The Air Force Research Laboratory's Space Vehicles Directorate (AFRL/VS) and the Department of Defense Space Test Program (STP) are two organizations that have partnered on more than 85 missions since 1968 to develop, launch, and operate Research and Development, Test and Evaluation space missions. As valuable as these missions have been to the follow-on generation of Operational systems, they are consistently under-funded and forced to execute on excessively ambitious development schedules. Due to these constraints, space mission development teams that serve the RDT&E community are faced with a number of unique technical and programmatic challenges. AFRL and STP have taken various approaches throughout the mission lifecycle to accelerate their development schedules, without sacrificing cost or system reliability. In the areas of test and operations, they currently employ one of two strategies. Historically, they have sought to avoid the added cost and complexity associated with coupled development schedules and segregated the spacecraft development and test effort from the ground operations system development and test effort. However, because these efforts have far more in common than they have differences, they have more recently attempted to pursue parallel I&T and Operations development and readiness efforts. This paper seeks to compare and contrast the "decoupled test and operations" approach, used by such missions as C/NOFS and Coriolis, with the "coupled test and operations" approach, adopted by the XSS-11 and TacSat-2 missions.
One of the most costly components of the on-orbit operation of a spacecraft is the people that
execute the mission. Historically, for Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the
Department of Defense Space Test Program (STP) research and development, test and evaluation
(RDT&E) space missions, a team of fifteen personnel maintains 24-hour coverage for the three-week
Launch and Early Operations (L/EO) phase of the mission and four one-week L/EO rehearsals. During the
Nominal Operations phase of the mission, 2.5 "man-days" of support are necessary each day that the
spacecraft remains on-orbit, as well as during the two, week-long, nominal operations rehearsals.
Therefore, the mission-dedicated personnel contribution to the cost of a one-year mission is more than
eleven man-years, and this does not include the personnel that actually operate the antennas at the various
remote ground facilities or develop and maintain the mission-specific or shared-use ground network,
hardware, and software. In the low-budget RDT&E world, hardware, software, or Concept of Operations
(CONOPS) developments that significantly reduce the necessary Operations personnel investment can
mean the difference between a mission that does or does not survive. This paper explores the CONOPS
and suite of tools that the TacSat-2 program has put together to achieve maximum mission effectiveness at
minimum manpower cost.