Reserve Citizen Airman helps save space station from flying debris

Saving space station

Staff Sgt. Christian Ramos is a human space flight orbital safety analyst assigned to the 9th Combat Operations Squadron, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.(Staff Sgt. Laura Turner)


When a missile launched by India destroyed a low-orbit Indian satellite during a test in April, it sent more than 400 pieces of debris spiraling toward the International Space Station and the astronauts on board.

The potential for loss of life and destroyed space assets was avoided thanks to Reserve Citizen Airmen like Staff Sgt. Christian Ramos and the team of analysts who ensured the safety of those astronauts during the event.

“My responsibility was making sure none of those objects would collide with the International Space Station and the six astronauts who live there,” Ramos said. “Human space flight orbital safety analysts, like me, are in charge of conjunction assessment for the ISS and all the astronaut visiting vehicles.”

As a civilian, Ramos works for the NASA Johnson Space Flight Center writing code for programs used by the Human Space Flight cell in the 18th Space Control Squadron. On Reserve weekends, Ramos works for the 9th Combat Operations Squadron, the Reserve component to the Combined Space Operations Center and the 18th SPCS at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

“Staff Sgt. Ramos’ experience working with NASA as a civilian has helped develop him,” said Master Sgt. Robert Levins, the 9th COS training flight chief. “He’s reduced the HSF yearly workload by more than 265 hours and increased advanced space situational awareness.”

The position Ramos holds at his Reserve unit is typically manned by high-ranking government civilians or officers. He is the first and only enlisted member in the position due to his experience on the civilian side.

“This has given the 9th COS a greater ability to maintain continuity and train our senior leaders for space flight safety,” Levins said. “”Ramos’ unparalleled level of expertise has also raised the bar for other space operators across the wing.”

Ramos is a prime example of how the Reserve utilizes civilian talents to implement best practices and discover new ways of operating better.

Ramos’ father worked for the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. When the younger Ramos was in grade school, his father would take him to the lab and show him some of the rockets his team was working on. This got Ramos interested in how orbital mechanics worked.

When Ramos was in college, he worked at a local restaurant stuffing burritos before having the urge to pursue the love of space he had developed as a child. After meeting with a local recruiter and making the transition from civilian to Reserve Citizen Airman, he reflected on the impact it has had on his life.

“Being a Reservist has given me so many opportunities,” he said. “I never would have imagined I would go from making burritos and tacos to protecting astronauts for NASA and the Air Force.”

(Turner is assigned to the 310th Space Wing public affairs office at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado.)

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