SAN FRANCISO — U.S. Air Force officials charged with the task of offering education and training to prepare their work force to design and buy satellites and launch vehicles face a daunting challenge. It is extremely difficult and prohibitively expensive to bring students  and subject experts together in the same place at the same time.

To overcome that challenge, the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) University is working with Salient Federal Solutions of Fairfax, Va., to establish a training facility that offers classes at SMC’s Los Angeles Air Force Base headquarters and includes a distance learning operation designed to serve SMC personnel across the United States and around the world.

“The new facility provides us with technology that allows us to communicate in a cost-effective manner while giving folks the training they need,” Ed Salem, SMC University chancellor, said.

SMC’s work force is spread out across the country. It includes the Space Development and Test Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, N.M., and the Space Logistics Directorate in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Salient Federal Solutions at a Glance

Mission: To provide information technology and engineering solutions to federal agencies in the intelligence, defense, homeland security and cyber domains, that enable government and industry to respond quickly to new or surge mission requirements with exactly the right people, skills, expertise, and technical solutions.

Top Official: Brad Antle, Chief Executive

Headquarters: Fairfax, Va.

Established: 2010

Employees: 800

In the past, SMC military personnel, civilians and contractors often traveled to attend courses at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, home of the Air Force Material Command, or to SMC headquarters in El Segundo, Calif. A five-day space enterprise course taught at Los Angeles Air Force Base, for example, could include 30 local students, 30 students who traveled there from Colorado Springs and 30 more from Albuquerque. With the new distance learning facility, students can gain access to the same instruction without incurring any travel expenses, Salem said.

The Salient Federal Solutions Training Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base began serving students in May 2010 in a 460-square-meter facility that includes three large classrooms, three smaller rooms for small group instruction or discussion, a computer training center with 24 touch-screen monitors and an executive conference room designed to offer video teleconferencing.

When SMC University’s distance learning classes  begin Aug. 5, students around the world will be able to gain access to SMC University courses through any computer with Internet access. Salient Federal Solutions officials also are preparing to make the courses available on Apple Computer’s iPhone mobile devices and iPad tablet computers, said Derek Elder, director of operations for Salient Federal Solution’s Space and Engineering Division.

Students will be able to hear the instructor’s presentation as well as the questions and comments of other students. “When a student in the classroom asks a question, it can be recorded by an audio engineer using one of the microphones in the classroom that picks up the sound,” Elder said. The high-definition camera in the classroom will be able to zoom in on the teacher and project that image to the student viewing the course. All courses will be recorded, edited and uploaded so students have the opportunity to review material they have seen or watch classroom instruction they may have missed, Elder said.

The technology Salient Federal Solutions is providing to allow classroom instruction to be transmitted via the Internet is just one aspect of the work the company is providing to SMC University. In addition, company officials are assisting the SMC University staff in crafting the overall curriculum, developing specific courses and creating individual training and education plans for each student, Elder said.

SMC University was established in 2009 by retired Air Force Lt. Gen.  John Sheridan, former commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center, to consolidate acquisition training and education for SMC’s work force. The university provides a wide range of courses focusing on communications, business, leadership, problem solving and space program management, Salem said.

Salient Federal Solutions is an information technology and engineering services company founded in 2010 with the backing of the Chicago-based private investment firm Frontenac Co. LLC. Salient Federal Solutions seeks to address the  challenges faced by federal agencies, including training their work force, Bill Parker, Salient’s chief operating officer, said.

“Our focus is on the kinds of technologies that will make training more efficient,” Parker said. “The strict brick-and-mortar approach is something that is going to be difficult to sustain at times when budgets are stressed. Yet the capability to leverage technology and offer training in a highly efficient manner is going to be a growth market in the future.”

In June 2010, Salient Federal Solutions acquired SGIS, a government contractor based in San Diego that offered information technology, intelligence analysis, cyber security, engineering, training and logistics services. In February, Salient Federal Solutions made its second acquisition, purchasing Command Information Inc., a company that specialized in offering cyber security technology, consulting and engineering services to government customers. Salient Federal Solutions has 16 offices in the United States, and employees assist customers in 141 U.S. and international locations, Parker said.

Through its courses, SMC University is seeking to create a highly qualified and business savvy work force to oversee the acquisition of Air Force space systems, including GPS satellites, military communications and surveillance satellites, weather satellites and launch vehicles. In addition, SMC officials oversee research and development of space systems and missiles, Salem said.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...