Supra Coders fix space software problems on the fly

  • Published
  • By Mike Pierson
  • Space Operations Command
If your car breaks down on the highway, you have two choices: Fix it on the roadside yourself or wait for a mechanic. In space, with satellites moving at 16,000 miles per hour, commanded by computer code and cyber links, waiting for a software mechanic can mean mission failure, or worse.

A new Supra Coder program within Space Operations Command deltas, Space Force’s tactical-level units, provides software coding training for space operator Guardians so they can fix software issues quickly without having to wait for contractors or software experts.

“We’re blessed to have these Supra Coders within our deltas,” said Lt. Col. Steph Raffo, chief of Director of Innovation at SpOC headquarters. “It’s great for space operations to have these skilled coders working day-to-day on the ops floors, taking on issues that demand their expertise and immediate attention.”

Supra Coders have already come to the rescue, said Paul Contoveros, Lead of Delta Innovation for Headquarters, Space Operations Command. They have developed software solutions to problems with digital tools that operators use to control and communicate with military satellites. They developed a tracking system to support missile warning missions. And, they created the “Sempra Supra Automated Satellite Schedule” to help Space Force operators optimize times when they can communicate directly with their on-orbit systems and task ground-based radars to track objects in space.

“I can now apply my coding skills officially to military space operations,” said Capt. Scott Huber, a Supra Coder with Space Delta 4 which has seven coders on their team. “I can write an application and give it out the space operations community for their use without major concerns.” He and other coders are currently working on the Delta Analysis and Reporting Tracking System, DARTS, a mission common operating picture that will allow units to synchronize operations across the Delta and improve mission processes.

Space Force’s Chief Technology and Innovation Officer has funded 60 “Z-coded” Supra Coders for SpOC in fiscal year 2022. Fifteen Guardians have graduated from the training program so far.

The training pipeline for Supra Coders is a highly selective program called the Software Development Immersive (SDI). The SDI provides an opportunity for Guardians who understand the basics of modern software development to directly interact with and contribute to projects and programs across the space domain through a three-month coding boot camp followed by a three-month rapid development experience.