Research Topics

Below is a list of research topics supported by the AFRL. Use the filters and keyword search below to find research topics of interest. You can apply for up to 3 topics on your application.




Scholars are encouraged to contact any mentors whose projects they find of interest. To contact the mentor, use the link included at the conclusion of each project description.

3D-Printed Electron Sources
Mentor: Joseph Connelly, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Field electron emission occurs when a strong electric field is applied to the surface of a material. Our team designs, conducts, and analyzes experiments and develops mathematical models to study field emission on a variety of time and geometry scales. We recently showed that 3D printing can be a useful tool for these studies, and we are seeking a student to further study these 3D-printed cathodes. Students will gain experience working with 3D printing and conducting and analyzing electron emission experiments in a laboratory setting.


Advanced Global Positioning System Technology support
Mentor: Charles Francis Vaughan, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

Space Vehicles Directorate personnel are always evaluating proposed changes to the Global Positioning System. The student will learn how to use computer software to model the Global Positioning System and then evaluate a proposed change to the system. The student will learn how to use Microsoft Excel or JMP software to perform basic analysis.


Advanced Global Positioning System Technology support
Mentor: Charles Francis Vaughan, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate

Space Vehicles Directorate personnel are always evaluating proposed changes to the Global Positioning System. The student will learn how to use computer software to model the Global Positioning System and then evaluate a proposed change to the system. The student will learn how to use Microsoft Excel or JMP software to perform basic analysis.


Advanced Guidance and Control Law Development
Mentor: Christopher Daniel Petersen, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Due to the high cost of space systems, the ability to inspect, service, and repair/refuel these systems on-orbit is highly desirable. Such missions require precise control of spacecraft motion to ensure mission objectives are met (e.g., imaging parameters, relative velocity constraints for docking, etc.), which is dependent on the closed-loop guidance algorithms used to ensure the vehicle completed the required mission within the defined constraints. This topic seeks to develop improved guidance algorithms that provide improved robustness and performance in the face of systemic uncertainties (e.g., modeling errors), are adaptive to such errors to enable performance in spite of errors, provide solutions for mission assurance and mission safety (e.g., fail-safe qualities), enable efficient use of spacecraft resources (fuel, power, etc.), and are reconfigurable based on shifting mission priorities.


Advanced Manufacturing Techniques for Spacecraft Fabrication
Mentor: Andrew James Haug, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Recently, the field of additive manufacturing has advanced quickly where many systems are being used in personal, commercial, and operational settings. The majority of research efforts are currently focusing on the development and advancement of systems and processes for single-class material systems such as systems for metals, thermoplastics, or conductive inks. These systems are rapidly improving in their ability to produce consistent, high-quality parts using a single material class and have demonstrated mass saving through part optimization beyond the capability of traditional subtractive fabrication approaches as well as significant cost savings by reducing material waste, fabrication time, and engineering design time.
Much of the research performed to date is on single material systems; however, there are a number of advantages that can be envisioned by moving to multi-material systems capable of combining structurally relevant materials, such as carbon fiber reinforced polymers (CFRP), with dielectric and conductive materials to produce components or systems with integrated functions. An example would be a structural panel or electronics enclosure with integrated antennas, wiring, sensors (i.e. strain gauges, temperature sensors, etc.), and/or heater elements. This topic will explore the capabilities and limitations of integrating multi-material additive manufacturing systems together to fabricate structures or other components with integrated functionality and will include design, fabrication, assembly, and testing of components.


Advanced Manufacturing Techniques for Spacecraft Fabrication
Mentor: Andrew James Haug, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Recently, the field of additive manufacturing has advanced quickly where many systems are being used in personal, commercial, and operational settings. The majority of research efforts are currently focusing on the development and advancement of systems and processes for single-class material systems such as systems for metals, thermoplastics, or conductive inks. These systems are rapidly improving in their ability to produce consistent, high-quality parts using a single material class and have demonstrated mass saving through part optimization beyond the capability of traditional subtractive fabrication approaches as well as significant cost savings by reducing material waste, fabrication time, and engineering design time.
Much of the research performed to date is on single material systems; however, there are a number of advantages that can be envisioned by moving to multi-material systems capable of combining structurally relevant materials, such as carbon fiber reinforced polymers (CFRP), with dielectric and conductive materials to produce components or systems with integrated functions. An example would be a structural panel or electronics enclosure with integrated antennas, wiring, sensors (i.e. strain gauges, temperature sensors, etc.), and/or heater elements. This topic will explore the capabilities and limitations of integrating multi-material additive manufacturing systems together to fabricate structures or other components with integrated functionality and will include design, fabrication, assembly, and testing of components.


Advanced Methods of Photon Collection and Interpretation
Mentor: Wellesley Pereira, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate

Our group's research centers on innovative techniques for imaging and analyzing unique signals from ground, space, and airborne sensors. These signals span the hyperspectral, hypertemporal and spatial domains, and are utilized in a growing number of applications in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Because of the very steep dependency of cost on a telescope’s diameter, almost all ground-based Space Situational Awareness (SSA) in the critical EO/IR regime is carried out with apertures that are too small to resolve important spatial structure on Resident Space Objects (RSO). This is true even for objects at relatively close range in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) where the limit of resolution without an expensive adaptive optics system on a large telescope is about 2 m. It is imperative therefore that instrumentation and data collection strategies be developed that maximize the realizable physical understanding of RSOs from unresolved imaging obtained with small telescopes. The proposed program would explore a new idea to advance the state of the art in this context, taking advantage of a 10-inch telescope already available, acquiring simultaneous photometry of an RSO in multiple wavebands, and comparing light curves extracted from the image data as a function of color. This would potentially yield shape, pose, and/or configuration information. To enable this, we propose to construct a multi-band sensor, mount it on the 10-inch telescope, and test the concept. With the instrument completed, data will be acquired on satellites whose material properties and structure are known. From these data sets, a theoretical construct will be developed that allows the data to be interpreted in terms of RSO shape, size and configuration.


Advanced Methods of Photon Collection and Interpretation
Mentor: Wellesley Pereira, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

Our group's research centers on innovative techniques for imaging and analyzing unique signals from ground, space, and airborne sensors. These signals span the hyperspectral, hypertemporal and spatial domains, and are utilized in a growing number of applications in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Because of the very steep dependency of cost on a telescope’s diameter, almost all ground-based Space Situational Awareness (SSA) in the critical EO/IR regime is carried out with apertures that are too small to resolve important spatial structure on Resident Space Objects (RSO). This is true even for objects at relatively close range in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) where the limit of resolution without an expensive adaptive optics system on a large telescope is about 2 m. It is imperative therefore that instrumentation and data collection strategies be developed that maximize the realizable physical understanding of RSOs from unresolved imaging obtained with small telescopes. The proposed program would explore a new idea to advance the state of the art in this context, taking advantage of a 10-inch telescope already available, acquiring simultaneous photometry of an RSO in multiple wavebands, and comparing light curves extracted from the image data as a function of color. This would potentially yield shape, pose, and/or configuration information. To enable this, we propose to construct a multi-band sensor, mount it on the 10-inch telescope, and test the concept. With the instrument completed, data will be acquired on satellites whose material properties and structure are known. From these data sets, a theoretical construct will be developed that allows the data to be interpreted in terms of RSO shape, size and configuration.


Advanced Photovoltaics for Space
Mentor: Michael W Riley, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Virtually every spacecraft flying uses photovoltaics (aka solar cells) to provide electrical power. Advances in single crystal multi-junction, thin-film, and nano-technology based photovoltaics are important to achieving improved on-orbit performance. The current state of the art photovoltaic cells used for space applications are based on the III-V material systems (eg. GaAs, GaInP). However, innovative and novel material systems capable of more effectively utilizing the solar spectrum could provide tremendous advantages for space missions. For example, recent work examining nano-structures have shown interesting advancements. Some areas of interest for this topic include space environmental effects, electro-optical properties, and performance parameters for candidate material systems. Specific projects can be tailored to students’ interests and skills, but will require a basic understanding of electrical, optical, and materials properties. Students selected for this research opportunity will work with their mentor to develop a productive work plan which will be synergistic with their field of study and the Air Force Research Laboratory’s mission.


Advanced PNT Payloads
Mentor: Madeleine Naudeau, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The Advanced GPS Technologies (AGT) program researches next generation satellite navigation (SatNav). Research areas include: advanced SatNav signals and signal exploitation, spacecraft SatNav payloads, and SatNav control systems. Technology areas include: digital and RF signal processing, software defined radios, RF signal generation and broadcast, encryption, and command and control technologies. Research is performed both in a simulated environment and in the laboratory.
The AGT program is testing advanced amplifiers, waveform generators, and various SatNav receivers in a laboratory environment . The performance characteristics of these components is being measured prior to integration into a payload configuration. An intern project would support this laboratory effort. An intern project might involve programming a digital waveform generator with advanced signal and signal combining concepts, transitioning testing from a simulated to a laboratory environment, etc. Beneficial skills include familiarity with LabView, MatLab, GPS receivers, digital signal processing, programing in C++ or Python, and/or RF signals and test equipment. Ultimately, the research topic will be tailored to the intern’s interest and skill set.


Advanced PNT Payloads
Mentor: Madeleine Naudeau, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

The Advanced GPS Technologies (AGT) program researches next generation satellite navigation (SatNav). Research areas include: advanced SatNav signals and signal exploitation, spacecraft SatNav payloads, and SatNav control systems. Technology areas include: digital and RF signal processing, software defined radios, RF signal generation and broadcast, encryption, and command and control technologies. Research is performed both in a simulated environment and in the laboratory.
The AGT program is testing advanced amplifiers, waveform generators, and various SatNav receivers in a laboratory environment. The performance characteristics of these components is being measured prior to integration into a payload configuration. An intern project would support this laboratory effort. An intern project might involve programming a digital waveform generator with advanced signal and signal combining concepts, transitioning testing from a simulated to a laboratory environment, etc. Beneficial skills include familiarity with LabView, MatLab, GPS receivers, digital signal processing, programing in C++ or Python, and/or RF signals and test equipment. Ultimately, the research topic will be tailored to the intern’s interest and skill set.


Advanced Satellite Communications Research
Mentor: Steven A. Lane, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Projects focus on experimental investigation and demonstration of advanced technologies to support future military satellite communications. Research areas include W/V-band propagation modeling and analysis, microwave engineering, signal processing, antenna, power amplifiers, laser communications, multichannel communications, routing and networking. Projects can be tailored to student’s interest and skill level.


Advanced Satellite Navigation Concepts
Mentor: David Chapman, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The Advanced GPS Technologies (AGT) program researches next generation satellite navigation (SatNav). Research areas include: advanced SatNav signals and signal exploitation, spacecraft SatNav payloads, and SatNav control systems. Technology areas include: digital and RF signal processing, software defined radios, RF signal generation and broadcast, encryption, and command and control technologies. Research is performed both in a simulated environment and in the laboratory.

The AGT program is developing new SatNav concepts. These concepts need to be further defined, their feasibility analyzed, and initial performance characteristics estimated before the concepts can be advanced. An intern project would involve building a model of the concept in an appropriate environment (possibilities include Matlab, Simulink, software defined radio, etc.), calculating link budgets, estimating the size, weight, and power (SWaP) of a transmitter/receiver, estimating receiver performance in the presence of an appropriate noise model, etc. Beneficial skills include familiarity with RF propagation, GPS signals, software defined radios, MatLab, and C++. Ultimately, the research topic will be tailored to the intern’s interest and skill set and the nature of the new SatNav concept.


Advanced Satellite Navigation Concepts
Mentor: David Chapman, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

The Advanced GPS Technologies (AGT) program researches next generation satellite navigation (SatNav). Research areas include: advanced SatNav signals and signal exploitation, spacecraft SatNav payloads, and SatNav control systems. Technology areas include: digital and RF signal processing, software defined radios, RF signal generation and broadcast, encryption, and command and control technologies. Research is performed both in a simulated environment and in the laboratory.

The AGT program is developing new SatNav concepts. These concepts need to be further defined, their feasibility analyzed, and initial performance characteristics estimated before the concepts can be advanced. An intern project would involve building a model of the concept in an appropriate environment (possibilities include Matlab, Simulink, software defined radio, etc.), calculating link budgets, estimating the size, weight, and power (SWaP) of a transmitter/receiver, estimating receiver performance in the presence of an appropriate noise model, etc. Beneficial skills include familiarity with RF propagation, GPS signals, software defined radios, MatLab, and C++. Ultimately, the research topic will be tailored to the intern’s interest and skill set and the nature of the new SatNav concept.


Advanced Satellite Navigation Concepts
Mentor: David Chapman, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

The Advanced GPS Technologies (AGT) program researches next generation satellite navigation (SatNav). Research areas include: advanced SatNav signals and signal exploitation, spacecraft SatNav payloads, and SatNav control systems. Technology areas include: digital and RF signal processing, software defined radios, RF signal generation and broadcast, encryption, and command and control technologies. Research is performed both in a simulated environment and in the laboratory.

The AGT program is developing new SatNav concepts. These concepts need to be further defined, their feasibility analyzed, and initial performance characteristics estimated before the concepts can be advanced. An intern project would involve building a model of the concept in an appropriate environment (possibilities include Matlab, Simulink, software defined radio, etc.), calculating link budgets, estimating the size, weight, and power (SWaP) of a transmitter/receiver, estimating receiver performance in the presence of an appropriate noise model, etc. Beneficial skills include familiarity with RF propagation, GPS signals, software defined radios, MatLab, and C++. Ultimately, the research topic will be tailored to the intern’s interest and skill set and the nature of the new SatNav concept.


Advanced Satellite Navigation Data Structures
Mentor: Joanna Hinks, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate

The Advanced GPS Technologies (AGT) program researches next generation satellite navigation (SatNav). Research areas include: advanced SatNav signals and signal exploitation, spacecraft SatNav payloads, and SatNav command & control systems. Technology areas include: digital and RF signal processing, software defined radios, RF signal generation and broadcast, encryption, and command and control technologies. Research is performed both in a simulated environment and in the laboratory.
The AGT program is developing signals for the next generation SatNav systems, including GPS. These signals will close weaknesses in existing GPS signals, such as provide authentication of civilian signals, rapid acquisition of military signals, improved performance of signals in jamming situations, etc. Research is ongoing both in the development of new signals (and modification of existing signals) and the development of the receiver algorithms necessary to fully exploit the advanced signal features. An intern project would involve implementing and receiving advanced SatNav data structures in a simulation environment that incorporates interference (jamming and spoofing) elements. Examples include digital signatures to protect against spoofing and data formats optimized to maximize data throughput under challenging conditions.


Advanced Satellite Navigation Data Structures
Mentor: Joanna Hinks, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

The Advanced GPS Technologies (AGT) program researches next generation satellite navigation (SatNav). Research areas include: advanced SatNav signals and signal exploitation, spacecraft SatNav payloads, and SatNav command & control systems. Technology areas include: digital and RF signal processing, software defined radios, RF signal generation and broadcast, encryption, and command and control technologies. Research is performed both in a simulated environment and in the laboratory.
The AGT program is developing signals for the next generation SatNav systems, including GPS. These signals will close weaknesses in existing GPS signals, such as provide authentication of civilian signals, rapid acquisition of military signals, improved performance of signals in jamming situations, etc. Research is ongoing both in the development of new signals (and modification of existing signals) and the development of the receiver algorithms necessary to fully exploit the advanced signal features. An intern project would involve implementing and receiving advanced SatNav data structures in a simulation environment that incorporates interference (jamming and spoofing) elements. Examples include digital signatures to protect against spoofing and data formats optimized to maximize data throughput under challenging conditions.


Advanced Satellite Navigation Signals
Mentor: Joanna Hinks, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The Advanced GPS Technologies (AGT) program researches next generation satellite navigation (SatNav). Research areas include: advanced SatNav signals and signal exploitation, spacecraft SatNav payloads, and SatNav command & control systems. Technology areas include: digital and RF signal processing, software defined radios, RF signal generation and broadcast, encryption, and command and control technologies. Research is performed both in a simulated environment and in the laboratory.
The AGT program is developing signals for the next generation SatNav systems, including GPS. These signals will close weaknesses in existing GPS signals, such as provide authentication of civilian signals, rapid acquisition of signals, improved performance of military signals in jamming situations, etc. Research is ongoing both in the development of new signals (and modification of existing signals) and the development of the receiver algorithms necessary to fully exploit the advanced signal features. An intern project would involve designing, implementing, and receiving these advanced signals in a simulation environment that incorporates interference elements.


