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Vandenberg's new simulator; virtual excellence

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Tech. Sgt. Kevin Sisk, 4th Space Launch Squadron mission assurance technician, connects wires in a trainer while 2nd Lt. Megan Kuchan, 4th SLS infrastructure officer in-charge looks on here Thursday, March 8, 2012. Bogart Bay is a realistic training facility built to mimic the interior of a launch pad. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Jennifer Green-Lanchoney)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Tech. Sgt. Kevin Sisk, 4th Space Launch Squadron mission assurance technician, connects wires in a trainer while 2nd Lt. Megan Kuchan, 4th SLS infrastructure officer in-charge looks on here Thursday, March 8, 2012. Bogart Bay is a realistic training facility built to mimic the interior of a launch pad. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Jennifer Green-Lanchoney)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Tech. Sgt. Jerrid White, 4th Space Launch Squadron mission assurance technician, examines the trainer here Thursday, March 8, 2012. The squadron’s new training facility, Bogart Bay, will see its first class in June. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Jennifer Green-Lanchoney)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Tech. Sgt. Jerrid White, 4th Space Launch Squadron mission assurance technician, examines the trainer here Thursday, March 8, 2012. The squadron’s new training facility, Bogart Bay, will see its first class in June. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Jennifer Green-Lanchoney)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – A completed trainer sits in the Training Device Design and Engineering Center here Thursday, March 8, 2012. Trainers were made to train 4th Space Launch Squadron members in a new training bay called Bogart Bay. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Jennifer Green-Lanchoney)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – A completed trainer sits in the Training Device Design and Engineering Center here Thursday, March 8, 2012. Trainers were made to train 4th Space Launch Squadron members in a new training bay called Bogart Bay. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Jennifer Green-Lanchoney)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – A refurbished Titan II engine hangs in Bogart Bay here Thursday, March 8, 2012. Members of the 4th Space Launch Squadron reused surplus materials found around base to complete their training facility. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Jennifer Green-Lanchoney)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – A refurbished Titan II engine hangs in Bogart Bay here Thursday, March 8, 2012. Members of the 4th Space Launch Squadron reused surplus materials found around base to complete their training facility. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Jennifer Green-Lanchoney)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Mission assurance technicians of the 4th Space Launch Squadron have a new training facility to provide members valuable hands-on training without ever stepping foot on the space launch pad.

Bogart Bay, a new training facility here, was constructed by members of the 4th SLS to mimic the interior of a space launch complex.

"Training on the actual launch complex was driven by the availability of the launch vehicle, and with the launch tempo here, technicians didn't have much of an opportunity to get hands on experience," said Kevin James, Systems Engineering and Integration contractor and Bogart Bay project manager. "The new trainer in Bogart Bay will cut down training time from six months to two weeks."

The trainer, which is furnished with simulated flight hardware, is the main feature in Bogart Bay. This mock-up model is about 80 percent the size of a real rocket, and contains simulated flight hardware found standard on Atlas V and Delta series rockets.

"Technicians from the 4th SLS provide the hands-on over-the-shoulder support to the United Launch Alliance launch contractors on the pad, said James. "Their job is to oversee what the launch contractor does and that it complies with all of the specified procedures and policies."

The trainer, and its identical twin, were both built to simulate the top-stage of a rocket by the Training Device Design and Engineering Center here.

"We started with nothing. We built everything from scratch," said Joaquin Tinker, TDDEC mechanical engineering technician and trainer designer. "It was built to represent the top of the last booster section and kind of an inter-stage so you would be looking at the top of the fuel dome where all of the guidance assets would be."

The second trainer will be sent to Airmen serving with the 5th SLS at the 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla.

"The idea is to have identical equipment at both locations so, for training purposes, everyone is getting trained the same way," said James.

While the trainer is the main prop in the training facility, the rest of the bay was pieced together with surplus items from across the base.

"Bogart Bay got its name from a need we felt to collect, gather or hoard old unused material or surplus equipment that was no longer needed or had outlived its useful life," said James. "We scoured all of Vandenberg to find materials and government furnished equipment no longer in use and found a way to use it in our training."

Members of the 4th SLS created most of the facility on their own initiative, working evenings and weekends to complete the project.

"We asked the Civil Engineer Squadron here to come in and construct the walls and put on the doors, but we did everything else and got most of the hardware from SLC-4," said Master Sgt. Bob Demers, 4th SLS flight chief. "People within our squadron did all the painting to really make this come alive."

The trainer will assist mission assurance technicians and responsible engineers from the 4th SLS who oversee contractors who work on the Atlas V and Delta IV rockets.

"Right now they don't get any hands on training. It's harder to train in an environment that you can't control," said Tech. Sgt. Kevin Sisk, 4th SLS mission assurance technician. "We are going to give new Airmen the basic skill set to look out for common mistakes that you might see on the pad so they'll know what to stop, when to stop it and how to stop it."

4th SLS mission assurance technicians will train the first group of Airmen in Bogart Bay starting this summer.

"When using this trainer it is ok to make a mistake here as opposed to making a mistake out there on the launch complex," said James