HOUSTON: A group of Airmen at NASA’s Johnson Space Center here is using space to help develop technology for the warfighter.
Making up the Department of Defense Spaceflight Payload Office, these Airmen work in a small office deep inside the center’s mission control, where they support three kinds of missions: shuttle and international space station payloads and deploying payloads on the outside of the space station.
These payloads usually consist of experiments or research projects that may one day apply lessons learned from space and use them to create advancements on the battlefield and in military aircraft.
“We’re already seeing some new technologies being used by our warfighters because of experiments conducted in space,” said Capt. Aaron Landenberger, a payload test manager.
These include new biological bandages that contain healing properties and a new medical intravenous delivery system that still works in any position, including hanging upside down or lying flat.
While the Airmen aren’t involved in the creation of the experiments, the spaceflight payload specialists do fight to get these experiments on as many missions as possible.
“If there’s room on a mission, we’ll put something on it,” Captain Landenberger said.
For many of these experiments, the DOD is the owner’s best chance for getting the idea into space.
“Larger payload programs, like those performed by NASA, are wary of sending untested experiments into space,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Gartmann, a human space flight manager. “So, if we send these new ideas into space, then they have a flight history and the larger programs will then pick them up and give them more time in space.”
In turn, these experiments often become operational capabilities for the military and other agencies.
“We are a technology development unit,” Captain Landenberger said. “The DOD is really helping pave the way for science.”
One of the office’s most recent accomplishments was the successful deployment of two spherical satellites using a canister payload deployment system for satellites. The two satellites will measure the actual drag on satellites in the Earth’s atmosphere.
“With a better model of the Earth’s atmosphere, we could dramatically improve theater operations for military satellites,” Lieutenant Gartmann said. “We are always planning for future events and forward thinking. Getting these payloads flown is very important because these systems can help our warfighters in the future.”