Advanced Satellite Navigation Signals
Mentor: Joanna Hinks, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

The Advanced GPS Technologies (AGT) program researches next generation satellite navigation (SatNav). Research areas include: advanced SatNav signals and signal exploitation, spacecraft SatNav payloads, and SatNav command & control systems. Technology areas include: digital and RF signal processing, software defined radios, RF signal generation and broadcast, encryption, and command and control technologies. Research is performed both in a simulated environment and in the laboratory.
The AGT program is developing signals for the next generation SatNav systems, including GPS. These signals will close weaknesses in existing GPS signals, such as provide authentication of civilian signals, rapid acquisition of signals, improved performance of military signals in jamming situations, etc. Research is ongoing both in the development of new signals (and modification of existing signals) and the development of the receiver algorithms necessary to fully exploit the advanced signal features. An intern project would involve designing, implementing, and receiving these advanced signals in a simulation environment that incorporates interference elements.


Advanced Signal Amplifiers
Mentor: Ashwani Kumar Sharma, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Advanced satellite transmitters require high-performance amplifiers based on a High-Electron-Mobility-Transistors (HEMTs) that can operate at frequencies ranging from DC to 18GHz and deliver over 400W. To maintain a stable output signal at high drive current levels, the HEMT device should not be susceptible to large thermal fluctuations. In order to ensure their reliability, the HEMT based amplifiers undergo testing with waveform generators and various receivers in a laboratory environment. The intern project supports this laboratory effort through semiconductor device modeling and simulation. With guidance from the AFRL mentor the intern will design various HEMT device structures and from first principals model and simulate the output signal characteristics. The modeling effort will first focus on a DC output signal at various gate voltages; then, a high-frequency signal component will be added to the DC input signal. The intern will then formulate a potential small-signal model by determining the appropriate small-signal parameters for each device structure. Lastly, the intern will calculate the frequency response of each HEMT device design.


Advanced Solar Array Materials
Mentor: Alexander William Haas, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Ph.D.

As the power needs for spacecraft increase, so does the need for new materials for the space solar arrays. These new materials cover a wide range of applications including; solar cell coverglass, fracture resistant solder, lightweight electrical connections and other novel materials that will expand capabilities of solar arrays. Improvements in the mechanical and optical properties including; transparency, strength, fracture toughness, radiation tolerance, thermal stability and density are necessary to the demanding requirements of both commercial and military needs. The space environment imposes significant constraints to materials, due to the effects of radiation, large temperature gradients, and constant thermal cycling -tens of thousands over the lifetime of a spacecraft. This in conjunction with the need to reduce weight and volume make it imperative that advanced materials are developed, which can further improve the reliability and capacity of traditional array components. This project will utilize advanced equipment at the AFRL facility to include SEM, AFM, XRD, thermal cycler, MTS test fixture, and spectrometer in order to characterize new materials and correlate microstructural features to mechanical and optical behavior.


Aero-optics research
Mentor: Chung-Jen John Tam, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The propagation of laser beams through turbulent flows has been an important topic with applications ranging from missile defense to target designation and tracking. The turbulent air disturbances are severe enough to severely distort the light, preventing it from properly focusing. The study of these interactions has been described as "aero-optics". The opportunities for the aero-optic research at AFRL include experimental studies of turbulence such as turbulent boundary layers and shear layers as well as the development of appropriate diagnostic instrumentation, and water-table visualization. Computational (CFD) opportunities also exists to design aero-optic experiments and to develop accurate aero-optic CFD solutions.


Aero-optics research
Mentor: Chung-Jen John Tam, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

The propagation of laser beams through turbulent flows has been an important topic with applications ranging from missile defense to target designation and tracking. The turbulent air disturbances are severe enough to severely distort the light, preventing it from properly focusing. The study of these interactions has been described as "aero-optics". The opportunities for the aero-optic research at AFRL include experimental studies of turbulence such as turbulent boundary layers and shear layers as well as the development of appropriate diagnostic instrumentation, and water-table visualization. Computational (CFD) opportunities also exists to design aero-optic experiments and to develop accurate aero-optic CFD solutions.


AFRL Maker Hub Engineer
Mentor: Liam John O'Brien, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

The selected scholar will help develop both hardware and software to enable timely and efficient use of the Maker Hubs 3D printing capabilities. The scholar will utilize tools provided to develop a web-based scheduling system using micro controllers to negate printing scheduling conflicts. The outcome of this project will provide the scholar with hands on experience developing and utilizing real world tools to ensure mission success.


AI- and Palm Vision-based Assembly Navigation
Mentor: Ron Lumia, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters

Using a Barrett Technology Whole Arm Manipulator (WAM) hand with a palm vision scanner and tactile sensors in the fingers, we will explore assembly navigation. The robot (and hand) will use sensors to navigate through a field of parts, use AI and vision to identify parts, use vision and tactile sensors to determine the precise orientation of parts for acquisition and placement. This capability will integrate into an impedance-based real-time ROS control system to pick and place parts in a low-volume agile manufacturing environment.


Air Independent N2O Fuel Cells for Satellite Power
Mentor: Lok-kun Tsui, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles directorate seeks a graduate student intern to work on developing air and oxygen-independent fuel cells for power systems in satellites. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is an attractive alternative to oxygen as an oxidant in fuel cells for space applications due to its ability to offer higher power and energy density compared to batteries. We are working to develop solid-oxide fuel cells which may be driven by N2O for use as a power source for long endurance, high power requirement satellites in support of Air Force’s satellite missions. We will perform electrochemical studies to optimize the power output of the N2O fuel cells on metal and metal oxide electrode catalysts. The possibility to use N2O as a combined fuel cell oxidant and a propellant will also be investigated.


Applied Deep Learning for Autonomous Deep Space Object Re-identification and Characterization
Mentor: Ian Wesley McQuaid, Directed Energy
Location: AMOS
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Scholars will design, develop, and implement state-of-the-art deep convolutional neural networks for computer vision applications related to space domain awareness. Specifically, scholars will exploit deep space electro-optical imagery, hyperspectral/polarametric signature data, and orbital state information to uniquely identify satellites. Scholars will be provided with state-of-the-art event-based sensing equipment for novel model architecture exploration.


Applying Artificial Intelligence to Plasma Diagnostics
Mentor: Remington Reid, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Accurately measuring the properties of electrons in plasmas has been an ongoing research challenge since the early twentieth century. This research topic explores the use of neural networks to extract the plasma properties from experimental measurements with greater accuracy. The research involves both developing the neural networks for better performance and the design, construction and operation of the experimental plasma devices used to generate training and validation data. Interested applicants may choose to focus on either the computational or experimental aspects of the research.


Architecture Analytics in the SPACER Lab
Mentor: Jesse Keith Mee, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

AFRL/RVS has established a dedicated architecture analytics testbed under the Space Performance Analytics and Computing Environment Research (SPACER) project. The objective of this project is to provide AFRL with an organic, in-house, capability to assess processing options for next generation mission applications. This addresses the increasing challenge of mapping mission requirements to hardware and software implementations for space computing applications. This topic specifically seeks optimization and evaluation of mission application codes on state of the art, Rad-hard, Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA). The selected scholar will be given mission application source code and tasked with synthesizing the code for use on multiple FPGA resources. This will allow for detailed analysis of the application’s performance on different hardware architecture alternatives, providing critical insight into the computational requirements for next generation mission applications. This effort will provide a valuable capability to the Air Force, guiding future science and technology investments decisions


Atomistic and multi-scale modeling of materials for high power microwave devices
Mentor: Renee Van Ginhoven, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The design and development of new devices for use by the Air Force requires an understanding of fundamental properties of materials to be used in these devices. This project aims to improve fundamental understanding (at the basic science level) of materials specific to components for use in instruments that generate and are subject to high power microwaves though computer modeling at the atomistic level. The models may range from ab initio to classical molecular dynamics techniques.


Atomistic Simulations for New Memristor Material Systems
Mentor: Arthur Henry Edwards, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

Memristors show great promise for a variety of electronics needs, including non-volatile memory, threshold logic, and advanced neuromorphic computing applications. We have an ongoing effort that discovers the atomistic details of mechanisms for increasing and decreasing the electrical resistance of these devices. We are currently focused on dendritic growth of conducting pathways. Our effort includes density functional theory (DFT) calculations that reveal energies of reaction and of activation for the crucial reactions, including extrinsic diffusion, agglomeration, and interactions with the material matrix, and interface reactions. We are also pursuing multi-time scale modeling through kinetic Monte Carlo simulations built on the DFT results.


Attitude control of flexible-body spacecraft
Mentor: Andrew James Sinclair, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

Recent advancements in deployable structures are enabling mission concepts for large deployable apertures, i.e. antennas and solar panels. However, large deployable structures can have high flexibility, with modal frequencies approaching the bandwidth requirements for even low-precision attitude control. The fact that the flexible modes of deployable structures can be difficult to model prior to launch makes the controller-design problem even more difficult. The goal of this project is to develop control methodologies that exploit the large trade space in sensors, actuators, and control objective. Sensors can be limited to traditional attitude and angular-velocity sensors, or also include measurements of the flexible-body motion (i.e. strains or displacements). Actuators can be limited to applying a single torque to the spacecraft, or allow multiple actuators distributed across the deployable structure. Control objectives can be simply to avoid exciting the flexible-body motion, or to actively control these perturbations. Research projects may address one or more of these topics.


Attitude control of flexible-body spacecraft
Mentor: Andrew James Sinclair, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Recent advances in deployable structures are enabling mission concepts for large deployable apertures, i.e. antennas and solar panels. However, large deployable structures can have high flexibility, with modal frequencies approaching the bandwidth requirements for even low-precision attitude control. The fact that the flexible modes of deployable structures can be difficult to model prior to launch makes the controller-design problem even more difficult. The goal of this project is to develop control methodologies that exploit the large trade space in sensors, actuators, and control objective. Sensors can be limited to traditional attitude and angular-velocity sensors, or also include measurements of the flexible-body motion (i.e. strains or displacements). Actuators can be limited to applying a single torque to the spacecraft, or allow multiple actuators distributed across the deployable structure. Control objectives can be simply to avoid exciting the flexible-body motion, or to actively control these perturbations. Research projects may address one or more of these topics.


Attitude Testbed Development
Mentor: Christopher Daniel Petersen, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

AFRL hosts a 3 degree-of-freedom attitude testbed containing multiple spacecraft actuators and sensors for hardware-in-the-loop testing with relevant spacecraft processors. Students on this project will focus on supporting and improving this testbed through their summer projects. Such work could include creation of visualizations/augmented reality for the platform, development of high fidelity models, analysis and/or implementation of guidance, navigation, control, and decision laws, design of new subsystems, etc. Please contact Dr. Christopher Petersen as this project has a good deal of flexibility and shaped to the students interest/expertise.


Attitude Testbed Development
Mentor: Christopher Daniel Petersen, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters

AFRL hosts a 3 degree-of-freedom attitude testbed containing multiple spacecraft actuators and sensors for hardware-in-the-loop testing with relevant spacecraft processors. Students on this project will focus on supporting and improving this testbed through their summer projects. Such work could include creation of visualizations/augmented reality for the platform, development of high fidelity models, analysis and/or implementation of guidance, navigation, control, and decision laws, design of new subsystems, etc. Please contact Dr. Christopher Petersen as this project has a good deal of flexibility and shaped to the students interest/expertise.


Augmented Human Cognition and Safety of nearby Vibrations and Dynamics
Mentor: Fernando Moreu, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Humans can make better decisions about how to act or solve problems in their environment, if they are aware in real-time of how their actions affect the structures around them, more specifically robots, or machines. The effects are often subtle and largely invisible to the senses, but can have significant consequences to the human safety. This project studies the relationship between structural vibrations, robots, human cognition and awareness, and human decision-making and action in real-time in the context of human-machine interfaces. The proposed new framework will allow researchers to explore human cognition of structural responses using augmented reality (AR). Sensors will collect structural responses that are augmented and shared with the human in real-time — the human will understand those responses and will change the their decisions in a closed-loop. By exploring those changes to cognition and decision-making, new relationships between robots and humans can be quantified, formalized and studied. The new AR framework enables the human control of responses in real-time. This framework will amplify human safety and understanding of their environment (specifically robots or vibratory machines) and decision-making related to their environment observation. This relationship between human decisions and their environment is critical in solving problems associated with human-infrastructure interfaces and human-robot interactions.


Augmented Reality (AR) Enabled Concepts for Spacecraft Assembly
Mentor: Derek Thomas Doyle, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

RV would like to develop AR based concepts that can be utilized in the assembly of spacecraft. This can be achieved at multiple stages from being able to identify a component, verify part matches modelled expectations, track task orders, document progress, and report information. This effort will require the user to be able to develop AR workspaces and be familiar with software associated with AR development and HoloLens systems.


Augmented Reality Enabling Finite Element and Dynamic Model Updating
Mentor: Fernando Moreu, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

One of the main challenges to inspect the quality or performance of structures after additive manufacturing resides in the lack of human intuition as part of the process. Multiple datasets need to be processed before making an objective decision about the quality of the structure. Similarly, when humans reside on just intuition, the inspection process is limited to subjective human capabilities such as experience, training, and this limits the reliability of such inspections. If both objective information (sensors and numerical analysis) could be combined with human experience and intution, better decisions could be made. This project will connect sensor data, including computer vision, with a remote model that can analyze that data, and generate near real-time holograms that will be overlaid in the structure to inform the inspector about mechanical and dynamic parameters. The inspector can collect new data based on that visualization and hence detect and remedy the mistakes/errors in the structure. Even when this project does not have a high component of human factors, candidates interested to explore human-machine interfaces in the area of structural engineering are encouraged to apply.


Augmented Reality for Inspection and Management of Aerospace Vehicles
Mentor: Fernando Moreu, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

This research project advances the profession of Air Force vehicle inspectors and managers by transforming their current abilities, procedures, and limitations using new human-infrastructure interfaces. The research team will integrate augmented reality (AR) as a scaffolding tool develop learner's expertise in decision-making capabilities related to the inspection of aerospace structures. inspectors measure, quantify, document, check and photograph structures regularly to inform repairs and prioritize maintenance. Inspectors with years of experience and thousands of hours of training can conduct accurate, reliable inspections. The quality of structural data collection depends strongly upon the experience of the inspector. If inspections could be quantified objectively, inspectors and managers could make better-informed decisions both for management, but also at the battle field, faster and more accurate. Engineers generally have an aversion for considering human-factors when advancing fundamental knowledge related to engineering systems. This multi-disciplinary research project integrates human cognition, professional engineers, aerospace inspection crews/teams, and AR to transform the profession of engineering inspection. The research objectives are to: (1) explore and identify the governing limitations related to the profession of inspections in the context of aerospace maintenance; (2) formulate AR frameworks that increase the speed and accuracy of damage detection (or change detection) during inspections with human cognition, learning scaffolding, other inspection companies, and current needs from managers of maintenance at Air Force; (3) develop a new human-centered, cyber-enabled inspector with AR, and (4) quantify accuracy, speed, and safety of the new cyber inspector.


Autonomous system user interface
Mentor: Michelle Regan Simon, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Autonomous/automated systems can make decisions that an operator may not understand and cause the user to turn the system off. One of the ways to prevent this is to implement a user interface that can communicate to the operator what decision was made and why. This internship will be to identify the data need to display the decision, deciding what the interface should look like, and programming the interface.


Characterization of Electrode Materials for space-based energy storage
Mentor: Jessica Lynn Buckner, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Energy storage is of significant interest for many applications from power tools to electric vehicles to satellites. Improvements in energy density, power density, charge/discharge rates, and cycle life are necessary to meet the demanding requirements of both commercial and military needs. The space environment can be particularly harsh for batteries with extreme temperatures, pulsed discharge, and ten's of thousands of charge/discharge cycles seen during spacecraft lifetime. This in conjunction with the need to reduce both weight and volume make it imperative that advanced materials are discovered which can lead to improved energy storage devices. This project will utilize advanced characterization tools in the Space Power Lab such as XRD, SEM, AFM, and potentiostat/galvanostat measurements to examine advanced materials and then relate materials properties with electrical device behavior in order to identify key material parameters that lead to better energy storage materials.


Characterization of High Power Microwave-Driven Discharges
Mentor: Adrian Lopez, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The high power microwave plasma (HPMP) group studies the interactions between high power electromagnetic waves and plasmas. Current research efforts involve the characterization of discharges generated at the focus of a high power microwave beam. Students will collect and analyze data using invasive and non-invasive plasma diagnostic methods; modifications and improvements to the diagnostic systems will likely be involved. Applicants will also have the opportunity to contribute to the development of numerical models that describe the microwave-driven discharges.


