The Army Astronaut Program

Monday, Aug. 17, 2015

What is it?

The U.S. Army is one of the largest users of space-based capabilities in the Department of Defense. In support of this, the Army formalized an Army Space Cadre that consists of space professionals and space enablers.

The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command (USASMDC/ARSTRAT) is the Army proponent for Functional Area 40 (FA40) Space Operations. The Army’s Astronaut Program falls under the SMDC/ARSTRAT NASA detachment at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. This program effectively contributes to the nation’s space program.

What has the Army done?

On Jan. 31, 1958, the U.S. Army launched America’s first satellite, Explorer I. On May 5, 1961, the launcher sending the first American, Cmdr. Alan Shepard; on its historic flight into space was a modified Army Redstone rocket designated Mercury-Redstone 3. In 1976, Maj. Robert Stewart became the Army’s first astronaut. Since then, 18 Soldiers have successfully completed astronaut candidate training. These astronauts have played a key role in NASA’s space shuttle program and in the construction and operation of the International Space Station (ISS). The ISS is the largest international cooperative space effort in history.

The current Army astronauts are Col. Mark Vande Hei, detachment commander; Maj. Anne McClain, and Maj. Andrew Morgan.

What continuing efforts does the Army have planned?

Army space operations officers provide the Army’s core of space-smart professionals. There are two distinct career paths within the FA40 career field: space operations officer (AOC 40A) and astronaut (AOC 40C). Space operations officers provide commanders with expertise and guidance on using space-based capabilities to carry out operations, enhancing a command’s ability to task, collect, process and act on space-based products, information, warnings and space-related capabilities. FA40 officers in non-tactical assignments, formulate policy, develop operational concepts, conduct research, develop technologies, evaluate and implement the tactics, techniques and procedures for the operation and use of space.

Army astronauts provide the opportunity for officers selected by NASA to serve as astronauts for exploration of space. Astronauts may perform as an International Space Station commander, flight engineer, science officer, ground support for International Space Station crews, capsule communicator, crew support astronaut, or Kennedy Space Center support astronaut.

Why is this important to the Army?

Army astronauts help the Army define its requirements for the space program and enhance the Army’s use of space capabilities. Ultimately, these Soldiers are Army ambassadors to NASA and the public.

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