Reserve Citizen Airman key player in saving space station from satellite explosion

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Laura Turner
  • 310th Space Wing Public Affairs

When a missile launched by India destroyed a low orbit Indian satellite during a test last month, it sent more than 400 pieces of debris spiraling toward the International Space Station and 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, with the 9th Combat Operations Squadron, 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 that live there,” said Ramos. “Human Space Flight Orbital Safety Analysts, which is what I am, 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 HSF cell in the 18th Space Control Squadron. On Reserve weekends, Ramos works for 9 COS, the Reserve component to the Combined Space Operations Center and 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 9 COS Training Flight Chief. “He’s reduced the HSF yearly workload by over 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 9 COS a greater ability to maintain continuity and train our senior leaders for space flight safety,” said Levins. “Ramos’ unparalleled level of expertise has also raised the bar for other space operators across the wing.”

Ramos’ father worked for NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which Ramos attributes to his own interest in the space mission. When Ramos was in grade school, his father would take him to the lab and show him some of the rockets his team would be working on, which got a young 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 reflects on the impact it has had on his life.

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