes projects under the Test and Evaluation / Science and Technology (T&E/S&T) program, managed by the Test Resource Management Center (TRMC). These projects aim to change the face of T&E capabilities across the Major Range and Test Facility Base (MRTFB).  The T&E/S&T program matures technologies from proofs of concept (Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 3) up to prototype demonstrations in a relevant environment (TRL 6). As a result, capability modernization projects within the MRTFB are able to incorporate these new technologies with reduced technical and programmatic risk.  The T&E/S&T program is divided into a number of Test Technology Areas (TTA) each with a specific focus. The ASTRO is responsible for the Spectrum Efficient Technologies (SET) TTA, which focuses on technologies aimed to improve the use of spectrum. The primary domains include wireless technologies, telemetry networking technologies, and spectrum management.

The mission for the ASTRO is simple; “Designing the future T&E capabilities today” yet each part of the mission statement conveys a vital message. The statement begins with “Designing,” which is the most critical phase of a project. During the designing phase the ASTRO is considering everything from the concept of operations to technical performance, sustainability, and cyber security. The statement continues with “the future T&E capabilities,” which focuses the efforts of the ASTRO on the T&E capabilities needed to test future weapon systems. Finally, the statement ends with “today,” which is a call to action, meaning the ASTRO is actively engaged in maturing vital technologies necessary to rapidly deploy new T&E capabilities.

A mission defines what we do, the vision points us in the right direction—challenging ourselves to achieve more. T&E enables weapon systems to transition from unknown/unproven to known/proven state. During T&E three discrete activities take place when moving towards the known/proven state:

 *Data is acquired from the System Under Test (SUT)

 *Information is created by processing data to provide context and meaning

 *Knowledge results from the combination of information and experience

Knowledge is the understanding required to drive decisions. This serial process is expensive in terms of time, money, and human capital. Accelerating this process is extremely advantageous for our warfighter, therefore the vision of ASTRO is: “Instantaneous data to knowledge…Transmitted through an optimized spectrum.” The vision has two distinct parts, first “Instantaneous data to knowledge,” which defines the challenge of converting data from the SUT to a state (knowledge) where decisions are made. The term “Instantaneous” is the ultimate goal, agility in terms of warfighting systems requires rapid convergence and analysis of data for decision making. Where as the first part of the vision addresses the T&E need the second part, “Transmitted through an optimized spectrum,” defines our constraints.

"The electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) is a highly valued and finite resource used both commercially and militarily," Garo Panossian, Chief of Applied Spectrum Technology Research Office explained. "Test ranges rely on EMS as a transport medium for real-time telemetry data between the system under test and test engineers. EMS enables safe and efficient open-air testing. Hence, optimizing and defending our spectrum is critical for open-air testing now and into the future especially on Edwards Air Force Base."

The ASTRO investigates, matures, and tests technologies targeted at optimizing the use of spectrum MRTFB through coordination with the Range Commanders Council (RCC) and collaboration with test ranges.  The projects executed by the ASTRO increase spectrum efficiency with respect to: bits per second per hertz (bits/s/Hz), spectrum reuse and spectrum sharing. The research, maturation, and testing of SET for T&E use, safeguards the future of open-air testing and supports the MRTFB.