HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Working remotely is sort of old hat these days. One way or another most of us have been part of remote work sessions. Then again there is regular remote work, and then there’s remote work that affects the safety of this nation.
Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands is the home of the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Test Site.
It’s 2,300 miles southwest of Hawaii and nearly 7,000 miles from Huntsville.
“We’re an organization providing support service to the Department of Defense, Army, Air Force, Navy, and often the Missile Defense Agency,” explained Mike Butler with Reagan Test Site mission operations.
That support from Kwaj, as it’s called, is pretty specific.
“Our product for that customer is truth data,” said Butler. Basically they ask, “Does the system work as advertized?”
That was the purpose in 2019 of a major test of America’s Ground-based Midcourse Defense, called GMD.
It’s the system to protect this nation from an inter-contininental ballistic missile.
The Bandit missile was launched on Kwajalein and the multiple arrays of sensors helped gather tremendous amounts of data for the flight and intercept.
“Kwaj is like a major city of it’s own in the middle of the Pacific, and it’s an ideal place to conduct tests because of that nature,” said Butler.
It is ideal for testing because it is a long way from inhabited land. But that great location is also a complication. Kwajalein is a long way from everywhere.
Not so the operations control center in Huntsville. Those tests seven time zones away are controlled remotely, but from a place that isn’t so remote.
“Anywhere within the continental U.S. is a few hours flight, versus a day and a half to get somewhere. You’ve improved your communication, and communications are going to be a key to succeeding tests,” said Butler.
So, thousands of miles in these days of remote communication is not that big of deal. Especially when everyone is on the same page for every test.
“There’s not an individual in that process,” said Butler. “It is what I refer to as unity of purpose.”