Characterization of High Power Microwave-Driven Discharges
Mentor: Adrian Lopez, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

The high power microwave plasma (HPMP) group studies the interactions between high power electromagnetic waves and plasmas. Current research efforts involve the characterization of discharges generated at the focus of a high power microwave beam. Students will collect and analyze data using invasive and non-invasive plasma diagnostic methods; modifications and improvements to the diagnostic systems will likely be involved. Applicants will also have the opportunity to contribute to the development of numerical models that describe the microwave-driven discharges.


Cold Atom Experimental Control and Data Acquisition
Mentor: Spencer E Olson, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Our laboratory is developing inertial navigation sensors and clocks using cold-atom technology. The relevant experiments and prototypes for cold-atom sensors typically require specialized timing-control hardware, software, and computer integration. We are developing means to utilize micro-controllers, low-power computers, field-programmable gate arrays (FPGA), and open-source software for data acquisition and experimental control. The assigned project will depend on the student's interest and experience, but could include micro-controller programming, FPGA programming, low-power computer-experiment integration, and/or development and testing of new cold-atom control routines/hardware for use in future or current experiments.


Cold Atom Experimental Control and Data Acquisition
Mentor: Spencer E Olson, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Our laboratory is developing inertial navigation sensors and clocks using cold-atom technology. The relevant experiments and prototypes for cold-atom sensors typically require specialized timing-control hardware, software, and computer integration. We are developing means to utilize micro-controllers, low-power computers, field-programmable gate arrays (FPGA), and open-source software for data acquisition and experimental control. The assigned project will depend on the student's interest and experience, but could include micro-controller programming, FPGA programming, low-power computer-experiment integration, and/or development and testing of new cold-atom control routines/hardware for use in future or current experiments.


Cold Atom Experimental Control and Data Acquisition
Mentor: Spencer E Olson, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

Our laboratory is developing inertial navigation sensors and clocks using cold-atom technology. The relevant experiments and prototypes for cold-atom sensors typically require specialized timing-control hardware, software, and computer integration. We are developing means to utilize micro-controllers, low-power computers, field-programmable gate arrays (FPGA), and open-source software for data acquisition and experimental control. The assigned project will depend on the student's interest and experience, but could include micro-controller programming, FPGA programming, low-power computer-experiment integration, and/or development and testing of new cold-atom control routines/hardware for use in future or current experiments.


Cold Atom Sources
Mentor: Matthew Squires, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Cold atoms are used to make precision measurements of rotation, acceleration, time (think atomic clocks), etc.  Atoms are typically cooled using laser cooling techniques to temperatures less than 100 micro Kelvin to reduce thermal noise and increase measurement time.  We are investigating new cold atoms sources that either reduce the size, weight, and power (SWAP) requirements of laser cooled sources or that can cool atoms without lasers.  Reducing SWAP is an important considering for making compact devices that can be transitioned from the laboratory into real world applications.  Cooling atoms without laser opens the possibility of using atoms that currently cannot be cooled but have properties that are of scientific and/or technical interest.   The assigned project will depend on the student’s interest and experience.


Cold Atom Sources
Mentor: Matthew Squires, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Cold atoms are used to make precision measurements of rotation, acceleration, time (think atomic clocks), etc.  Atoms are typically cooled using laser cooling techniques to temperatures less than 100 micro Kelvin to reduce thermal noise and increase measurement time.  We are investigating new cold atoms sources that either reduce the size, weight, and power (SWAP) requirements of laser cooled sources or that can cool atoms without lasers.  Reducing SWAP is an important considering for making compact devices that can be transitioned from the laboratory into real world applications.  Cooling atoms without laser opens the possibility of using atoms that currently cannot be cooled but have properties that are of scientific and/or technical interest.   The assigned project will depend on the student’s interest and experience.


Cold Atom Sources
Mentor: Matthew Squires, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

Cold atoms are used to make precision measurements of rotation, acceleration, time (think atomic clocks), etc.  Atoms are typically cooled using laser cooling techniques to temperatures less than 100 micro Kelvin to reduce thermal noise and increase measurement time.  We are investigating new cold atoms sources that either reduce the size, weight, and power (SWAP) requirements of laser cooled sources or that can cool atoms without lasers.  Reducing SWAP is an important considering for making compact devices that can be transitioned from the laboratory into real world applications.  Cooling atoms without laser opens the possibility of using atoms that currently cannot be cooled but have properties that are of scientific and/or technical interest.   The assigned project will depend on the student’s interest and experience.


Computer Vision for Pose Estimation in Proximity Operations
Mentor: Mark Mercier, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

This project entails developing and implementing an algorithm which uses computer vision in order to estimate the pose of a viewed body. Knowledge of this viewed body can either be considered already known, or it can be part of the algorithm to attempt to view the body and establish a model for comparison. This project is not restrictive to a certain software language and whatever language the researcher is comfortable can be used. Several pieces of hardware can be made available for use such as stereo cameras, LIDAR, or monocular cameras. This project can either be hardware or software-centric depending on researcher preference. Demonstrations in the lab could include space inspection, docking, or servicing using the ground robots available.


Computer Vision for Pose Estimation in Proximity Operations
Mentor: Mark Mercier, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

This project entails developing and implementing an algorithm which uses computer vision in order to estimate the pose of a viewed body. Knowledge of this viewed body can either be considered already known, or it can be part of the algorithm to attempt to view the body and establish a model for comparison. This project is not restrictive to a certain software language and whatever language the researcher is comfortable can be used. Several pieces of hardware can be made available for use such as stereo cameras, LIDAR, or monocular cameras. This project can either be hardware or software-centric depending on researcher preference. Demonstrations in the lab could include space inspection, docking, or servicing using the ground robots available.


Creating Foldable Composite Structures for Space
Mentor: Christopher Box, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Utilizing thin, high strain composites in place of traditional metallic mechanisms enables a new generation of deployable space structures. In a discipline where every gram of mass matters, these light-weight composites offer a slew of benefits over their more common metallic counterparts. One particular trait is the ability to package in much tighter configurations in preparation for launch; a characteristic highly desired with the ever increasing interest in small satellites. A challenge manifests in the methods to integrate these foldable or rollable composite members within a higher order structure while focusing on reliability and simplicity. The focus of the student’s investigation is to devise novel structural integration concepts to maximize performance from stowage through deployment to the on-orbit operational state. The student will have access to CAD modeling (Solidworks), computational tools (Matlab and ABAQUS), and state-of-the-art fabrication facilities with 3D printing capabilities in order to rapidly test and physically understand how well their new designs perform.


Creating Foldable Composite Structures for Space
Mentor: Christopher Box, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Utilizing thin, high strain composites in place of traditional metallic mechanisms enables a new generation of deployable space structures. In a discipline where every gram of mass matters, these light-weight composites offer a slew of benefits over their more common metallic counterparts. One particular trait is the ability to package in much tighter configurations in preparation for launch; a characteristic highly desired with the ever increasing interest in small satellites. A challenge manifests in the methods to integrate these foldable or rollable composite members within a higher order structure while focusing on reliability and simplicity. The focus of the student’s investigation is to devise novel structural integration concepts to maximize performance from stowage through deployment to the on-orbit operational state. The student will have access to CAD modeling (Solidworks), computational tools (Matlab and ABAQUS), and state-of-the-art fabrication facilities with 3D printing capabilities in order to rapidly test and physically understand how well their new designs perform.


Creating the "brains" of an autonomous system
Mentor: Michelle Regan Simon, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

An autonomous system needs to be able to weigh various mission objectives such as maintain mission or slew the on board camera to check out an interesting phenomena. This can be done a variety of different approaches such as machine learning or Bayesian networks. This internship would be an application of either approach identifying what would need to be done to make the selected approach a reality.


Creation of computer models using Advanced Framework for Simulation, Integration and Modeling
Mentor: Charles Francis Vaughan, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

Space Vehicles directorate is engaged in creating many computer models of space-based capabilities using the Advanced Framework for Simulation, Integration and Modeling (AFSIM). Computer models of civilian space-based capabilities (civilian communications, some Global Navigation Satellite Systems, SpaceX capabilities, etc.) are needed but have not been created.


Creation of computer models using Advanced Framework for Simulation, Integration and Modeling
Mentor: Charles Francis Vaughan, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters

Space Vehicles directorate is engaged in creating many computer models of space-based capabilities using the Advanced Framework for Simulation, Integration and Modeling (AFSIM). Computer models of civilian space-based capabilities (civilian communications, some Global Navigation Satellite Systems, SpaceX capabilities, etc.) are needed but have not been created.


Data Association Algorithms for Space Object Tracking and Change Detection
Mentor: Alan Lovell, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The goal of this effort is to improve upon several aspects of the space object tracking, orbit determination, and cataloging process.  One focus of this effort is the correct assignment of measurements to a particular space object.  If two or more objects are in close proximity, this increases the probability that a measurement obtained for one space object might be incorrectly assigned to another object in the cluster.  A second focus regards processing measurements of a space object to determine changes to its trajectory, brought about by maneuvers or other events.  It is expected that this effort would involve statistical methods such as data association and estimation/filtering, as well as optimization, linear/nonlinear programming, and feedback control design.


Data Association Algorithms for Space Object Tracking and Change Detection
Mentor: Alan Lovell, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Professional Educator

The goal of this effort is to improve upon several aspects of the space object tracking, orbit determination, and cataloging process. One focus of this effort is the correct assignment of measurements to a particular space object. If two or more objects are in close proximity, this increases the probability that a measurement obtained for one space object might be incorrectly assigned to another object in the cluster. A second focus regards processing measurements of a space object to determine changes to its trajectory, brought about by maneuvers or other events. It is expected that this effort would involve statistical methods such as data association and estimation/filtering, as well as optimization, linear/nonlinear programming, and feedback control design.


Decision Making with Hybrid Systems and Optimization
Mentor: Christopher Daniel Petersen, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GN&C) is only one part of a spacecraft architecture. At the next level, the spacecraft must be able to make its own decisions based upon information it has. The decision making process can be framed as a hybrid system, where there are several modes in which different control and estimation schemes are employed. Examples include momentum management, fault ID and mitigation, or rendezvous of spacecraft. Students in this project will focus on exploring and developing these decision making problems while working towards creating method to make these decisions efficiently.


Deep Level Transient Spectroscopy of Irradiated Materials for Space-based Sensing Applications
Mentor: Christian Paul Morath, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Defect properties of irradiated semiconductor materials for space-based electronics and detectors will be studied using the capacitance transient technique including Deep Level Transient Spectroscopy and its variations. A new system to perform these measurements is being built and requires automation by Labview software. Additionally, some dewar and other hardware modifications are also needed. The goal is to build a fully transportable system for in situ DLTS studies at radiation sites.


Deep Space Satellite Auto-Navigation via Implementation of Optical Planetary Angle-Only Measurements
Mentor: Mark Brandon Hinga, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters

Autonomous spacecraft navigation is critical to mission success as communication to ground stations and access to GPS signals could be lost. However, if the satellite has a camera of sufficient quality, line of sight (unit vector) measurements can be made to known planetary bodies and provide observations enabling estimation of position and velocity of a spacecraft. Because the well-known solar system bodies might also be near coplanar with the spacecraft's orbit, advanced orbit determination algorithms may be needed to mitigate the expected problem of the relative co-planarity between both the spacecraft's and the visible planet's orbit.

For this investigation, an improved initial orbit determination (IOD) algorithm will be designed to mitigate the anticipated co-planar (singularity causing) problem without the need of an a priori assumption of either orbit class or any specific orbital regime of the spacecraft. What is novel in this proposed research is its consideration of a least squares batch initial state estimator that implements the linearized perturbation technique (fixed final time guidance) in conjunction with a Lambert solver and a stabilized Gaussian-IOD method. This latter method might be expected to handle the co-planar singularity condition as low as 0.1 deg. and aid in the initialization of an EKF that can maintain track of the unique stabilized solution of the host spacecraft. This stabilized batch algorithm might also allow for accurate initial orbit estimation of the satellite state vector using a limited set of (as few as six might be possible) planetary measurements and is built upon a system of co-planar observed singularity conditions that form the normal equations of the exact values of the f and g series least squares solution.

This research will consider errors in the precise centering of the line of sight unit vector to the center mass of a measured target planet. The effect of light travel time and light aberration will be taken into account due to the large distances between the spacecraft and an observed planetary body.


Deep Space Satellite Auto-Navigation via Implementation of Optical Planetary Angle-Only Measurements
Mentor: Mark Brandon Hinga, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

Autonomous spacecraft navigation is critical to mission success as communication to ground stations and access to GPS signals could be lost. However, if the satellite has a camera of sufficient quality, line of sight (unit vector) measurements can be made to known planetary bodies and provide observations enabling estimation of position and velocity of a spacecraft. Because the well-known solar system bodies might also be near coplanar with the spacecraft's orbit, advanced orbit determination algorithms may be needed to mitigate the expected problem of the relative co-planarity between both the spacecraft's and the visible planet's orbit.

For this investigation, an improved initial orbit determination (IOD) algorithm will be designed to mitigate the anticipated co-planar (singularity causing) problem without the need of an a priori assumption of either orbit class or any specific orbital regime of the spacecraft. What is novel in this proposed research is its consideration of a least squares batch initial state estimator that implements the linearized perturbation technique (fixed final time guidance) in conjunction with a Lambert solver and a stabilized Gaussian-IOD method. This latter method might be expected to handle the co-planar singularity condition as low as 0.1 deg. and aid in the initialization of an EKF that can maintain track of the unique stabilized solution of the host spacecraft. This stabilized batch algorithm might also allow for accurate initial orbit estimation of the satellite state vector using a limited set of (as few as six might be possible) planetary measurements and is built upon a system of co-planar observed singularity conditions that form the normal equations of the exact values of the f and g series least squares solution.

This research will consider errors in the precise centering of the line of sight unit vector to the center mass of a measured target planet. The effect of light travel time and light aberration will be taken into account due to the large distances between the spacecraft and an observed planetary body.


Design and Manufacture of RSO for Target Capture
Mentor: Kyra Schmidt, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

This project is to design a target to demonstrate autonomous grasping capability of a robotic manipulator in the Robotic Orbital Control (ROC) Lab. The ROC lab has a free-floating robot, or a robotic manipulator on top of an air bearing platform to simulate zero friction on a planar surface. The robotic manipulator must be able to grasp a target even while the platform is free-floating. The proposed project involves designing, simulating, and possibly manufacturing a target Resident Space Object (RSO) that floats on air-bearings and has active controls to spin or move as desired to mimic a benign satellite in orbit in need of servicing. This aligns with the Robotic Orbital Control (ROC) Laboratory’s goal to design algorithms for autonomous grasping of a dynamic RSO with a free-floating robotic manipulator.


Design, Fabrication, Characterization, and Development of Room Temperature Ionic Liquid based Electrochemical Devices
Mentor: Thomas L Peng, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Help develop technology to generate custom metal plates, on demand, by orchestrating electric fields to drive electrochemical reactions in novel chemical concoctions.

The Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate is charged with developing new capabilities deployable on space platforms. One promising approach is through the use of room temperature ionic liquid based electrochemical devices capable of reversibly electroplating metal films with user defined properties and dimensions. The use of room temperature ionic liquids ensures that the electrolyte will not boil away if it is ever exposed to the vacuum of space and its robust nature provides large electrochemical windows which can be used to drive desired reactions. The reversible electroplating capacity provides a means to chip and plaster metal films until it has the desired properties and offers a way to regenerate functional surfaces if they are ever damaged.

To get all of this to work will take a good amount of know-how in a variety of disciplines. Chemistry skills will be needed to design and synthesize room temperature ionic liquids with the appropriate properties. Electromagnetic field expertise will be needed to determine the fields needed to plate the desired metal films and the electronics architecture needed to create these fields. Surface science skills will be needed to create electrodes needed to drive the desired electrochemistry and resist chemical etching.

Interested in joining this effort? The candidate selected for this program will be tasked with applying their scientific expertise to develop new approaches, chemicals, or materials to improve the performance of room temperature ionic liquid based reversible electrochemical plating devices. Specific goals include, but are not limited to, improving the number of reversible electroplating cycles devices can run without degrading, improving the reflectivity of the electrodeposited films, and improving the transparency of the devices when the electrochemically tailored surface is removed. Anyone with ideas on how to realize these or other improvements are encouraged to apply.


