A Royal Logistic Corps officer has become the first Army recipient of a new “Space Operators” badge, marking the official opening of the UK Space Command.
Captain Andrew Thompson-Burt, 33, an Ammunition Technical Officer, joined eight other Defence colleagues receiving the badge as the new Command was formally stood up recently at an historic ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Jeremy Quin MP, the Minister for Defence Procurement.
The 'Space Operator' badges were presented by the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, the four-star commander responsible for UK Space Command. Six members of the Royal Air Force received the badge, as well as the British Army officer, and an exchange officer from the United States.
Captain Thompson-Burt has worked as the Operations Officer at the UK Space Operations Centre, RAF High Wycombe, for almost a year.
It felt good to put a qualification to a role that’s been going on in the background for a long time Capt Thompson-Burt
After receiving the badge from Air Chief Marshall Wigston, he said: “It felt good to put a qualification to a role that’s been going on in the background for a long time.
“There’s been a lot of learning pre-arrival in this role as well as a lot of on the job learning – and it’s great that these roles are being recognised with formal qualifications.”
As well as being a qualified Ammunition Technical Officer, Captain Thompson-Burt, who commissioned as an Army officer in 2012, also has a Masters’ degree in Explosives Ordnance Engineering.
He said his current role at the UK Space Operations Centre involves leading the operations team monitoring the space domain for anything that might pose a threat to personnel deployed on operations across the globe or to the UK land mass.
Major Rob Atchison, 34, of The Queen’s Royal Hussars, has also joined the total of 350 other people including military and civilian colleagues who will make up the new organisation, expected to grow to 500 by 2025.
A physics graduate who has been in the Army for 10 years, he wrote his dissertation on the subject of using space-based capability synchronised with land sensors to detect low observable aircraft or objects in the atmosphere.
He said: “I am currently the first Army officer to undergo the Qualified Warfare Instructor (QWI) (Space) training and have completed all of the UK’s current Space courses.”
“As part of this I have deployed to the US to undergo training with the United States Space Force and have worked closely with the UK’s own space experts. “
Major Atchison is currently also studying for two Masters degrees, the first via the Defence Academy’s Intermediate Command and Staff Course (ICSC), an MSc (Exec) in Command and Leadership and the second following on from his studies as a QWI (S) course in Air Operations and Tactics, which he hopes will lead to further study for a PhD focusing on what space can do to enable land operations and its commitment to integrated operations for defence.
As the Military Assistant (MA) to Air Vice-Marshal Paul Godfrey OBE, he will also be one of the first cadre of Army officers to be presented with the Space Command patch in September, following yesterday’s launch event.
He said that as the MA his key role will be to act as one of the Commander’s subject matter experts and right-hand advisors, responsible for linking him up with experts in the field and ensuring he has the most up to date information.
“The Commander is in a unique position as he is responsible for Space Operations for the UK, training the UK’s military workforce and developing the next generation of space based capabilities which means that as his MA, there is an incredibly broad range of work that I am involved in, he added.
Major Atchison said it will be an honour to be awarded the new Space Operator’s badge, an historical moment for Defence and the Army next month.
Space plays a vital role in the Armed Forces ability to undertake the majority of defence tasks, with any disruption to the space domain leading to significant consequences on civilian, commercial, economic and military activity.
The stand-up of Space Command is a crucial step to ensure we protect UK interests in space and builds on the commitments outlined in the Defence Command Paper, invest an additional £1.4 billion on space over the next 10 years. The ability to operate in Space is further enhanced by an increase in Defence funding of £24 billion over the next four years, as announced by the Prime Minister last year.
Minister for Defence Procurement Jeremy Quin said: “As our adversaries advance their space capabilities, it is vital we invest in space to ensure we maintain a battle-winning advantage across this fast-evolving operational domain.
“The stand-up of Space Command is an exciting and important step in our commitment to operate in space effectively.”
Under the leadership of Air Vice Marshal Paul Godfrey, the Joint Command will have oversight of all space capability development in the Ministry of Defence across three main areas: Space Operations; Space workforce training and growth; Space capability to develop and deliver space equipment programmes.
When at full operating capability, UK Space Command will provide command and control of all of Defence’s space capabilities, including the UK’s Space Operations Centre, RAF Fylingdales, SKYNET and other enabling capabilities.