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Hanscom AFRL inactivates
HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Dr. George Jumper, Air Force Research Laboratory’s Defensive Space Control Foundations section chief, packs up books and equipment from the Environmental Satellite Data Facility June 1. The facility at one time received data from three weather satellite systems using very large antennae on the roof. The satellite data and other weather information were processed by the computers that were in the room, and the results of many years of information have been archived on terabytes of data storage systems. (U.S. Air Force photo by Linda LaBonte Britt)
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As AFRL moves, some stay behind

Posted 6/2/2011   Updated 6/2/2011 Email story   Print story


by Warren Russo
Global Command and Control System-Air Force acquisition manager

6/2/2011 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- As the Air Force Research Laboratory's days at Hanscom dwindle down, the stacks of packed-up equipment grow tall, careers grow short and a scientific brain trust that changed the world moves toward a new era in a new location.

"The impact of the impending move of the Space Vehicles Directorate to Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico has been profound," said Dr. George Jumper, Defensive Space Control Foundations section chief at AFRL. "Many of our people have stayed well past retirement age because they really loved the work, so they probably won't be moving. Others have family connections and don't feel like relocating for that reason."

As a graduate of the University of New Mexico, Dr. Jumper says he "spent a good deal of my life in Albuquerque," which he describes as "a great environment." However, he doesn't plan on moving to the new facility at Kirtland when AFRL shutters the Hanscom site this summer.

"I'm a bit of an anomaly here anyway, since we engineers are a minority in this laboratory, most of the people are scientists," he said.

Dr. Jumper explained the difference by saying that while scientists are always trying to learn new things about the Earth and its environment, the engineers are more concerned with making things work properly and solving problems.

"As our scientists try to push the envelope of knowledge, we engineers work with them, help them design the right instruments, assist them in getting the instrument to the right place, be it on earth or in space, and finally we make sure that the scientific data gets back to them for analysis," he said.

The research at this site is more about finding out about the universe and less about building things, according to Dr. Jumper.

"For example, the Air Force didn't even know about the jet streams when the lab was founded after World War II," he said.

Since then, however, the lab has been in the forefront of scientific atmospheric characterization, weather forecasting and has progressed from predicting atmospheric weather to studying: outer space weather; solar radiation, sunspots and coronas; effects of space weather on satellites, spacecraft and the space station; how atmospheric turbulence affects airborne lasers; and causes of clear-air turbulence.

"The AFRL has always been scientifically oriented because you have to have the science to feed the technology," he said. "This lab helped America's rocket program primarily through atmospheric studies. We launched 6-foot diameter weather balloons from Hanscom and many other parts of the world, while a detachment at Holloman Air Force Base (N.M) launched scientific balloons as big as the Empire State Building that went as high as 130,000 feet."

On the subject of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), Dr. Jumper said the news is not all bad. According to AFRL officials, typically, only 15 percent of any organization can be expected to relocate to such a distant location.

"We knew that some of our scientists wouldn't move," Dr. Jumper said. "Fortunately, we have been able to hire many young people with good educations, bringing in a lot of new blood at lower salaries, too."

Dr. Jumper's current area of responsibility with Space Vehicles concerns space defense against all of threats to the space assets, including orbital debris or space junk, radiation, sun spots and other satellites.

He is part of a team currently working on ways to mitigate the orbital debris problem. He is currently performing a study with Space Scholars, or summer interns, to see if ground laser power can push space junk out of orbit so that it re-enters the atmosphere and disintegrates.

Asked what will happen to this program when it is transferred, Dr. Jumper said with confidence that "the Space Vehicles Directorate and the Directed Energy Directorate at Kirtland have all the right talent to get the job done."

AFRL inactivation ceremony June 15
The Air Force Research Laboratory will conduct an inactivation ceremony marking the end of operations of AFRL at Hanscom June 15. Research in the areas of electromagnetics and space physics has been conducted at Hanscom since 1945. Friends and alumni are encouraged to attend. For more information, contact 2nd Lt. Tim Allen at 781-377-3828 or by email at afrl.hrs.inactivation.ceremony@hanscom.af.mil.

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