Development and V&V of Advanced Algorithms for Transition
Mentor: Christopher Daniel Petersen, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Creating an algorithm and showing it works in simulation is only the first step to putting something in orbit. There are multiple steps which involve verification, validation, extensive testing, and comparison. This project in particular will enable students to explore how algorithms are created and transitioned by assisting AFRL in this process. We will focus on the following aspects: (a) Aiding in the development of an in-house interface for the creation of advanced algorithms, (b) Exploring and developing advanced control algorithms, (c) Creating benchmark testing situations for spacecraft vehicles, (d) Verifying several in-house algorithms on the benchmark tests in simulation as well as on hardware test facilities. Requirements include experience in MATLAB and Simulink. C-coding is a plus, but not required.


Development and V&V of Advanced Algorithms for Transition
Mentor: Christopher Daniel Petersen, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Creating an algorithm and showing it works in simulation is only the first step to putting something in orbit. There are multiple steps which involve verification, validation, extensive testing, and comparison. This project in particular will enable students to explore how algorithms are created and transitioned by assisting AFRL in this process. We will focus on the following aspects: (a) Aiding in the development of an in-house interface for the creation of advanced algorithms, (b) Exploring and developing advanced control algorithms, (c) Creating benchmark testing situations for spacecraft vehicles, (d) Verifying several in-house algorithms on the benchmark tests in simulation as well as on hardware test facilities. Requirements include experience in MATLAB and Simulink. C-coding is a plus, but not required.


Development of Satellite WIKI
Mentor: Lee A Kann, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Starfire Optical Range (SOR) is creating a satellite information section on our closed-network wiki. The information used to populate the pages will contain satellites of interest captured at SOR telescope observations with pertinent information such as Satellite Catalog Number (SCN), country of origin, capabilities, launch date, still images, and post-processed video images. The post-processing technique is a multi-frame blind deconvolution (MFBD) image enhancement process performed on a Linux box while setting various parameters. The summer scholar would process all required imagery, find the best representation of a still image, create the best post-processed movie, and post all the information on the wiki page. Creating the best post-processed imagery is a visual process – a combination of art and science, not the same for all satellites. The wiki will be used to quickly find satellite passes of interest. Prospective candidates should have some knowledge of image processing.


Dynamic Plasma Coupling in Laboratory, Computer, Space
Mentor: david lyttleton cooke, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

We are developing a laboratory plasma device called EMPD (ExB drifting Magnetized Plasma Device. EMPD is a 4' dia. by 6' long vacuum chamber with 0-200 Gauss axial magnetic field "bottle" for scaled plasma experiments. We are currently developing plasma sources, experiments, and diagnostics to explore plasma-plasma coupling and Langmuir Probe physics in the positive bias flowing plasma regime which is still poorly explored, with relevance to applications as the Electro-dynamic Space Tether.


Dynamic Plasma Coupling in Laboratory, Computer, Space
Mentor: david lyttleton cooke, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

We are developing a laboratory plasma device called EMPD (ExB drifting Magnetized Plasma Device. EMPD is a 4' dia. by 6' long vacuum chamber with 0-200 Gauss axial magnetic field "bottle" for scaled plasma experiments. We are currently developing plasma sources, experiments, and diagnostics to explore plasma-plasma coupling and Langmuir Probe physics in the positive bias flowing plasma regime which is still poorly explored, with relevance to applications as the Electro-dynamic Space Tether.


Effects of local strain on defect creation energies and on defect motion.
Mentor: Arthur Henry Edwards, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

n nitride-based high-electron mobility transistors (or HEMTs), many defects segregate near the edge of the gate, where control voltages are applied, affecting device operation. We are interested in how strongly the formation energies of defects, which affect the electrical properties of these HEMT, formation energies s depend on local strain (deformations in the material). The student will study atomic models employing a state-of-the-art quantum mechanics code used for solid state physics modeling and state-of-the-art quantum mechanical techniques. The proposed study will look at defect formation energies and the activation energies for defect migration as a function of charge state under both hydrostatic and uniaxial stress.


Electromagnetic Disruption of Electronic Systems
Mentor: Daniel Stephen Guillette, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Ph.D.

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is interested in furthering its understanding of how electromagnetic radiation disrupts the operation of electronic devices and their underlying subsystems. The purpose of this research topic is to explore and determine the response of microcontrollers to intentional electromagnetic interference (IEMI). Microcontrollers are used in the this topic because they are miniature computers containing onboard memory, processing modules, and I/O capabilities which makes them an ideal halfway point for larger more complex electronics systems and individual integrated circuits. The overarching goal of this topic is to implement its collective results into a mathematical model which can predict a microcontroller’s response when subjected to incident high power electromagnetic pulses. The selected Directed Energy Scholar will design, perform, and document hands-on experiments in which they expose a microcontroller to IEMI so as to determine the working test criteria for when safe operation, software compromised operation, and physical damage are encountered. Scholars will also have the opportunity to use advanced computer aided circuit modeling toolkits and design their own printed circuit boards as needed.


Electron Beam Physics
Mentor: Joseph Connelly, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The Charged Particle Beam (CPB) group is seeking motivated scientists and engineers to help further our understanding of the propagation and interactions of high-energy electron beams. These topics are fundamental to particle accelerator technology and applications. Students will learn and apply the principles of particle physics and electrodynamics to study a variety of possible topics, including modeling beam interactions with gases and solids, designing experimental diagnostics, and analyzing beam-generated electromagnetic fields. The specific project will be tailored to the student's interests and background.


Electron Beam Physics
Mentor: Joseph Connelly, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

The Charged Particle Beam (CPB) group is seeking motivated scientists and engineers to help further our understanding of the propagation and interactions of high-energy electron beams. These topics are fundamental to particle accelerator technology and applications. Students will learn and apply the principles of particle physics and electrodynamics to study a variety of possible topics, including modeling beam interactions with gases and solids, designing experimental diagnostics, and analyzing beam-generated electromagnetic fields. The specific project will be tailored to the student's interests and background.


Emission Phsycis of Carbon Fiber Field Emitters
Mentor: Wilkin Tang, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

The goal of the research is to investigate the physics of electron field emission under a variety of conditions.  Carbon fiber cathodes will be used for the research.  First, emission characteristics with pulse width from 100ns to 500ms and DC will be examined.  A new cathode test bed will be built for this purpose.  Second, different numbers of emitters (1<n<100) will be used to study the turn-on effects of cathodes, and the phenomena will be modeled using  a predator-prey relationship.  ICEPIC will be used to predict the effects of pulse width on electron field emission, in addition,  various numbers of fibers placed on the cathode will be subjected to the same voltage pulse, and ICEPIC will be used to model the cathode geometry, and comparison in terms of the total current obtain and the value of the field enhancement factors will be made with theory and experiment.  Lastly, a predator and prey relationship model will be developed to study the physics of emission when large number (1<n<100) of fibers are present on the cathode.  During the course of the program, Students will be involved in using ICEPIC to design the geometry of the cathodes, as well as to set up ICEPIC model to study the emission of the cathode under different pulse width.  At the end of the internship, students will gain knowledge in the emission physics from a carbon fiber cathode which is highly relevant in future technology. 


Emission Physics of Carbon Fiber Field Emitters
Mentor: Wilkin Tang, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The goal of the research is to investigate the physics of electron field emission under a variety of conditions.  Carbon fiber cathodes will be used for the research.  First, emission characteristics with pulse width from 100ns to 500ms and DC will be examined.  A new cathode test bed will be built for this purpose.  Second, different numbers of emitters (1<n<100) will be used to study the turn-on effects of cathodes, and the phenomena will be modeled using  a predator-prey relationship.  ICEPIC will be used to predict the effects of pulse width on electron field emission, in addition,  various numbers of fibers placed on the cathode will be subjected to the same voltage pulse, and ICEPIC will be used to model the cathode geometry, and comparison in terms of the total current obtain and the value of the field enhancement factors will be made with theory and experiment.  Lastly, a predator and prey relationship model will be developed to study the physics of emission when large number (1<n<100) of fibers are present on the cathode.  During the course of the program, Students will be involved in using ICEPIC to design the geometry of the cathodes, as well as to set up ICEPIC model to study the emission of the cathode under different pulse width.  At the end of the internship, students will gain knowledge in the emission physics from a carbon fiber cathode which is highly relevant in future technology.


Energetic Proton Hazard Modeling on a High Performance Computing Platform
Mentor: Shawn Young, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Eruptive events on the sun and the shocks they create in interplanetary space can energize charged particles to energies that are hazardous to satellites and can disrupt needed high frequency communications. The Earth's magnetic field shields or reduces the hazard in some regions in space, but attempts to accurately predict the shielding in many regions have been frustrated by missing physics in the models. This project will investigate the physics of energetic particle penetration into the magnetosphere using a high performance computing platform and data obtained by satellites. An extension of the project may be to parallelize a research code to enable larger simulations.


Enhancements to imaging and tracking model
Mentor: Noah Richard Van Zandt, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Optical tracking systems, such as those used by the military, attempt to track moving/maneuvering targets. For laser weapon systems, the tracker usually locks onto specific regions or features on the target, which is even more challenging. A number of degradations hamper such efforts, including sensor noise, sun glints, weather, atmospheric turbulence, optical speckle, and a number of emerging factors that require more research. The software package known as PITBUL allows one to model the performance of a tracking system against various targets under various conditions. PITBUL is a physics-based simulation package written in Matlab using object-oriented programing (OOP). It requires frequent physics additions, feature additions, testing, and bug fixes. The scholar will spend the first part of the summer assisting in those efforts. Specifically, we expect to add several capabilities to PITBUL during the summer, including adaptive optics systems, multiple illumination lasers, and the latest tracking algorithms. Time and interest permitting, the scholar will also run the enhanced software to conduct tracking research in support of a laser-weapon research program. The scope and depth of the research will be adjusted to match the scholar’s background and interests.


Enhancements to imaging and tracking model
Mentor: Noah Richard Van Zandt, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Optical tracking systems, such as those used by the military, attempt to track moving/maneuvering targets. For laser weapon systems, the tracker usually locks onto specific regions or features on the target, which is even more challenging. A number of degradations hamper such efforts, including sensor noise, sun glints, weather, atmospheric turbulence, optical speckle, and a number of emerging factors that require more research. The software package known as PITBUL allows one to model the performance of a tracking system against various targets under various conditions. PITBUL is a physics-based simulation package written in Matlab using object-oriented programing (OOP). It requires frequent physics additions, feature additions, testing, and bug fixes. The scholar will spend the first part of the summer assisting in those efforts. Specifically, we expect to add several capabilities to PITBUL during the summer, including adaptive optics systems, multiple illumination lasers, and the latest tracking algorithms. Time and interest permitting, the scholar will also run the enhanced software to conduct tracking research in support of a laser-weapon research program. The scope and depth of the research will be adjusted to match the scholar’s background and interests.


Experimental Chamber Setup and Test
Mentor: Dale Curtis Ferguson, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

A new experimental apparatus has recently been designed at the Spacecraft Charging and Calibration Laboratory (SCICL) to investigate current connection in magnetized flowing plasmas.  Once operational, the device will be used to study electron collection by a positive probe in ExB drifting plasma, current closure and sheath characteristics of a dipole antenna, and electron heating in Critical Ionization Velocity (CIV) experiments.  Before these experiments can be conducted, construction and characterization of the device and plasma must be completed.  The proposed project will entail aiding the construction of the vacuum chamber and components, configuration of the magnetic field coils, establishment of plasma diagnostics, formation of low temperature plasma, and creation of an axial ExB drift.  More detailed side projects along the way will include magnetic field optimization and plasma characterization using Langmuir and emissive probes.  The outlined project will give the scholar the opportunity to participate in an experiment from the construction stage and allow them to learn important operational, scientific, and design details that can be overlooked at later, more advanced, stages.


Experimental Signals Satellite Simulation and Testing
Mentor: Jacob Daniel Lutz, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters

The Air Force's Global Positioning System (GPS) was created to provide unprecedented position and timing accuracy to the warfighter and has since become a staple of the global economy. Cell phones, autonomous vehicles, air traffic control, ATM machines, search-and-rescue crews, and the national power grid all depend on uninterrupted GPS coverage.
Together with industry, AFRL is developing advanced technologies to detect and mitigate interference and make GPS stronger than ever. The Summer Scholar will use modeling and simulation tools to analyze the military utility of the spacecraft and various satellite navigation architectures in order to determine the best technology transition path. Additional topics of study may include ground test/technology demonstration campaign planning and on-orbit experiment planning to validate system capabilities modeled in the laboratory. This project is high-priority and of high-relevance to AFRL. As such, successful project completion will garner high visibility, and the Scholar will be expected to brief his results to multiple organizations.


Experimental Signals Satellite Simulation and Testing
Mentor: Jacob Daniel Lutz, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

The Air Force's Global Positioning System (GPS) was created to provide unprecedented position and timing accuracy to the warfighter and has since become a staple of the global economy. Cell phones, autonomous vehicles, air traffic control, ATM machines, search-and-rescue crews, and the national power grid all depend on uninterrupted GPS coverage.
Together with industry, AFRL is developing advanced technologies to detect and mitigate interference and make GPS stronger than ever. The Summer Scholar will use modeling and simulation tools to analyze the military utility of the spacecraft and various satellite navigation architectures in order to determine the best technology transition path. Additional topics of study may include ground test/technology demonstration campaign planning and on-orbit experiment planning to validate system capabilities modeled in the laboratory. This project is high-priority and of high-relevance to AFRL. As such, successful project completion will garner high visibility, and the Scholar will be expected to brief his results to multiple organizations.


Fuel Cells for Satellite Power
Mentor: Lok-kun Tsui, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles directorate seeks a high school student intern for a project involving the development of power sources for satellites. Satellites require a supply of energy in order to power their electronics in space. Nitrous oxide fuel cells can provide higher power and store greater amounts of energy compared to battery systems. We are working to study the materials used in these devices and improve their performance. High school students will have the opportunity to experience working in a laboratory setting, interact with scientists and engineers, and use state-of-the art instruments in pursuit of a research goal.


Fuel Cells for Satellite Power
Mentor: Lok-kun Tsui, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles directorate seeks an undergraduate student intern to work on the study of nitrous-oxide (N2O) powered fuel cells. Fuel cells powered using N2O as an oxidant are attractive compared to batteries because of their high power and energy density. We will investigate materials for solid-oxide fuel cells powered by hydrogen and N2O for optimal power generation.


Gigawatt-class High Power Microwave Source Modeling
Mentor: Peter Mardahl, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

We will assemble a team of DE Scholars and AFRL scientists to model/simulate cutting edge gigawatt-class high power microwave (HPM) source technologies. We will utilize the DoD's massively parallel supercomputing capabilities to perform high fidelity simulations using the AFRL's Improved Concurrent Electromagnetic Particle-in-Cell Code (ICEPIC). We will be virtually prototyping and improving the world's most advanced HPM sources, leveraging the latest published results to produce virtual prototypes that represent the best of the world's HPM sources. Team members will work closely with each other and their mentors to learn the basic and advanced features of ICEPIC to create and run successful HPM models in a high performance computing environment.


Gigawatt-class High Power Microwave Source Modeling
Mentor: Jason Hammond, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

We will assemble a team of DE Scholars and AFRL scientists to model/simulate cutting edge gigawatt-class high power microwave (HPM) source technologies. We will utilize the DoD's massively parallel supercomputing capabilities to perform high fidelity simulations using the AFRL's Improved Concurrent Electromagnetic Particle-in-Cell Code (ICEPIC). We will be virtually prototyping and improving the world's most advanced HPM sources, leveraging the latest published results to produce virtual prototypes that represent the best of the world's HPM sources. Team members will work closely with each other and their mentors to learn the basic and advanced features of ICEPIC to create and run successful HPM models in a high performance computing environment.


Gigawatt-class High Power Microwave Source Modeling
Mentor: Jason Hammond, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

We will assemble a team of DE Scholars and AFRL scientists to model/simulate cutting edge gigawatt-class high power microwave (HPM) source technologies. We will utilize the DoD's massively parallel supercomputing capabilities to perform high fidelity simulations using the AFRL's Improved Concurrent Electromagnetic Particle-in-Cell Code (ICEPIC). We will be virtually prototyping and improving the world's most advanced HPM sources, leveraging the latest published results to produce virtual prototypes that represent the best of the world's HPM sources. Team members will work closely with each other and their mentors to learn the basic and advanced features of ICEPIC to create and run successful HPM models in a high performance computing environment.


Gigawatt-class High Power Microwave Source Modeling
Mentor: Christopher Joseph Leach, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

We will assemble a team of DE Scholars and AFRL scientists to model/simulate cutting edge gigawatt-class high power microwave (HPM) source technologies. We will utilize the DoD's massively parallel supercomputing capabilities to perform high fidelity simulations using the AFRL's Improved Concurrent Electromagnetic Particle-in-Cell Code (ICEPIC). We will be virtually prototyping and improving the world's most advanced HPM sources, leveraging the latest published results to produce virtual prototypes that represent the best of the world's HPM sources. Team members will work closely with each other and their mentors to learn the basic and advanced features of ICEPIC to create and run successful HPM models in a high performance computing environment.


