Air Force Research Laboratory Recurve Satellite Launched on Virgin Orbit Mission

Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate’s spacecraft Recurve was launched into low Earth orbit July 2, 2022, from the Mojave Air and Space Port, Rutan Field, Mojave, California, on a Virgin Orbit U.S. Space Force Space Test Program mission. (Credit: U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory)

by Jeanne Dailey
Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFRL) — The Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate spaceflight experiment Recurve was launched July 2, 2022, from the Mojave Air and Space Port on the Virgin Orbit space system in California. The launch supported the U.S. Space Force’s STP-S28A mission and carried six additional payloads for the Department of Defense Space Test Program (STP).

Recurve is the latest in several low-cost CubeSats designed, built and operated entirely in house at the Space Vehicles Directorate located on Kirtland AFB.

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AFRL Leader Tapped for Space Force Key Acquisition Position

Col. Eric Felt

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFRL PE) — The Air Force Research Laboratory recently announced the assignment of its Space Vehicles Directorate director, Col. Eric J. Felt, to a position with the U.S. Space Force as Deputy Executive Director for the Space Architecture, Science and Technology Directorate at the Pentagon, with an effective date in July.

Felt has led the AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate, located at Kirtland AFB, since July 2018, and serves in a dual-hatted role as commander of the Phillips Research Site, which encompasses military command authority for AFRL’s Space Vehicles and Directed Energy Directorates.

As director, Felt leads a team of more than 1,080 military, civilian and on-site contractors who comprise the nation’s center of excellence for military space science and technology. The directorate focuses on enduring Space Force space missions: communications; position navigation and timing; missile warning; space domain awareness; and space control.

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AFRL Detects Moon Around Asteroid with Smallest Telescope Yet

By Dr. Jack Drummond
Air Force Research Laboratory

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. — On November 29, 2021, an Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Starfire Optical Range (SOR)* telescope on Kirtland Air Force Base near Albuquerque, New Mexico, recorded an image of asteroid (22) Kalliope, and its natural satellite Linus. A confirming image was taken four nights later. What is unique about these observations is the small size of the telescope used, only 1.5 meters in diameter. 

Normally the purview of large 8 to10-m diameter telescopes on mountain tops in Hawaii or Chile, asteroids are faint to begin with — and their satellites even fainter – orbiting very close to their parent. Detecting them requires large telescopes, since faintness limits are proportional to telescope mirror area and resolution is proportional to telescope diameter. In all cases, adaptive optics (AO) is required to defeat the turbulence of the atmosphere by making the point sources (stars) much smaller and brighter.

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AFRL, Northrop Grumman Demonstrate Solar to Radio Frequency Conversion for Space Solar Power Project

Project Managers James Winter (Air Force Research Laboratory) and Tara Theret (Northrop Grumman) hold models of the photovoltaic and the radio frequency sides of the sandwich tile, while at the Linthicum, Maryland facility, to witness the conversion and beaming experiment. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFRL PR) – The Air Force Research Laboratory’s and Northrop Grumman’s Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research (SSPIDR) Project have successfully conducted the first end-to-end demonstration of key hardware for the Arachne flight experiment.

A ground demonstration of novel components for the “sandwich tile” were used to successfully convert solar energy to radio frequency (RF) – a fundamental step required to pave the way for a large-scale solar power collection system in space.

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AFRL Celebrates Launch of Smallsat Ascent to GEO Space

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket launches on the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program 3 (STP-3) mission from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. The mission’s Space Test Program Satellite-6 (STPSat-6) spacecraft hosts NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) and the NASA-U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Ultraviolet Spectro-Coronagraph (UVSC) Pathfinder. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFRL PR) — The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate small satellite named Ascent was launched Dec. 7 from Cape Canaveral, Florida as part of the U.S. Space Force’s Space Test Program-3 mission, aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.

Ascent is a 12-unit Cubesat conceived and developed within the directorate’s Small Satellite Portfolio at Kirtland AFB, and in partnership with the Space Security and Defense Program.

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NRL/NASA Experiment Launched to Study Origins of Solar Energetic Particles

The UltraViolet Spectro-Coronagraph (UVSC) Pathfinder undergoes inspection after the successful completion of its thermal vacuum test at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. The front, gold-colored, aperture shows the multiple external occulters that will block direct light from the solar disk. The occultation allows the faint solar corona to be observed at Lyman-alpha wavelengths. The UVSC instrument sits on a transport cart, which is not part of the flight package. (Credit: U.S. Navy)

By Paul Cage
U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

WASHINGTON  –  A joint-U.S. Naval Research Laboratory/NASA experiment prepares to investigate the origins of Solar Energetic Particles (SEPs) that could affect Navy satellites and harm personnel during future crewed missions to the moon and beyond.

Researchers will use a new instrument, the Ultraviolet Spectro-Coronagraph Pathfinder (UVSC Pathfinder) to try to understand the origins of these particles, how they’re generated close into the sun to provide accurate space weather forecasting when these events happen.

