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The Azimuth Summer Space Program: What You Need to Know

By Rachelle Stoll, Strategic Communications

Azimuth students jump on the flightline at the Colorado Springs Catalyst

Azimuth students jump on the flightline at the Colorado Springs Municipal Airport June 6, 2022 before their parabolic training flight in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Courtesy photo/Steve Boxall)

Cadets at the United States Air Force Academy just completed the Academy’s inaugural summer space program on 10 June, 2022.

Azimuth is a unique summer program for Academy cadets as well as Navy, West Point and ROTC students considering a commission in the U.S. Space Force.

The two-week opportunity provides an immersive introduction to operations in the space domain.

Modeled after NASA’s two-year Astronaut Training Program, Azimuth introduces the cadets to space through academics, industry and military visits, neutral buoyancy, zero gravity, and rocket building.

“Azimuth is the first true [space] guardianship program that is going to create a new path for our cadets,” said Col Jeffrey Greenwood, commander of the Academy’s Delta 13 Det 1 space detachment. “If there are young folks out there that have a vision of wanting to go to space or work in the space domain, we have a path for them.”

Zero-gravity parabolic flight experience

Students experienced the effects of zero-gravity by flying on a modified Boeing 727 aircraft, which performed a series of parabolic flight patterns. Cadets experienced twice the Earth’s gravity during a steep and gradual climb. At the top of the parabolic arc, power thrust was reduced and weightlessness began. In these moments of zero and doubled gravity, cadets performed challenges such as push-ups, floating through a hoop, and catching floating water.

Azimuth Students

Azimuth students experience weightlessness on a modified Boeing 727

Azimuth students experience weightlessness on a modified Boeing 727

Azimuth students experience weightlessness on a modified Boeing 727 June 6, 2022 in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Courtesy photos/Steve Boxall)

SCUBA/neutral buoyancy training

Azimuth students experienced the challenges of weightlessness by operating in a simulated space environment through scuba diving/neutral buoyancy training. Led by scuba certified instructors, the one-day training took place at the Academy’s Preparatory School pool.

“By experiencing the feeling of weightlessness first hand, it was really easy to make the connection to how difficult it is for astronauts to use tools to work on the International Space Station and how complicated it is to maneuver into different orbits,” said cadet participant Zachary Szvetecz.


Cadet Lyssa Kagel SCUBA dives as part of neutral buoyancy training in the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Preparatory School pool on Wednesday, June 1, 2022 in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Courtesy photo, Carleton Liden)

Rocket engine design and launch

Azimuth students learned about rocket engine design, production, and launch during a two-day intensive in Penrose, Colorado.

“The capstone in space operations allows them to experience maneuverability, dynamics, and torque in the free fall environment,” said Major Taylor Duncan, an Azimuth instructor. “We also discussed the roles of engineering, acquisition, space operations, and the Estes trip fully realizes the interdependencies of all duties therein.”

The rocketry portion culminated in a rocket launching competition, where students attempted to launch their designs to a designated landing site.

Industry and military visits

Students studied satellite communications, electronic and orbital warfare, and the space based infrared system locations at various locations including Cheyenne Mountain Space Force Station, Schriever Space Force Base, and Buckley Space Force Base.

At Lockheed Martin’s Waterton campus, students learned about advancements in global satellite positioning. At the Sierra Nevada space facility, students examined the technologies of Dream Chaser, an advanced reusable lifting body spacecraft.

Azimuth students stand in front of the ‘Dream Chaser’ spacecraft at the Sierra Nevada space facility on Thursday, June 2, 2022 in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Courtesy photo, Carleton Liden)

Azimuth is conducted at the Academy in partnership with the US Space Force’s Space Training and Readiness Command. This year’s program had a selection rate of less than 30% of applicants.

The space detachment looks to expand the program from 58 to 180 students and triple the educational opportunities next year.

For inquiries on the Azimuth summer space program, contact Strategic Communications/Public Affairs at publicaffairs@afacademy.af.edu

Visit our Flickr album to see more Azimuth photos.