Gigawatt-class High Power Microwave Source Modeling
Mentor: Christopher Joseph Leach, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

We will assemble a team of DE Scholars and AFRL scientists to model/simulate cutting edge gigawatt-class high power microwave (HPM) source technologies. We will utilize the DoD's massively parallel supercomputing capabilities to perform high fidelity simulations using the AFRL's Improved Concurrent Electromagnetic Particle-in-Cell Code (ICEPIC). We will be virtually prototyping and improving the world's most advanced HPM sources, leveraging the latest published results to produce virtual prototypes that represent the best of the world's HPM sources. Team members will work closely with each other and their mentors to learn the basic and advanced features of ICEPIC to create and run successful HPM models in a high performance computing environment.


Gigawatt-class High Power Microwave Source Modeling
Mentor: Bud Alonzo Denny, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

We will assemble a team of DE Scholars and AFRL scientists to model/simulate cutting edge gigawatt-class high power microwave (HPM) source technologies. We will utilize the DoD's massively parallel supercomputing capabilities to perform high fidelity simulations using the AFRL's Improved Concurrent Electromagnetic Particle-in-Cell Code (ICEPIC). We will be virtually prototyping and improving the world's most advanced HPM sources, leveraging the latest published results to produce virtual prototypes that represent the best of the world's HPM sources. Team members will work closely with each other and their mentors to learn the basic and advanced features of ICEPIC to create and run successful HPM models in a high performance computing environment.


Gigawatt-Class High Power Microwave Source Modeling
Mentor: Timothy Fleming, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

We will assemble a team of DE Scholars and AFRL scientists to model/simulate cutting edge gigawatt-class high power microwave (HPM) source technologies. We will utilize the DoD's massively parallel supercomputing capabilities to
perform high fidelity simulations using the AFRL's Improved Concurrent Electromagnetic Particle-in-Cell Code (ICEPIC). We will be virtually prototyping and improving the world's most advanced HPM sources, leveraging the latest published results to produce virtual prototypes that represent the
best of the world's HPM sources. Team members will work closely with each other and their mentors to learn the basic and advanced features of ICEPIC to create and run successful HPM models in a high performance computing
environment.


GPS Advanced Signals Testing
Mentor: Tanner Brantley Gordon, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

The Advanced GPS Technologies (AGT) program researches next generation satellite navigation (SatNav). Research areas include: advanced SatNav signals and signal exploitation, spacecraft SatNav payloads, and SatNav control systems. Technology areas include: digital and RF signal processing, software defined radios, RF signal generation and broadcast, encryption, and command and control technologies. Research is performed both in a simulated environment and in the laboratory.

The AGT program is developing advanced signals for GPS. These signals need to be tested in the lab, both to ensure they address the issues for which they were designed and to ensure new problems were not created in the process. An intern project would be an independent research project involving implementing the signal into a flexible software defined transmitter and testing the robustness of the signals. A software approach to GPS signal authentication will then be implemented and tested.


GPS Advanced Signals Testing
Mentor: Tanner Brantley Gordon, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The Advanced GPS Technologies (AGT) program researches next generation satellite navigation (SatNav). Research areas include: advanced SatNav signals and signal exploitation, spacecraft SatNav payloads, and SatNav control systems. Technology areas include: digital and RF signal processing, software defined radios, RF signal generation and broadcast, encryption, and command and control technologies. Research is performed both in a simulated environment and in the laboratory.

The AGT program is developing advanced signals for GPS. These signals need to be tested in the lab, both to ensure they address the issues for which they were designed and to ensure new problems were not created in the process. An intern project would be an independent research project involving implementing the signal into a flexible software defined transmitter and testing the robustness of the signals. A software approach to GPS signal authentication will then be implemented and tested.


Guidance, Navigation, and Control Involving Relative Satellite Motion
Mentor: Alan Lovell, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The goal of this topic is to better understand and utilize the dynamics of relative satellite motion (i.e., the motion of one satellite with respect to one or more other satellites).  This topic encompasses both close-proximity scenarios (i.e. cluster/formation missions and rendezvous/proximity operations missions) and scenarios where the satellites are not necessarily on closely neighboring orbits.  An example of the latter scenario is space-based tracking and orbit determination of space objects.  Areas of relevant research include:   Modeling of Relative Orbit Dynamics: The relative motion between two or more satellites can be modeled in unique ways.  The governing equations for such motion can account for a variety of physical phenomena and, as such, maybe either linear or nonlinear, time-varying or time-invariant.  Of particular interest is the formulation of governing equations that incorporate particular phenomena, closed-form solutions to new or existing equations, and characterizing relative dynamics in non-Cartesian (e.g. orbit element) fashion.   Relative Navigation for Satellite Systems: Relative navigation entails accurate estimation of the relative state (position and velocity) of one satellite with respect to another, given available measurements.  These may include GPS, intersatellite ranging, line-of-sight, and light curve data.  Again, this research area encompasses a wide range of orbital regimes, including both close-proximity and larger separation scenarios.  Of particular interest is improved filter design, enhanced on-board autonomy (i.e. minimum interaction from the ground), and angles-only observability (i.e. when only line-of-sight is available).   Guidance/Control Algorithms for Relative Satellite Motion: Satellites flying in close proximity have unique control requirements. The versatility of satellite cluster missions allows for reconfiguration of the satellites to perform different missions or to account for the addition or deletion of members to the cluster. Of particular interest is the development of open- and/or closed-loop control algorithms for relative satellite trajectories and optimization of these trajectories. The former area may involve both centralized and decentralized control, as well as hierarchical control; while the latter area may involve both conventional (e.g. LQR, gradient-based) and modern (e.g. genetic algorithm) optimization schemes.  In addition to close-proximity maneuvering, it is also desired to utilize relative motion-based techniques for maneuver planning of a single satellite, whether based on conventional methods (e.g., Lambert transfer) or lesser known methods (e.g., hodograph theory).


Guidance, Navigation, and Control Involving Relative Satellite Motion
Mentor: Alan Lovell, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

The goal of this topic is to better understand and utilize the dynamics of relative satellite motion (i.e., the motion of one satellite with respect to one or more other satellites).  This topic encompasses both close-proximity scenarios (i.e. cluster/formation missions and rendezvous/proximity operations missions) and scenarios where the satellites are not necessarily on closely neighboring orbits.  An example of the latter scenario is space-based tracking and orbit determination of space objects.  Areas of relevant research include:   Modeling of Relative Orbit Dynamics: The relative motion between two or more satellites can be modeled in unique ways.  The governing equations for such motion can account for a variety of physical phenomena and, as such, maybe either linear or nonlinear, time-varying or time-invariant.  Of particular interest is the formulation of governing equations that incorporate particular phenomena, closed-form solutions to new or existing equations, and characterizing relative dynamics in non-Cartesian (e.g. orbit element) fashion.   Relative Navigation for Satellite Systems: Relative navigation entails accurate estimation of the relative state (position and velocity) of one satellite with respect to another, given available measurements.  These may include GPS, intersatellite ranging, line-of-sight, and light curve data.  Again, this research area encompasses a wide range of orbital regimes, including both close-proximity and larger separation scenarios.  Of particular interest is improved filter design, enhanced on-board autonomy (i.e. minimum interaction from the ground), and angles-only observability (i.e. when only line-of-sight is available).   Guidance/Control Algorithms for Relative Satellite Motion: Satellites flying in close proximity have unique control requirements. The versatility of satellite cluster missions allows for reconfiguration of the satellites to perform different missions or to account for the addition or deletion of members to the cluster. Of particular interest is the development of open- and/or closed-loop control algorithms for relative satellite trajectories and optimization of these trajectories. The former area may involve both centralized and decentralized control, as well as hierarchical control; while the latter area may involve both conventional (e.g. LQR, gradient-based) and modern (e.g. genetic algorithm) optimization schemes.  In addition to close-proximity maneuvering, it is also desired to utilize relative motion-based techniques for maneuver planning of a single satellite, whether based on conventional methods (e.g., Lambert transfer) or lesser known methods (e.g., hodograph theory).  


Guidance, Navigation, and Control Involving Relative Satellite Motion
Mentor: Alan Lovell, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Professional Educator

The goal of this topic is to better understand and utilize the dynamics of relative satellite motion (i.e., the motion of one satellite with respect to one or more other satellites). This topic encompasses both close-proximity scenarios (i.e. cluster/formation missions and rendezvous/proximity operations missions) and scenarios where the satellites are not necessarily on closely neighboring orbits. An example of the latter scenario is space-based tracking and orbit determination of space objects. Areas of relevant research include: Modeling of Relative Orbit Dynamics: The relative motion between two or more satellites can be modeled in unique ways. The governing equations for such motion can account for a variety of physical phenomena and, as such, maybe either linear or nonlinear, time-varying or time-invariant. Of particular interest is the formulation of governing equations that incorporate particular phenomena, closed-form solutions to new or existing equations, and characterizing relative dynamics in non-Cartesian (e.g. orbit element) fashion. Relative Navigation for Satellite Systems: Relative navigation entails accurate estimation of the relative state (position and velocity) of one satellite with respect to another, given available measurements. These may include GPS, intersatellite ranging, line-of-sight, and light curve data. Again, this research area encompasses a wide range of orbital regimes, including both close-proximity and larger separation scenarios. Of particular interest is improved filter design, enhanced on-board autonomy (i.e. minimum interaction from the ground), and angles-only observability (i.e. when only line-of-sight is available). Guidance/Control Algorithms for Relative Satellite Motion: Satellites flying in close proximity have unique control requirements. The versatility of satellite cluster missions allows for reconfiguration of the satellites to perform different missions or to account for the addition or deletion of members to the cluster. Of particular interest is the development of open- and/or closed-loop control algorithms for relative satellite trajectories and optimization of these trajectories. The former area may involve both centralized and decentralized control, as well as hierarchical control; while the latter area may involve both conventional (e.g. LQR, gradient-based) and modern (e.g. genetic algorithm) optimization schemes. In addition to close-proximity maneuvering, it is also desired to utilize relative motion-based techniques for maneuver planning of a single satellite, whether based on conventional methods (e.g., Lambert transfer) or lesser known methods (e.g., hodograph theory).


High Altitude Air Crew Hazard Sounding Balloon Experiment
Mentor: Shawn Young, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Professional Educator

Galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) and solar energetic particles (SEPs) bombard our atmosphere creating hazardous cascades as collisions break apart atmospheric particles and multiply the number of biologically hazardous particles in the atmosphere. There is a great deal of work being done to understand and correctly model the hazard at commercial aircraft flight altitudes. However, at higher altitudes there are far fewer measurements which we can use to validate our models and understanding. In an effort to ameliorate this condition we will design a sounding balloon payload that can be launched quickly and cheaply. The payload must be small and lightweight, but allow us to measure the relevant particle population in the atmosphere. It must also be able to survive the return to Earth and be easily located. If the project is successful, the educator and his students may later choose to work with us to perform some of the initial launches.


High field ultrashort pulse laser experiments
Mentor: Alex Englesbe, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The Air Force Research Laboratory, Directed Energy Directorate is interested in studying the physics of high intensity laser-matter interactions with ultrashort pulse lasers. The extreme fields that the lasers produce drive a variety of nonlinear and highly energetic phenomena, including pulse filamentation, plasma generation, and the acceleration of relativistic electrons bunches. Students will work on developing new experimental methods for better understanding the behavior of the laser or plasma interaction. They will learn to apply optical or microwave diagnostics and analysis techniques that are broadly applicable in the fields of physics and electrical engineering.


High field ultrashort pulse laser experiments
Mentor: Alex Englesbe, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

The Air Force Research Laboratory, Directed Energy Directorate is interested in studying the physics of high intensity laser-matter interactions with ultrashort pulse lasers. The extreme fields that the lasers produce drive a variety of nonlinear and highly energetic phenomena, including pulse filamentation, plasma generation, and the acceleration of relativistic electron bunches. Students will work on developing new experimental methods for better understanding the behavior of the laser or plasma interaction. They will learn to apply optical or microwave diagnostics and analysis techniques that are broadly applicable in the fields of physics and electrical engineering.


High Power Electromagnetic Interactions with High Temperature Materials
Mentor: Brad Hoff, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Directed Energy Directorate is interested in the study of interactions between high temperature materials and high power millimeter wave radiation with application to RF windows, power beaming, and material synthesis. This work will focus on measurement, characterization, and modeling of temperature-dependent complex dielectric properties of high temperature bulk materials to develop a better understanding the physical properties driving key nonlinear behaviors.


High Power Electromagnetic Interactions with High Temperature Materials
Mentor: Brad Hoff, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Directed Energy Directorate is interested in the study of interactions between high temperature materials and high power millimeter wave radiation with application to RF windows, power beaming, and material synthesis. This work will focus on measurement and characterization of temperature-dependent dielectric properties of high temperature bulk materials such as ceramics.


High-Power Hollow-Core Fiber Laser R&D
Mentor: Matthew A Cooper, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The Directed Energy Directorate is investigating the uses for a Hollow-Core Fiber (HCF) as both a laser source and as a high-energy delivery fiber. Filling a HCF with a gas can produce interesting laser sources yet to be investigated. Delivery fibers have been studied for low-power communications and sensing applications but not for high-energy situations. The student will help design, conduct, and analyze either a simulation or experiment in this novel area of research. The specific project in this student effort will be modified to the background and interest of the student. Interested students are highly encouraged to contact the primary mentor for more specifics, or to discuss topics ideas.


High-Power Hollow-Core Fiber Laser R&D
Mentor: Matthew A Cooper, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

The Directed Energy Directorate is investigating the uses for a Hollow-Core Fiber (HCF) as both a laser source and as a high-energy delivery fiber. Filling a HCF with a gas can produce interesting laser sources yet to be investigated. Delivery fibers have been studied for low-power communications and sensing applications but not for high-energy situations. The student will help design, conduct, and analyze either a simulation or experiment in this novel area of research. The specific project in this student effort will be modified to the background and interest of the student. Interested students are highly encouraged to contact the primary mentor for more specifics, or to discuss topics ideas.


High-Speed Aero-optical Effects Laboratory
Mentor: Christopher Charles Wilcox, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Lasers projected from an aircraft need to stay focused as they pass through the air that has been disturbed by that same aircraft. Conversely, light which is being received by the aircraft, e.g. for imaging systems, also needs to be focused after it has passed through the same flow field. In some cases, the turbulent air disturbances are severe enough to severely distort the light, preventing it from properly focusing. The study of these interactions has been described as "aero-optics". AFRL is interested in understanding and minimizing aero-optic distortions for a variety of applications. Opportunities for summer aero-optic research at AFRL include experimental studies of turbulence such as turbulent boundary layers and shear layers as well as the development of appropriate diagnostic instrumentation (e.g. schlieren, wavefront sensing, laser induced fluorescence, pressure sensitive paint, etc.). Computational (CFD) opportunities also exists to design aero-optic experiments and to develop accurate aero-optic CFD solutions.


High-Speed Aero-optical Effects Laboratory
Mentor: Christopher Charles Wilcox, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

Lasers projected from an aircraft need to stay focused as they pass through the air that has been disturbed by that same aircraft. Conversely, light which is being received by the aircraft, e.g. for imaging systems, also needs to be focused after it has passed through the same flow field. In some cases, the turbulent air disturbances are severe enough to severely distort the light, preventing it from properly focusing. The study of these interactions has been described as "aero-optics". AFRL is interested in understanding and predicting aero-optic distortions for a variety of applications. This opportunity involves participation in aero-optic research at AFRL including wind-tunnel experiments and data analysis. Example studies may include investigations of turbulent boundary layers, shear layers or turbulent wakes. In addition to traditional flow measurement sensors (e.g. pressure and velocity), Summer Scholars will have the opportunity to work with flow diagnostic techniques such wavefront sensing and schlieren/shadowgraph techniques.


High-Speed Aero-optical Effects Laboratory
Mentor: Christopher Charles Wilcox, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Professional Educator

Lasers projected from an aircraft need to stay focused as they pass through the air that has been disturbed by that same aircraft. Conversely, light which is being received by the aircraft, e.g. for imaging systems, also needs to be focused after it has passed through the same flow field. In some cases, the turbulent air disturbances are severe enough to severely distort the light, preventing it from properly focusing. The study of these interactions has been described as "aero-optics". AFRL is interested in understanding and predicting aero-optic distortions for a variety of applications. This opportunity involves participation in aero-optic research at AFRL including wind-tunnel experiments and data analysis. Example studies may include investigations of turbulent boundary layers, shear layers or turbulent wakes. In addition to traditional flow measurement sensors (e.g. pressure and velocity), Summer Scholars will have the opportunity to work with flow diagnostic techniques such wavefront sensing and schlieren/shadowgraph techniques.


