Good Seeing

Best Practices for Sustainable Operations at the Air Force Maui Optical and Supercomputing Site

by Lisa Rand, Dave Baiocchi


Download eBook for Free

FormatFile SizeNotes
PDF file 1.4 MB

Use Adobe Acrobat Reader version 10 or higher for the best experience.


Purchase Print Copy

 FormatList Price Price
Add to Cart Paperback88 pages $26.00 $20.80 20% Web Discount

Research Questions

  1. What practices support the efficient, productive, and sustainable operation of a government-run observatory on Hawaii?
  2. Which institutions possess relevant attributes, and how do these institutions address common questions of funding, management, and value assessment?
  3. Do instruments brought by visiting researchers add value?
  4. What effect does scheduling have on the value of an observatory?
  5. Can remote observing lower costs?
  6. How can institutions generate internal and external support?
  7. What practices extend the value of observational data?

The Air Force Maui Optical and Supercomputing Site (AMOS), located at the summit of Haleakala on the Hawaiian island of Maui, is a major site of U.S. space surveillance activity. Operated by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), AMOS is the only Department of Defense site capable of providing visible and infrared spectrum images of space objects passing over the Pacific Ocean — a crucial capability for U.S. space situational awareness. AMOS's mission includes both space observing operations and research and development. The three optical telescopes operated at the facility each have distinctive capabilities that contribute to the overall functionality of the site. This report delineates a framework that RAND developed to identify facilities that have attributes in common with AMOS and presents the results of a comprehensive survey of people working at those facilities. It then identifies best practices implemented at those institutions in order to provide suggestions for how AFRL might further streamline its operations and minimize costs, given the Air Force's desire to lower its total operating costs at AMOS.

Key Findings

  • Wide-field and narrow-field mounts are run differently. These differences can affect staffing, time management for operations, engineering, maintenance, and the ways in which the collected data can be used.
  • Some facilities have lowered their overhead by expanding remote observation.
  • Greater investment in messaging and outreach can lead to wider internal and external support — both financial and cultural.
  • Maintaining a flexible configuration can raise the value proposition of an observatory but requires robust scheduling capability and a change of mindset.
  • Data storage and sharing can greatly extend the value and impact of data collected during scheduled observations.


  • The 1.2-meter will need to be run differently from the 1.6-meter and 3.6-meter telescopes. AMOS should operate the 1.2-meter with its unique wide-field survey attributes in mind.
  • The rich data gathered at AMOS should be saved for later use by other researchers.
  • AFRL should evaluate which ingredients will be necessary to conduct remote observing and consider that full remoting will not necessarily mean a drop in labor — it will likely require new types of labor.
  • AFRL should consider developing a system to archive all data collected at AMOS, not just data useful to the principal investigator (PI).
  • Allowing visiting PIs to bring their own instruments means extra downtime to configure new instruments and recalibrate equipment to base configuration, but equipment left behind by PIs can provide added value by broadening the potential customer base.
  • AMOS should consider maintaining a strong messaging initiative.
  • Greater impact may be achieved by broadening data accessibility.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Objectives and Methods

  • Chapter Three

    Key Findings

  • Chapter Four

    Implications of Key Findings for AMOS

  • Appendix A

    Overview of Interview Insights

  • Appendix B

    University of Hawaii Telescope Time Allotments

  • Appendix C

    Organizations That Contributed to This Research

Research conducted by

This research was sponsored by Dr. David Hardy, Director, AFRL Directed Energy Directorate and conducted within the Force Modernization and Employment Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

This document and trademark(s) contained herein are protected by law. This representation of RAND intellectual property is provided for noncommercial use only. Unauthorized posting of this publication online is prohibited; linking directly to this product page is encouraged. Permission is required from RAND to reproduce, or reuse in another form, any of its research documents for commercial purposes. For information on reprint and reuse permissions, please visit

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.