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Mission control upgrade improves test capabilities

Ridley Mission Control Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California, April 24. The $37 million Modular Mission Control Room Upgrade (MMCRU) improvement and modernization program is now underway at the 412th Test Wing’s Ridley Mission Control Center. (Air Force photo by Giancarlo Casem)

Ridley Mission Control Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California, April 24. The $37 million Modular Mission Control Room Upgrade (MMCRU) improvement and modernization program is now underway at the 412th Test Wing’s Ridley Mission Control Center. (Air Force photo by Giancarlo Casem)

A mission control room inside the Ridley Mission Control Center is shown before planned upgrades take effect at Edwards Air Force Base, California. (Courtesy file photo)

A mission control room inside the Ridley Mission Control Center is shown before planned upgrades take effect at Edwards Air Force Base, California. (Courtesy file photo)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

A $37 million improvement and modernization program is now underway at the 412th Test Wing’s Ridley Mission Control Center here.

The Modular Mission Control Room Upgrade program is intended to create a modularized control room architecture with components that can be used by other Air Force Test Center ranges to create site-specific architectures based on common components.

“MMCRU is the next generation of mission control rooms for the 412th TW with extensions to the rest of AFTC and other DoD Ranges,” said Dr. Paul Waters, 412th Test Engineering Group. “MMCRU adds capabilities to increase the agility of test support by supporting distributed test operations from the ground up. It also incorporates additional data sources to increase the efficiency of flight test.”

The program will upgrade control rooms for the Wing in order to support flight test missions for the next 15 years. Control rooms will be built with the flexibility to evolve with ever changing test requirements. New capabilities will be provided to increase the efficiency of conducting flight test. These efficiency gains are intended to make it possible to shorten flight test projects by enabling real-time data comparisons with simulations and near real-time detailed data analysis typically reserved for after the test. 

“For example, we will be able to integrate simulations into the control room so that engineers can see the simulation and test results in one place,” Waters explained. “We will also be able to bring in previous test results so that an engineer can compare previous test results with current test results.”

MMCRU will be interoperable with the 96th Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, in order to facilitate Distributed Test Operations. Control rooms at either Test Wing will be able to seamlessly support tests from either sites. In addition, the capability will be provided to enable engineers to monitor tests remotely.

The upgrade program falls under the auspices of 812th Test Support Squadron’s Acquisition Program Management Flight. Test Investment Planning & Programming is the Air Force funding program used for improvement and modernization programs to invest in the development, design and implementation of new test technologies and test methodologies and to modernize existing test capabilities within the Air Force Materiel Command test and evaluation mission area.

The new control room architecture will also be designed to increase the efficiency of operations and minimize lifecycle costs in order to increase responsiveness and minimize costs to the customer.  MMCRU will upgrade 412th TW mission control rooms in earnest beginning in fiscal year 2021. Full deployment is estimated to be complete by the end of fiscal year 2025.

“All of this is requiring that we re-look at why we are looking at test data and what data we need to support a test,” Waters said. “These are extremely exciting times as we strive to get more from our tests to accelerate the fielding of combat capabilities.”