High speed aero-optics laboratory
Mentor: Donald Joseph Wittich, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Lasers projected from an aircraft need to stay focused as they pass through the air that has been disturbed by that same aircraft. Conversely, light which is being received by the aircraft, e.g. for imaging systems, also needs to be focused after it has passed through the same flow field. In some cases, the turbulent air disturbances are severe enough to severely distort the light, preventing it from properly focusing. The study of these interactions has been described as "aero-optics". AFRL is interested in understanding and minimizing aero-optic distortions for a variety of applications. Opportunities for summer aero-optic research at AFRL include experimental studies of turbulence such as turbulent boundary layers and shear layers as well as the development of appropriate diagnostic instrumentation (e.g. schlieren, wavefront sensing, laser induced fluorescence, pressure sensitive paint, etc.). Computational (CFD) opportunities also exists to design aero-optic experiments and to develop accurate aero-optic CFD solutions.


High-Speed Aero-Optics Laboratory
Mentor: Donald Joseph Wittich, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Lasers projected from an aircraft need to stay focused as they pass through the air that has been disturbed by that same aircraft. Conversely, light which is being received by the aircraft, e.g. for imaging systems, also needs to be focused after it has passed through the same flow field. In some cases, the turbulent air disturbances are severe enough to severely distort the light, preventing it from properly focusing. The study of these interactions has been described as "aero-optics". AFRL is interested in understanding and predicting aero-optic distortions for a variety of applications. This opportunity involves participation in aero-optic research at AFRL including wind-tunnel experiments and data analysis. Example studies may include investigations of turbulent boundary layers, shear layers or turbulent wakes. In addition to traditional flow measurement sensors (e.g. pressure and velocity), Summer Scholars will have the opportunity to work with flow diagnostic techniques such wavefront sensing and schlieren/shadowgraph techniques.


HPM Parameter Sensitivity Analysis
Mentor: Bud Alonzo Denny, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

We will use the AFRL's Improved Concurrent Electromagnetic Particle-in-Cell (ICEPIC) code along with the Sandia National Lab's Design Analysis Kit for Optimization and Terascale Applications (DAKOTA), to study the sensitivity of high powered microwave devices to various design parameters. ICEPIC will be used for rapid modeling and protyping of the microwave devices whereas DAKOTA will guide the design in ICEPIC and perform the sensitivity analysis. The two softwares coupled together will use the DoD's massively parallel supercomputing resources to perform these intense calculations. It is hoped that we will gain some insight as to which parameters are important in HPM design and which ones can be safely ignored for a given type of device with specified constraints.


HPM Parameter Sensitivity Analysis using Advanced Machine Learning Techniques
Mentor: Ashar Ali, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

We will use the AFRL's Improved Concurrent Electromagnetic PArticle-in-Cell (ICEPIC) to study the sensitivity of high powered microwave (HPM) devices to various design parameters. ICEPIC will be used for modeling and prototyping of the HPM devices. Since modeling in ICEPIC can be slow and can require massive computational effort, we would like to use some advanced machine learning techniques to speed up the initial modeling and prototyping phase. Afterwards, ICEPIC can be used for a more detailed analysis. Since the underlying physics contains many nonlinear processes, the data sets are very noisy and naive machine learning algorithms fail. Therefore, we would like to explore Bayesian statistical methods and active learning methods for rapid HPM prototyping.


HPM Parameter Sensitivity Analysis using Advanced Machine Learning Techniques
Mentor: Ashar Ali, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

We will use the AFRL's Improved Concurrent Electromagnetic PArticle-in-Cell (ICEPIC) to study the sensitivity of high powered microwave (HPM) devices to various design parameters. ICEPIC will be used for modeling and prototyping of the HPM devices. Since modeling in ICEPIC can be slow and can require massive computational effort, we would like to use some advanced machine learning techniques to speed up the initial modeling and prototyping phase. Afterwards, ICEPIC can be used for a more detailed analysis. Since the underlying physics contains many nonlinear processes, the data sets are very noisy and naive machine learning algorithms fail. Therefore, we would like to explore Bayesian statistical methods and active learning methods for rapid HPM prototyping.


Hybrid Control Design for Satellite Systems
Mentor: Sean Phillips, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Due to the difficulties in controlling satellite systems inherent to the nature of the environment, in this project, we are interested in developing a robust, multi-modal control algorithm for a stabilizing the attitude of a satellite system. Prospective interns should have a background in systems theory, aerospace dynamics, advanced/nonlinear control theory, Matlab/Simulink, and (bonus points) hybrid systems.


Image Compression using GPUs
Mentor: Andrew Carballo Pineda, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The objective of this project will be to port and optimize an image compression algorithm previously developed under Air Force sponsorship to run on NVidia-based graphics processing units (GPUs). The performance of the GPU version of the algorithm will be compared against other implementations developed by AFRL contractors for conventional microprocessors and field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) both for speed and where possible for energy usage. Students will develop on a variety of platforms including workstation-class systems with GPUs and low-power embedded systems.


Impact of Non-Kolmogorov Turbulence on Common Turbulence Measurement Techniques
Mentor: Noah Richard Van Zandt, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Turbulence in the air degrades our ability to image clearly over long distances. It also prevents us from tightly focusing laser energy. Adaptive optics systems can correct the effects of turbulence, but their performance is highly dependent upon the strength of the turbulence. This research will use computer simulations to investigate whether our current turbulence measurement devices can adequately measure the strength of non-standard (i.e., non-Kolmogorov) turbulence. It will benefit applications such as target tracking, remote sensing, laser weapons, and laser communications.

Although we have a good understanding of the strength of atmospheric turbulence both near the surface and at high altitudes, recent measurements for intermediate altitudes have shown some unexpected patterns. The strength of the turbulence can change very quickly with altitude. Further, the turbulence at any altitude typically does not exhibit the expected statistics (i.e., Kolmogorov statistics). This research will propagate a laser beam through such turbulence using numerical simulation. It will use data from high-fidelity experimental measurements of turbulence to define the turbulence strength versus altitude for the simulations. It will compare laser beams after propagation through the measured turbulence to laser beams after propagation through equivalent Kolmogorov turbulence. Further, it will investigate the ability of our common (medium-fidelity) turbulence measurement devices to characterize the effects of layered, non-Kolmogorov turbulence on beam propagation. The results will help to determine whether layered, non-Kolmogorov turbulence is a significant factor that requires further research and/or improved measurement devices. This work is an extension of previous research that yielded limited results. The scope and depth of the research will be tailored to fit the scholar’s background and could be directed towards optics, engineering, computer programming, or mathematics.


Impact of Non-Kolmogorov Turbulence on Common Turbulence Measurement Techniques
Mentor: Noah Richard Van Zandt, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Turbulence in the air degrades our ability to image clearly over long distances. It also prevents us from tightly focusing laser energy. Adaptive optics systems can correct the effects of turbulence, but their performance is highly dependent upon the strength of the turbulence. This research will use computer simulations to investigate whether our current turbulence measurement devices can adequately measure the strength of non-standard (i.e., non-Kolmogorov) turbulence. It will benefit applications such as target tracking, remote sensing, laser weapons, and laser communications.

Although we have a good understanding of the strength of atmospheric turbulence both near the surface and at high altitudes, recent measurements for intermediate altitudes have shown some unexpected patterns. The strength of the turbulence can change very quickly with altitude. Further, the turbulence at any altitude typically does not exhibit the expected statistics (i.e., Kolmogorov statistics). This research will propagate a laser beam through such turbulence using numerical simulation. It will use data from high-fidelity experimental measurements of turbulence to define the turbulence strength versus altitude for the simulations. It will compare laser beams after propagation through the measured turbulence to laser beams after propagation through equivalent Kolmogorov turbulence. Further, it will investigate the ability of our common (medium-fidelity) turbulence measurement devices to characterize the effects of layered, non-Kolmogorov turbulence on beam propagation. The results will help to determine whether layered, non-Kolmogorov turbulence is a significant factor that requires further research and/or improved measurement devices. This work is an extension of previous research that yielded limited results. The scope and depth of the research will be tailored to fit the scholar’s background and could be directed towards optics, engineering, computer programming, or mathematics.


Impact of strong atmospheric turbulence
Mentor: Venkata Gudimetla, Directed Energy
Location: AMOS
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Prospective DE scholar,  preferably a graduate student ,  will  examine the impact of strong atmospheric turbulence in spatial, temporal, and related spectral domains using Large Eddy Simulation (LES) turbulence modeling.  LES turbulence modeling allows us to study strong fluid turbulence and is able to predict advection-dissipation at various energy spectrums.  Therefore, this choice of model allows us to characterize turbulence at outer and inner regimes important for correcting the effects of optical turbulence over long-distance laser beam propagation.  We conduct Computational Fluid Dynamics simulations of atmospheric turbulence to realistic three-dimensional systems that better represent the geography of the summits between Maui and Hawaii, where long range laser propagation measurements were conducted.


Integration of multiple computer models into a complete integrated scenario
Mentor: Charles Francis Vaughan, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters

Many Advanced Framework for Simulation, Integration and Modeling (AFSIM) programs/modules of U. S. satellite-based capabilities and various weapon systems have been developed. Some work has been done to develop scenarios of adversary capabilities. What is needed is an effort to integrate satellite-based capabilities, weapon systems, and adversary capabilities in order to create an integrated scenario. This integrated scenario can then be used to evaluate changes to weapon systems or changes to satellite-based capabilities to assess the effectiveness of those proposed changes.


Integration of multiple computer models into a complete integrated scenario
Mentor: Charles Francis Vaughan, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Ph.D.

Many Advanced Framework for Simulation, Integration and Modeling (AFSIM) programs/modules of U. S. satellite-based capabilities and various weapon systems have been developed. Some work has been done to develop scenarios of adversary capabilities. What is needed is an effort to integrate satellite-based capabilities, weapon systems, and adversary capabilities in order to create an integrated scenario. This integrated scenario can then be used to evaluate changes to weapon systems or changes to satellite-based capabilities to assess the effectiveness of those proposed changes.


Intelligent Robotic Assembly of Spacecraft
Mentor: Shelly Ann Gruenig, PhD, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

Advanced manufacturing techniques are taking an increasing role throughout industry. Intelligent robotic assembly of products has the potential to have a massive impact on the future of how things are built, particularly resulting in a sizeable increase of both productivity and quality. Accomplishing this assembly requires a multifaceted approach to robotics that entails a talented coordination of machine learning, machine vision, image processing, forward/inverse kinematics and end effector manipulation, among a multitude of other supporting tools.

This project uses a Baxter Robot from Rethink Robotics, Inc. Baxter has two functional arms and a variety of sensors with analog/digital IO capability, including accelerometers, IR range, sonar, and cameras. Python, C++, Robot Operating System (ROS), MATLAB and other such programming languages are the primary means of manipulating Baxter. This project will explore the robotics topics (listed in the above paragraph) from current literature and the open source community and use them to program Baxter towards assembly of a simple satellite analog as a demonstration of intelligent robotic assembly.


Inverse Problem Theory for Space Situational Awareness Applications
Mentor: Paul W. Schumacher, Directed Energy
Location: AMOS
Academic Level: Ph.D.

Space Situational Awareness (SSA) mission analyses usually require the solution of some kind of inverse problem. A common SSA example is the estimation of orbital trajectories from measurements of apparent direction as recorded at a station on the Earth’s surface. The theory of inverse problems elucidates the conditions under which usable state estimates can be obtained. Jacques Hadamard’s classical criteria are well known: a solution of an inverse problem must both exist, be unique and be stable with respect to variations in the measured data. In more recent time, Albert Tarantola proposed two different approaches to inverse problems (Inverse Problem Theory, SIAM book, 2005, p.34; and Nature Physics, August 2006, pp.492-494). Especially in the latter, he claimed that (1) data do not generate models, but can only falsify models that we hypothesize; (2) the true answer to an inverse problem is therefore not a model, but the entire set of models that the data do not rule out; (3) since both data and models are uncertain, models cannot be ruled out deterministically but only at some level of confidence, so that the answer to the inverse problem is necessarily probabilistic, a probability distribution in the space of possible models. In this project, we will seek to develop parallel computational designs for Tarantola’s approaches, and show how they can be applied to SSA problems.


Investigating and Overcoming Optical Nonlinearities in High Power Fiber Amplifiers
Mentor: Benjamin Pulford, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is researching high power beam combinable fiber amplifiers to enable compact, lightweight and efficient laser systems. Unfortunately, the fiber optic waveguides used in these amplifiers provide a near ideal environment for unwanted optical and thermal nonlinearities to set in during high power operation; most commonly stimulated Brillouin scattering (SBS) and modal instability (MI). To further understand and overcome these effects, our research team has developed novel diagnostic capabilities to characterize these nonlinearities. The information gathered with these tools, coupled with our state of the art modeling capabilities, enables us to design, fabricate, characterize, and test advanced fibers intended specifically for high power beam combinable operation.

Before the summer begins, we work with the student to collaboratively determine how they might best integrate into our research process. Typically, the student begins working on diagnostic development and eventually transitions the capability into our power scaling setup for final validation. Over the course of the summer the student will: 1. learn the physical principles of optical waveguides and laser amplification, 2. develop a foundational understanding of nonlinear effects present in high power fiber amplifiers, 3. gain experience with software suites including LabVIEW, MATLAB, Mathematica, and COMSOL, and 4. participate in the development of diagnostic tools to characterize nonlinear and thermal effects in optical fibers.


Investigating and Overcoming Optical Nonlinearities in High Power Fiber Amplifiers
Mentor: Benjamin Pulford, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is researching high power beam combinable fiber amplifiers to enable compact, lightweight and efficient laser systems. Unfortunately, the fiber optic waveguides used in these amplifiers provide a near ideal environment for unwanted optical and thermal nonlinearities to set in during high power operation; most commonly stimulated Brillouin scattering (SBS) and modal instability (MI). To further understand and overcome these effects, our research team has developed novel diagnostic capabilities to characterize these nonlinearities. The information gathered with these tools, coupled with our state of the art modeling capabilities, enables us to design, fabricate, characterize, and test advanced fibers intended specifically for high power beam combinable operation.

Before the summer begins, we work with the student to collaboratively determine how they might best integrate into our research process. Typically, the student begins working on diagnostic development and eventually transitions the capability into our power scaling setup for final validation. Over the course of the summer the student will: 1. learn the physical principles of optical waveguides and laser amplification, 2. develop a foundational understanding of nonlinear effects present in high power fiber amplifiers, 3. gain experience with software suites including LabVIEW, MATLAB, Mathematica, and COMSOL, and 4. participate in the development of diagnostic tools to characterize nonlinear and thermal effects in optical fibers.


Investigating and Overcoming Optical Nonlinearities in High Power Fiber Amplifiers
Mentor: Ryan Andrew Lane, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is researching high power beam combinable fiber amplifiers to enable compact, lightweight and efficient laser systems. Unfortunately, the fiber optic waveguides used in these amplifiers provide a near ideal environment for unwanted optical and thermal nonlinearities to set in during high power operation; most commonly stimulated Brillouin scattering (SBS) and modal instability (MI). To further understand and overcome these effects, our research team has developed novel diagnostic capabilities to characterize these nonlinearities. The information gathered with these tools, coupled with our state of the art modeling capabilities, enables us to design, fabricate, characterize, and test advanced fibers intended specifically for high power beam combinable operation.

Before the summer begins, we work with the student to collaboratively determine how they might best integrate into our research process. Typically, the student begins working on diagnostic development and eventually transitions the capability into our power scaling setup for final validation. Over the course of the summer the student will: 1. learn the physical principles of optical waveguides and laser amplification, 2. develop a foundational understanding of nonlinear effects present in high power fiber amplifiers, 3. gain experience with software suites including LabVIEW, MATLAB, Mathematica, and COMSOL, and 4. participate in the development of diagnostic tools to characterize nonlinear and thermal effects in optical fibers.