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AFRL Collaborates with Magdalena Ridge Observatory to Further Space Exploration

The proposed Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer site, which will ultimately be composed of ten 1.4-meter telescopes. The site is managed by the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology located in Socorro, New Mexico. (Credit: NMT)

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFRL) – New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (NMT) astronomers are one-step closer to having their own high-powered window to space and the universe, after receiving congressional funding for the Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer (MROI).

The university will receive $6.2 million in congressional funds to complete the first phase of the anticipated $30 million five-year project to build three telescopes and two scientific instruments of the MROI in Socorro, New Mexico.

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AFRL Selects Deputy Technology Engagement Officer for Space Science and Technology

Dr. Andy Williams, center, Air Force Research Laboratory Deputy Technology Executive Officer for Space Science & Technology, explains the engineering of the Roll-Out-Solar Array, or ROSA, to U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich during a past visit to AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. (Credit: AFRL)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, OHIO (AFRL PR) – The Air Force Research Laboratory has selected Dr. Andrew Williams for the Deputy Technology Engagement Officer for Space Science and Technology (D-TEO), overseeing the lab’s responsibility to carry out the U.S. Space Force mission.

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AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate Holds First-ever Space Cyber Summit

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFRL PR) – The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate held an inaugural Space Cyber Summit October 13–14. More than 140 space professionals participated in the in-person and virtual event held at Kirtland AFB.

The gathering included space experts from across AFRL, the U.S. Space Force, several federally funded research and development centers, NASA, and many other organizations. 

Col. Eric Felt, director of AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate, initiated the first-ever event, prompted by anticipated R&D technology challenges:

  • A future space domain where space systems will become increasingly software-defined, autonomous, and connected
  • Possible methods to improve cyber resilience of legacy space systems
  • The continuing trend of the commercialization of space
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Trump Claims to have “Single-handedly” Moved U.S. Space Command From Colorado to Alabama

  • Controversial decision announced one week before Trump left office
  • Colorado’s leaders says comments confirm that political factors, not merit, led to decision
  • Two separate government investigations continue into move

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Former president Donald Trump claimed on Friday to have “single-handedly” moved the U.S. Space Command from Colorado to Alabama, adding fuel to the political firestorm that erupted over the controversial decision earlier this year.

“Space Force — I sent to Alabama,” Trump said. “I hope you know that. (They) said they were looking for a home and I single-handedly said, ‘Let’s go to Alabama.’ They wanted it. I said, ‘Let’s go to Alabama. I love Alabama,” Trump told the Alabama-based Rick & Bubba radio program.

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AFRL Breaks Ground on State of the Art Space Environment Laboratory

A rendering of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Skyway Technology Laboratory that will be constructed on Kirtland AFB, N.M. The AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate held a groundbreaking ceremony March 16. The construction contractor is QA Engineering and architectural contractor is WHPacific, both of Albuquerque, N.M. The lab is projected for occupancy in early 2022. (Rendering by WHPacific)

By Jeanne Dailey
U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. — The Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate broke ground on a new facility named the Skywave Technology Laboratory on March 16. The 3,500 square foot, $3.5 million lab will be located in a remote area on Kirtland Air Force Base.

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Doubling Down on Space Safety

by Keith Wright
U.S. Air Force Safety Center

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. — Recently, the Air Force Safety Center transferred the Space Safety Division to the United States Space Force as one of the first blended organizations in the Department.  Already charged with supporting both services, this transfer serves to leverage the Center’s expertise doubling down on space safety for both services.

The Safety Center’s Space Safety Division will continue to call Kirtland Air Force Base home, while remaining steadfast in their commitment to promote and enhance space mishap prevention and a risk management culture in the USSF.

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U.S. Air Force Identifies 6 Candidates to Host U.S. Space Command HQ

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — The Department of the Air Force, on behalf of the Office of Secretary of Defense, has selected six candidate locations for the U.S. Space Command Headquarters.

The six locations include Kirtland AFB, New Mexico; Offutt AFB, Nebraska; Patrick AFB, Florida; Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado; Port San Antonio, Texas; and Redstone Army Airfield, Alabama.

Self-nominated communities from across 24 states were evaluated as potential locations for hosting the headquarters. 

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Collaboratory Formed to Promote New Mexico’s Spaceport America During Closed Door Meeting

Sunset at the “Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space” terminal hangar facility at Spaceport America. (Credit: Bill Gutman/Spaceport America)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Officials from New Mexico, the federal government and Virgin Galactic met last week behind closed doors for the state’s first Space Valley Summit to form a “collaboratory” to promote Spaceport America and the state’s aerospace economy.

The one group not invited: taxpayers who have forked over about $250 million to build the spaceport where Virgin Galactic is the anchor tenant. As the Las Cruces Sun News dryly noted

Minutes after [Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham] exhorted the summit to “make sure every New Mexican … knows exactly what is happening here,” all reporters were asked to leave. 

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