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i5 Space expands to 1,000 members nationwide

U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet 2nd Class John Stevenson, i5 Space national director, delivers a presentation on the organization to ROTC cadets.
U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet 2nd Class John Stevenson, i5 Space national director, delivers a presentation on the organization to ROTC cadets at other educational institutions, including the University of Oklahoma, University of Texas at Austin and Yale University in the Space Delta 13 detachment May 2, 2024. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Ward)

By Randy Roughton
U.S. Air Force Academy Strategic Communications

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – A space policy and strategy club founded at the U.S. Air Force Academy has expanded to a nationwide organization with over 1,000 members at dozens of U.S. Air Force ROTC detachments.

Originally called the Institute for Applied Space Policy in Strategy in 2021, the club was rebranded i5 Space a year later. It now has almost 70 host detachments across the nation, including at the U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Military Academy, Harvard, Yale University, Cornell, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Oklahoma, University of Texas at Austin, and others.

Developing space domain awareness

“Today, we are a cadet-created club that is now a national organization,” said Cadet 2nd Class John Stevenson, i5 Space Director of Staff. “We focus on undergraduate space education to build better leaders aware of the space domain through our many educational programs and media content.”

The Academy is the premier U.S. Space Force’s Academy, the largest commissioning source for the service’s officers. The i5 Space program is initiated by Academy cadets and grown by ROTC cadets. But members do not have to be in an ROTC program to join.

“Civilian students play a key role in the current i5 leadership, and we want to ensure we highlight the critical role civilians play in the U.S. Space Force where half of our workforce is civilian,” said Col. Marc Sands, the U.S. Air Force Academy’s U.S. Space Force Space Delta 13 Detachment 1 commander. “We are also excited to include our Five Eyes partners —Australia, Canada, the UK and New Zealand — because we want the program to reflect the U.S. commitment to partners and allies.”

The path for commissioning as Guardians

The Class of 2020, the first to graduate from the Academy after the Space Force was established in December 2019, commissioned 86 officers into the new service. To date, 485 Academy graduates have commissioned as Guardians.

The i5 Space mission is to produce educated and inspired leaders prepared to define the character of warfighting in space. Sands wants “space-minded Airmen and air-minded Guardians.” But the organization targets any students interested in learning how space contributes to the Joint fight, he said.

Everything i5 Space does is focused around their five I’s: innovating, informing, influencing, impacting and inspiring, Stevenson said.

The organization is not just designed for cadets and students who aim for a Space Force career but to educate Department of Defense officers on the necessity of space. It is an officially recognized U.S. Space Force Training and Readiness Command activity. Programs include cyber training exercises and wargaming, a Space Force doctrine and Air Force Instruction chatbot, a four-course educational curriculum, officer mentorship and more. Additionally, i5 Space maintains research partnerships with the Space Force and NATO.

Education, research and connection

In 2021, a year after the original club began at the Academy, cadets began reaching out to ROTC detachments at other academic institutions nationwide. The original mission of a focus on space policy transitioned into providing educational content and programs. Every i5 Space squadron operates differently, but at the U.S. Air Force Academy, their operations focus on the three pillars of education, research and connection, said USAFA i5 Squadron Commander 2nd Lt. (then Cadet 1st Class) Abigail Ryan.

“In the beginning, the club showed cadets the Space Force as a legitimate thing,” Ryan said. “A lot of people didn’t know what it would be when it began. The club’s original focus was space policy, and it just grew from there.”

Expanding beyond space policy

The i5 teams work on programs that expanded from policy and research to space’s artificial intelligence and cyber aspect. An educational curriculum called the STAR program teaches everything about space from history to orbital mechanics and joint relations.

During the summer, i5 Space members focus on the Azimuth Space Program. U.S. Army and U.S. Navy cadets join AFROTC and USAFA students considering a Space Force commission in a joint undergraduate nationwide space education and training program. The program inspires cadets to become Space Force officers of character.

Preparing and recruiting future Guardians

Now, members said they have observed increased interest and recruitment since the organization began as an Academy club. They expect the trend to continue.

“People have a better understanding of the Space Force,” Stevenson said. “We do a better job of preparing and recruiting people to join the Space Force. We will continue to raise the standard of what the Space Force can expect from i5 Space cadets.”

Learn about the Academy’s space mission.