Investigation of Factors Affecting the Luminescence of Bismuth in the 1200-1400 nm range
Mentor: Leanne Joan Henry, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

This project involves investigation of the factors affecting the luminescence of bismuth in the 1200-1400 nm range with a goal of developing a glass composition that optimizes the luminescence. The student will study the scientific literature, prepare glass samples, perform characterizations, analyze results, and if successful, start to prepare a paper for a refereed scientific journal. Bismuth displays broad band luminescence in the 1200-1400 nm when in a germanosilicate type of glass matrix. Factors known to effect the luminescence are: composition of the glass matrix, melt (temperature, atmosphere and time), bismuth concentration, other co-dopant concentration, pump wavelength, annealing (temperature, atmosphere, and time), etc. The student will perform a systematic study aimed at understanding the impact of critical factors on the luminescence of bismuth. The student will prepare glass samples by weighing out the necessary raw materials followed by performing a melt. Once the samples are polished, the student will perform the following characterizations: absorption, luminescence, lifetime, and gain. Once data is obtained, the student will analyze the data, create plots in EXCEL, and possibly perform Lorentizian fits of the bismuth luminescence curves. In-depth studies of the scientific literature for similar glass matrices will be performed to enable the student to understand how his/her work fits in with what has already been published with aim of preparing the introduction of a scientific paper. At the end of the summer, the student will write a final report on the work performed.


Investigation of Factors Affecting the Luminescence of Bismuth in the 1200-1400 nm range
Mentor: Leanne Joan Henry, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

This project involves investigation of the factors affecting the luminescence of bismuth in the 1200-1400 nm range with a goal of developing a glass composition that optimizes the luminescence. The student will study the scientific literature, prepare glass samples, perform characterizations, analyze results, and if successful, start to prepare a paper for a refereed scientific journal. Bismuth displays broad band luminescence in the 1200-1400 nm when in a germanosilicate type of glass matrix. Factors known to effect the luminescence are: composition of the glass matrix, melt (temperature, atmosphere and time), bismuth concentration, other co-dopant concentration, pump wavelength, annealing (temperature, atmosphere, and time), etc. The student will perform a systematic study aimed at understanding the impact of critical factors on the luminescence of bismuth. The student will prepare glass samples by weighing out the necessary raw materials followed by performing a melt. Once the samples are polished, the student will perform the following characterizations: absorption, luminescence, lifetime, and gain. Once data is obtained, the student will analyze the data, create plots in EXCEL, and possibly perform Lorentizian fits of the bismuth luminescence curves. In-depth studies of the scientific literature for similar glass matrices will be performed to enable the student to understand how his/her work fits in with what has already been published with aim of preparing the introduction of a scientific paper. At the end of the summer, the student will write a final report on the work performed.


Investigation of Factors Affecting the Luminescence of Bismuth in the 1200-1400 nm range
Mentor: Leanne Joan Henry, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Professional Educator

This project involves investigation of the factors affecting the luminescence of bismuth in the 1200-1400 nm range with a goal of developing a glass composition that optimizes the luminescence. The student will study the scientific literature, prepare glass samples, perform characterizations, analyze results, and if successful, start to prepare a paper for a refereed scientific journal. Bismuth displays broad band luminescence in the 1200-1400 nm when in a germanosilicate type of glass matrix. Factors known to effect the luminescence are: composition of the glass matrix, melt (temperature, atmosphere and time), bismuth concentration, other co-dopant concentration, pump wavelength, annealing (temperature, atmosphere, and time), etc. The student will perform a systematic study aimed at understanding the impact of critical factors on the luminescence of bismuth. The student will prepare glass samples by weighing out the necessary raw materials followed by performing a melt. Once the samples are polished, the student will perform the following characterizations: absorption, luminescence, lifetime, and gain. Once data is obtained, the student will analyze the data, create plots in EXCEL, and possibly perform Lorentizian fits of the bismuth luminescence curves. In-depth studies of the scientific literature for similar glass matrices will be performed to enable the student to understand how his/her work fits in with what has already been published with aim of preparing the introduction of a scientific paper. At the end of the summer, the student will write a final report on the work performed.


IR Transparent Conductors
Mentor: John Bryan Plumley, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The Space Vehicles Directorate is actively pursuing ways to fabricate an IR transparent conductor to be used in thermal space applications. One approach is to apply a thin conductive film to an IR transparent substrate, but the issues that arise are thin film adhesion and too narrow of an IR transmission window from either the conductive film or the substrate. In addition, IR transparent substrates generally have too low of a melting point to withstand high temperature annealing of the conductive thin film. Alternatively, what would be of interest from the applicant is the development of an intrinsically conductive IR transparent polymer that could be efficiently processed in the lab and characterized and tested as an electrode for electroplating metal.


IR Transparent Conductors
Mentor: John Bryan Plumley, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Professional Educator

The Space Vehicles Directorate is actively pursuing ways to fabricate an IR transparent conductor to be used in thermal space applications. One approach is to apply a thin conductive film to an IR transparent substrate, but the issues that arise are thin film adhesion and too narrow of an IR transmission window from either the conductive film or the substrate. In addition, IR transparent substrates generally have too low of a melting point to withstand high temperature annealing of the conductive thin film. Alternatively, what would be of interest from the applicant is the development of an intrinsically conductive IR transparent polymer that could be efficiently processed in the lab and characterized and tested as an electrode for electroplating metal.


Laboratory Research Experience for K-12 Educators
Mentor: Thomas L Peng, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Professional Educator

Are you an elementary, middle, or high school educator interested in learning firsthand how the math and science you teach in class is applied to develop new technologies and expand our understanding of the natural world? Consider spending this summer working fulltime at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) in a chemical laboratory seeking to develop adaptive technology capable of changing their properties to meet new mission conditions or objectives. The candidate selected for this position will be tasked with working with AFRL researchers to characterize the features of engineered surfaces, assess optical properties, track changes when different stresses are applied, analyze the electrochemical behavior of nascent technologies, assess how much energy can be extracted from various power sources, and fabricate prototypes of novel devices capitalizing on recent discoveries. It is hoped that introducing the candidate selected for this position to such a variety of fields will impart a broader understanding on how basic research and technology development is conducted. This understanding, it is hoped, will subsequently enrich the lessons the educator provides when they return to teaching in the fall. Though welcome, candidates considered for this position do not have to have a background in science or prior experience working in a laboratory. All required training will be provided on site. The key metric upon which candidates for this position will be evaluated is the extent it is believed that the candidate can share their experience with their students and inspire them to explore topics in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).


Laser Effects Modeling and Simulation
Mentor: Michael Peter Sheyka, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The laser effects modeling and simulation branch (AFRL/RDLE) is tasked with studying the physics and associated phenomenology of laser material interaction to support next generation laser system requirements. Materials of interest include but are not limited to advanced aerospace materials such as metal alloys, high temperature ceramics, composites and semi-conductor materials. AFRL/RDLE constantly strives to develop innovative and novel simulation models to develop predictive capabilities for pre-test analysis and to support military utility studies. This project will focus on developing high fidelity and reduced order laser material interaction models. The research will investigate laser induced failure modes and mechanisms. Numerical methods of interest include but are not limited to Finite Element/Finite Difference (FE/FD), Fluid Structure Interaction (FSI), Magneto Hydro-Dynamics (MHD)/Arbitrary Lagrangian Eulerian (ALE), and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). Interns are not required to have a working knowledge of all of these methods, but rather the mentor will identify the appropriate software based on the intern’s skills and educational background. Custom scripting may be required to modify/update existing models. Development of interaction codes may also require literature reviews for appropriate material properties and development of material constitutive equations. The student will conduct verification and validation analysis with provided analytic, numeric and experimental results. The developed models may be integrated into larger frameworks for wargaming and mission planning.


Laser Induced Damage
Mentor: Darren Patrick Luke, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The laser effects modeling and simulation branch of AFRL is tasked with studying the physics and associated phenomenology of laser material interaction to support next generation laser system requirements. Materials of interest include but are not limited to advanced aerospace materials such as metal alloys, high temperature ceramics, composites and semi-conductor materials. AFRL constantly strives to develop innovative and novel simulation models to develop predictive capabilities for pre-test analysis and to support military utility studies. This project will focus on developing high fidelity and reduced order laser material interaction models. The research will investigate laser induced failure modes and mechanisms. The application and/or development of interaction codes may also require literature reviews for appropriate material properties and development of constitutive equations. The student will conduct verification and validation analysis with provided analytic, numeric and experimental results. The developed models may be integrated into larger frameworks for wargaming and mission planning.


Let’s Make Adaptive Materials
Mentor: Thomas L Peng, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

Interested in learning how what you have been taught in science class can lead to new technology for everyday life? Try spending a summer working at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Space Vehicles Directorate on creating adaptive materials capable of altering their properties to meet new mission requirements. The high school student selected for this project will be tasked with working alongside AFRL researchers to develop this agile technology by applying basic research. This work can involve synthesizing new chemicals, developing new electrolytes, fabricating novel devices, and assessing materials properties. Experience with computer programing and participating in events like science fairs are a plus, however all required training will be provided on-site.


Machine Learning Algorithms for Free-Flying Robotics
Mentor: Andrew Jacob Vogel, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters

Requesting a Graduate level student to work on machine learning-algorithms to solve the coupled base/manipulator dynamics and inverse kinematics problem for a free-flying robot. Current literature has many examples of how to solve the free-flying robotic control problem (grasping a target even with the coupled dynamics in a space-environment) based in model dynamics or optimal control schemes, and the Robotic Orbital Control (ROC) Lab is looking for a machine-learning implementation of the same control problem to use as comparison against other algorithms.


Machine Learning for Space
Mentor: Andrew Carballo Pineda, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

This project will explore machine learning/deep learning approaches to performing image processing tasks that are traditionally done using computationally intensive and memory intensive algorithms. Among the tasks to be explored are image classification and feature extraction using simulated image data. Projects will make use of neuromorphic processor chips or graphical processing units (GPUs) depending upon the student’s interest and level of expertise. Software frameworks include PetaVision, CUDA, OpenCL, etc. Machine learning frameworks might include PetaVision, cuDNN, Caffe or TensorFlow.


Machine Learning for Space
Mentor: Andrew Carballo Pineda, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

This project will explore machine learning/deep learning approaches to performing image processing tasks that are traditionally done using computationally intensive and memory intensive algorithms. Among the tasks to be explored are image classification and feature extraction using simulated image data. Projects will make use of neuromorphic processor chips or graphical processing units (GPUs) depending upon the student’s interest and level of expertise. Software frameworks include PetaVision, CUDA, OpenCL, etc. Machine learning frameworks might include PetaVision, cuDNN, Caffe or TensorFlow.


Machine learning in equatorial ionospheric irregularities and scintillation
Mentor: Chaosong Huang, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Ionospheric plasma density irregularities cause fluctuations of the phase and amplitude of trans-ionospheric radio waves, and this effect is referred as scintillation. Severe scintillation often occurs at low latitudes in the evening sector, especially during solar maximum periods, and can cause degradation or even disruption in VHF/UHF communications and GPS navigation systems. The objective of this project is to use machine learning algorithms to identify how the occurrence and evolution of equatorial ionospheric irregularities and scintillation are related to potential external drivers (such as solar activity, geomagnetic activity, ionospheric plasma drifts, etc.) and to develop the capabilities of predicting scintillation occurrence. Measurements from the Communications/Navigation Outage Forecasting System (C/NOFS) satellite and ground-based VHF receivers will be used. Good computer skills for data processing are important, and experience with machine learning is desirable. Knowledge on ionospheric physics is not required.


Machine learning in equatorial ionospheric irregularities and scintillation
Mentor: Chaosong Huang, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Ionospheric plasma density irregularities cause fluctuations of the phase and amplitude of trans-ionospheric radio waves, and this effect is referred as scintillation. Severe scintillation often occurs at low latitudes in the evening sector, especially during solar maximum periods, and can cause degradation or even disruption in VHF/UHF communications and GPS navigation systems. The objective of this project is to use machine learning algorithms to identify how the occurrence and evolution of equatorial ionospheric irregularities and scintillation are related to potential external drivers (such as solar activity, geomagnetic activity, ionospheric plasma drifts, etc.) and to develop the capabilities of predicting scintillation occurrence. Measurements from the Communications/Navigation Outage Forecasting System (C/NOFS) satellite and ground-based VHF receivers will be used. Good computer skills for data processing are important, and experience with machine learning is desirable. Knowledge on ionospheric physics is not required.


Mechanistic studies of catalysis in the gas phas
Mentor: Shaun Gerald Ard, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Ph.D.

The AF has interest in developing catalytic species for applications such as solar fuels; however, development is hampered by a lack of understanding of the mechanisms by which these processes occur. We aim to decipher these mechanisms through a combination of gas phase experimental studies, quantum chemical calculations, and kinetic modeling. Experiments will focus on either biomimetic species or metal cations, measuring the temperature dependent kinetics for systems of interest using a Selected Ion Flow Tube apparatus equipped with a variety of ion sources (electrospray, electron impact, chemical ionization, solids probe, laser vaporization). The (generally complicated) potential surfaces of these systems will be determined using quantum chemical calculations (e.g. Gaussian), and finally information on the mechanisms will be extracted by kinetic modeling of those surfaces to fit to the experimental results.


Micro-physics of Electrospray Thrusters
Mentor: Benjamin Douglas Prince, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Electrospray thrusters using ionic liquid propellants are next-generation propulsion systems that are well-suited for in-space propulsion for small spacecraft. These systems provide unique high-density, low power propulsion capabilities and are envisioned in such missions as the upcoming gravity wave observatory mission (LISA, NASA). The physics occurring at the emission sites of high performance electrospray systems is still ripe for experimental and theoretical exploration designed to improve our understanding of the operation of the devices.

In this project, the selected student will either undertake experimental or theoretical approaches to further the understanding of the plume of ions emitted from either (or both) a capillary or externally wetted emitter. Theoretical methods, if the student’s primary interest, might include the use of quantum mechanical and molecular dynamics approaches to the prediction of emitted ion clusters, the lifetime of the clusters, prediction of the plume shape and other observables, modelling in support of experimental data or other related work.

Students focused primarily on experimental investigations will utilize mass spectrometry, current-sensing and mass-sensing tools to examine the plume generated from various different propellants or emitter types at relevant volumetric flow rates. Analysis of the experimental measurements will yield insights into trends among the different propellants and improve understanding of the microphysics occurring post-emission in a laboratory thruster.


Misc. Architecture, Engineering, and Construction Projects
Mentor: Connie Sue Runyan, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

The Infrastructure Management Branch of AFRL administers the RV and RD directorate's facility’s needs, through planning, programming, design, and construction including providing architectural solutions. This includes the development of graphic studies in the areas of sustainable design (identifying and implementing energy cost strategies to existing facilities), new facility projects, facility remodeling projects, facility condition inspections (ICI program), and other misc architecture and engineering design solutions including developing Energy Sustainability and Assurance for AFRL's campus. Our program for 2020 Scholars will offer those involved in Architecture and Engineering disciplines the opportunity to have hands on experience within their given fields.
RVOI oversees all PRS facilities and these positions support multiple RV and RD programs.


Misc. Architecture, Engineering, and Construction Projects
Mentor: Connie Sue Runyan, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

The Infrastructure Management Branch of AFRL administers the RV and RD directorate's facility’s needs, through planning, programming, design, and construction including providing architectural solutions. This includes the development of graphic studies in the areas of sustainable design (identifying and implementing energy cost strategies to existing facilities), new facility projects, facility remodeling projects, facility condition inspections (ICI program), and other misc architecture and engineering design solutions including developing Energy Sustainability and Assurance for AFRL's campus. Our program for 2020 Scholars will offer those involved in Architecture and Engineering disciplines the opportunity to have hands on experience within their given fields.
RVOI oversees all PRS facilities and these positions support multiple RV and RD programs.


Misc. Architecture, Engineering, and Construction Projects
Mentor: Connie Sue Runyan, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters

The Infrastructure Management Branch of AFRL administers the RV and RD directorate's facility’s needs, through planning, programming, design, and construction including providing architectural solutions. This includes the development of graphic studies in the areas of sustainable design (identifying and implementing energy cost strategies to existing facilities), new facility projects, facility remodeling projects, facility condition inspections (ICI program), and other misc architecture and engineering design solutions including developing Energy Sustainability and Assurance for AFRL's campus. Our program for 2020 Scholars will offer those involved in Architecture and Engineering disciplines the opportunity to have hands on experience within their given fields.
RVOI oversees all PRS facilities and these positions support multiple RV and RD programs.


Mobile Makerspace Curriculum Development
Mentor: Liam John O'Brien, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Professional Educator

Professional Development for teachers and educators. Candidate will develop a curriculum based on rapid prototyping and design that can be utilized by both children and adults.


Modeling and code development for high intensity laser matter interactions.
Mentor: Ryan Edward Phillips, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The ultrashort pulse laser (USPL) modeling group is seeking young scientists and engineers to join the USPL team. Using the pulse propagation code gUPPE, students will model laser induced plasma filamentation in direct support of experimental efforts. New physics models need to be developed to answer long standing questions about the group's experimental filamentation results. Students will learn to use the Air Force's world leading High Powered Computing (HPC) resources, assist with the development of new physics models, rapid prototype new simulations based on experimental feedback, and perform post-processing and data analysis


Modeling and Simulation Analysis of DEW Experimentation Campaign Experiments 1A, 1B, and 2
Mentor: Joseph Aldrich, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

The Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) Experimentation Campaign will be exploring current Directed Energy systems that could be rapidly employed. The campaign will be conducting experiments over the next four years and requires mission-level modeling, simulation, and analysis (MS&A) to translate engagement data collected during test into a Military Utility Assessment (MUA). The RDMW branch will be completing mission-level MS&A and wargames in Summer 2019 to show military utility of systems. RDMW is seeking an intern who would like to support senior analyst in developing mission-level analysis in AFSIM and analyzing the results.


Modeling and simulation long duration photometry
Mentor: Shadi Naderi, Directed Energy
Location: AMOS
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The Air Force Maui Optical & Supercomputing (AMOS) site has access to several ground-based optical telescopes with a wide range of utilities. The student will use the data collected with these telescopes and analyze long-duration photometry (and/or polarimetry and/or velocimetry) collected on both astronomical and man-made space objects by modeling and simulation. The goal is to develop models to analyze the short- and long-duration seismic activities.


Modeling and Simulation of PNT Payload Components
Mentor: Clay Scott Mayberry, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

The Advanced GPS Technologies (AGT) program researches next generation satellite navigation (SatNav). Research areas include: advanced SatNav signals and signal exploitation, spacecraft SatNav payloads, and SatNav control systems. Technology areas include: digital and RF signal processing, software defined radios, RF signal generation and broadcast, encryption, and command and control technologies. Research is performed both in a simulated environment and in the laboratory.
A key research area is to model the behavior of amplification systems from pre-distortion filters, through amplifiers, and finally to radiation systems. Computer simulations and modeling techniques provide the AGT team with valuable performance information that helps to understand the operation and limitations of components and systems such as spectral growth of amplifiers and filters, radiation patterns, group delay, and distortion, etc. An intern project for this aspect of AGT team technology development would include working with laboratory personnel and development engineers to determine amplifier, filter, or radiation system parameters and predict performance in a real time system. These general aspects of a task could include any aspect of the system, and ultimately include necessary software use or development and running the necessary programs over the operating space, and finally reporting results at the end of the term typically in a poster session.


Modeling and Simulation of PNT Payload Components
Mentor: Clay Scott Mayberry, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

The Advanced GPS Technologies (AGT) program researches next generation satellite navigation (SatNav). Research areas include: advanced SatNav signals and signal exploitation, spacecraft SatNav payloads, and SatNav control systems. Technology areas include: digital and RF signal processing, software defined radios, RF signal generation and broadcast, encryption, and command and control technologies. Research is performed both in a simulated environment and in the laboratory.
A key research area is to model the behavior of amplification systems from pre-distortion filters, through amplifiers, and finally to radiation systems. Computer simulations and modeling techniques provide the AGT team with valuable performance information that helps to understand the operation and limitations of components and systems such as spectral growth of amplifiers and filters, radiation patterns, group delay, and distortion, etc. An intern project for this aspect of AGT team technology development would include working with laboratory personnel and development engineers to determine amplifier, filter, or radiation system parameters and predict performance in a real time system. These general aspects of a task could include any aspect of the system, and ultimately include necessary software use or development and running the necessary programs over the operating space, and finally reporting results at the end of the term typically in a poster session.


Modeling and Simulation of PNT Payload Components
Mentor: Clay Scott Mayberry, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The Advanced GPS Technologies (AGT) program researches next generation satellite navigation (SatNav). Research areas include: advanced SatNav signals and signal exploitation, spacecraft SatNav payloads, and SatNav control systems. Technology areas include: digital and RF signal processing, software defined radios, RF signal generation and broadcast, encryption, and command and control technologies. Research is performed both in a simulated environment and in the laboratory.
A key research area is to model the behavior of amplification systems from pre-distortion filters, through amplifiers, and finally to radiation systems. Computer simulations and modeling techniques provide the AGT team with valuable performance information that helps to understand the operation and limitations of components and systems such as spectral growth of amplifiers and filters, radiation patterns, group delay, and distortion, etc. An intern project for this aspect of AGT team technology development would include working with laboratory personnel and development engineers to determine amplifier, filter, or radiation system parameters and predict performance in a real time system. These general aspects of a task could include any aspect of the system, and ultimately include necessary software use or development and running the necessary programs over the operating space, and finally reporting results at the end of the term typically in a poster session.


Modeling & Simulation for High-Power Highly Coherent Fiber Amplifiers
Mentor: Ryan Andrew Lane, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Description: Computer simulation of high-power fiber amplifiers is fundamentally about designing and optimizing glass fiber laser systems. The challenge is to maintain high quality, stable, coherent output light at high-powers. Under high intensities, the light interacts with the laser medium, leading to thermal issues and optical nonlinearities. The goal is discover novel experimental configurations and/or advantageous fiber properties and characteristics that suppress any deleterious issues that either reduce the output power or degrade the output beam quality. Some problems of current interest involve instabilities of dynamical systems, and incorporating complex boundary conditions into wave propagation models.


Modeling the Solar Induced Fluorescence of Space Vehicle Plumes.
Mentor: Justin William Young, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

The LaSR Laboratory is interested in modeling and understanding the fluorescence signatures from space vehicle plumes. Space vehicles use a variety of chemical engines to preform maneuvers producing plumes of numerous chemical species unique to the variety of engine. In the space environment, exhaust plumes are exposed to solar radiation. Solar radiation causes both fluorescence and decomposition of plume species, which gives another set of fluorescent species. Due to the variety of chemical species which may be present in exhaust plumes, a kinetic model of the expected fluorescent signatures that includes solar induced breakdown is necessary to describe their signatures. While much of the spectroscopy of exhaust species is known, there is yet to be a comprehensive description of their interaction with the solar spectrum. Thus, the goal of this effort is to use the known spectroscopy of exhaust species, and simulate their exposure to the solar spectrum in order to predict the fluorescent signatures of the breakdown process.


Modelling and Simulation of Chemical Thruster Plumes
Mentor: Benjamin Douglas Prince, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The normal operation of a chemical thruster results in the generation of a plume emanating from the thruster. These plumes can contain a large amount of useful information relative to the health of the system, the performance of the thruster and other observables. The student selected for this project will use theoretical tools developed by the Air Force to undertake modeling and simulation activities and prediction and validation efforts for a variety of different propulsion systems. The results of this work will aid in determining the efficacy of the tools and identify areas where additional experimental and modeling efforts are required to improve the performance of the software tools.


Motivation and Performance In the Workplace
Mentor: Judith Ann Saavedra, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate

In the workplace, performance levels are directly impacted by motivation, which is driven by individuals’ values, beliefs, and needs. Expanding further on previous trust in the workplace research outcomes, this project proposes an examination of the personally held values, beliefs, and needs of individuals within the organization, and their specific link to motivation and performance. Under examination is how motivational factors are individually perceived to impact personal behaviors and performance. What motivates individuals to work here? What personal needs are being met by working in our laboratory? The goal of this research is to collect individual information, aggregate data for trends on values, beliefs, and needs, then identify how they relate to overall motivation and performance of the workforce as a group. This multi-method investigation proposes the use of a survey and individual interviews to collect data. The data will inform on motivational factors (values, beliefs, and needs) that impact the optimal performance of the workforce. Having an understanding of the needs of workforce members will help the organization to better meet them, thereby supporting optimal performance.


Motivativational Factors in Team Performance
Mentor: Judith Ann Saavedra, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

In the workplace, performance levels are directly impacted by motivation, which is driven by individuals’ values, beliefs, and needs. Expanding further on previous trust in the workplace research outcomes, this project proposes an examination of the personally held values, beliefs, and needs of individuals within the organization, and their specific link to motivation and performance. Under examination is how motivational factors are individually perceived to impact personal behaviors and performance. What motivates individuals to work here? What personal needs are being met by working in our laboratory? The goal of this research is to collect individual information, aggregate data for trends on values, beliefs, and needs, then identify how they relate to overall motivation and performance of the workforce as a group. This multi-method investigation proposes the use of a survey and individual interviews to collect data. The data will inform on motivational factors (values, beliefs, and needs) that impact the optimal performance of the workforce. Having an understanding of the needs of workforce members will help the organization to better meet them, thereby supporting optimal performance.


MPI Integration to Compiled Matlab Programming for HPC Applications
Mentor: Michael J. Steinbock, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

MPI, or Message Passing Interface, is one approach to enable parallelization of algorithms on distributed computing platforms, such as the DoD’s High Performance Computing (HPC) Centers. Matlab offers a programming environment that is accessible to scientists and engineers to rapidly code up complex research without requiring extensive computer science training. Therefore, significant modeling libraries exist already in Matlab form. Further, these Matlab simulations can be compiled into executables that can be called on the HPC clusters. Currently, these jobs are natively single threaded, and it is difficult to configure them to optimize for the distributed computing resources of the clusters—particularly if it is desired to communicate across multiple compute nodes.

This project is seeking a motivated computer science individual to examine the compiler and MPI libraries available on the HPC clusters and develop/document an approach to compiling the MPI libraries into mex extensions which can be linked into larger compiled Matlab simulations. The sponsor will work with the student to build up a series of test cases that increasingly exercises and benchmarks the MPI capabilities from compiled Matlab code. Documentation will be written to communicate the general approach guidelines to facilitate success as software versions or compilers change on the HPC clusters.

If successful, the student will be encouraged to present results at a relevant conference.


MPI Integration to Compiled Matlab Programming for HPC Applications
Mentor: Michael J. Steinbock, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

MPI, or Message Passing Interface, is one approach to enable parallelization of algorithms on distributed computing platforms, such as the DoD’s High Performance Computing (HPC) Centers. Matlab offers a programming environment that is accessible to scientists and engineers to rapidly code up complex research without requiring extensive computer science training. Therefore, significant modeling libraries exist already in Matlab form. Further, these Matlab simulations can be compiled into executables that can be called on the HPC clusters. Currently, these jobs are natively single threaded, and it is difficult to configure them to optimize for the distributed computing resources of the clusters—particularly if it is desired to communicate across multiple compute nodes.

This project is seeking a motivated computer science individual to examine the compiler and MPI libraries available on the HPC clusters and develop/document an approach to compiling the MPI libraries into mex extensions which can be linked into larger compiled Matlab simulations. The sponsor will work with the student to build up a series of test cases that increasingly exercises and benchmarks the MPI capabilities from compiled Matlab code. Documentation will be written to communicate the general approach guidelines to facilitate success as software versions or compilers change on the HPC clusters.

If successful, the student will be encouraged to present results at a relevant conference.


Multiagent Autonomous Systems
Mentor: Sean Phillips, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

With upcoming emergent technologies in satellite control and communications, crosslinking communications provide a novel method for transfer of information from multiple heterogeneous platforms across large distances. This domain brings numerous challenges at many levels due to the vast distances required in communications, the complexity of the dynamics and the on-board computational power. This research effort is focused on control design and analysis related to coordination of distributed and decentralized multiagent space systems. Potential scholars are strongly encouraged to contact the mentor for more information, as well as to discuss specific research ideas for the summer.


Multiagent Autonomous Systems
Mentor: Sean Phillips, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

With upcoming emergent technologies in satellite control and communications, crosslinking communications provide a novel method for transfer of information from multiple heterogeneous platforms across large distances. This domain brings numerous challenges at many levels due to the vast distances required in communications, the complexity of the dynamics and the on-board computational power. This research effort is focused on modeling and simulation of novel automation algorithms for multi-agent space based systems. Namely, we are interested in problems related to coordination of distributed and decentralized multiagent space systems. Research will be performed in both in a simulated environment and in a laboratory test bed, if applicable. Potential scholars are strongly encouraged to contact the mentor for more information, as well as to discuss specific research ideas for the summer.


Multidisciplinary Electrochemical Device Development
Mentor: Thomas L Peng, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Space Vehicles Directorate is actively investigating ways to introduce adaptive capabilities to space platforms. One approach is to use electrochemical devices capable of driving novel chemical reactions to establish, remove, or tailor the properties of materials to meet mission needs. The candidate selected for this Phillips Scholar Project will be tasked with helping AFRL researchers create novel electrochemical devices and characterizing their properties. This work can involve synthesizing new chemicals, developing new electrolytes, fabricating electrochemical devices, and assessing electrochemical device prototypes. Experience in computer programing, optics, surface science, chemical synthesis, and working in a laboratory environment is a plus, however all required training will be provided on-site.


Neural Networks for Image Processing on Spacecraft
Mentor: Joshua R Donckels, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Machine learning is a bound and a step over traditional image processing for classification accuracy, meaning it should be used in all domains possible, even space. I work in the Space Electronics Technology (SET) branch in the Space Vehicles directorate, specifically the Spacecraft Performance Architectures and Computing Environment Research (SPACER) laboratory. We work with various satellite processing architectures and try to fit specific algorithms to each one. Going back to image processing, their is an idea of processing on-board the satellite while in space, the problem is power limitations and the harsh space environment. Specifically the power requirements and the radiation effects on hardware. that is why bio-inspired hardware is of interest to our group, as they complete highly parallelized processing at a fraction of the cost of modern processors. We will explore many aspects of these systems and how well they can perform, which could broaden out into spiking neural networks or different online training methods. On another route, neural network models could be improved for space related imagery or optimized by being combined with different image processing solutions/algorithms, pre-processing methods, or etc.


Neural Networks for Image Processing on Spacecraft
Mentor: Joshua R Donckels, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Machine learning is a bound and a step over traditional image processing for classification accuracy, meaning it should be used in all domains possible, even space. I work in the Space Electronics Technology (SET) branch in the Space Vehicles directorate, specifically the Spacecraft Performance Architectures and Computing Environment Research (SPACER) laboratory. We work with various satellite processing architectures and try to fit specific algorithms to each one. Going back to image processing, their is an idea of processing on-board the satellite while in space, the problem is power limitations and the harsh space environment. Specifically the power requirements and the radiation effects on hardware. that is why bio-inspired hardware is of interest to our group, as they complete highly parallelized processing at a fraction of the cost of modern processors. We will explore many aspects of these systems and how well they can perform, which could broaden out into spiking neural networks or different online training methods. On another route, neural network models could be improved for space related imagery or optimized by being combined with different image processing solutions/algorithms, pre-processing methods, or etc.


Nonlinear dynamics in spacecraft guidance, navigation, and control
Mentor: Andrew James Sinclair, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

This project seeks to develop improved methods for spacecraft guidance, navigation, and control (GNC) through improved understanding of the spacecraft nonlinear dynamics. Spacecraft translational motion is dominated by orbital dynamics, and the control is often constrained by a limited fuel supply. Therefore, translational GNC methods generally must be designed to work with these dynamics instead of fighting them. Spacecraft attitude motion is governed by the particular structure of rotational dynamics, and robust performance of attitude GNC methods depends on careful adherence to this structure. Additionally, spacecraft operations are subject to significant nonlinear control-estimation interactions, an example being the lack of observability of control-free relative motion in close proximity when using angles-only measurements. Research projects may address one or more of these topics.


Nonlinear dynamics in spacecraft guidance, navigation, and control
Mentor: Andrew James Sinclair, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

This project seeks to develop improved methods for spacecraft guidance, navigation, and control (GNC) through improved understanding of the spacecraft nonlinear dynamics. Spacecraft translational motion is dominated by orbital dynamics, and the control is often constrained by a limited fuel supply. Therefore, translational GNC methods generally must be designed to work with these dynamics instead of fighting them. Spacecraft attitude motion is governed by the particular structure of rotational dynamics, and robust performance of attitude GNC methods depends on careful adherence to this structure. Additionally, spacecraft operations are subject to significant nonlinear control-estimation interactions, an example being the lack of observability of control-free relative motion in close proximity when using angles-only measurements. Research projects may address one or more of these topics.


Novel Cooling Films
Mentor: John Bryan Plumley, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

The Space Vehicles Directorate is actively pursuing ways to developing conductive, robust passive cooling surfaces. We've developed a non-conductive micro structure passive cooling material that can be applied to any surface, however because of the highly brittle and porous nature of the cooling structure it has proven ineffective to merely deposit a conductive thin film material over the structure. What needs to be done instead is to infiltrate the structure with a liquid precursor that can be hardened into a polymer or silica matrix that will result in a robust and smooth microstructure which can then be made to have a conductive surface. The applicant will learn to process and characterize cooling films as well as synthesize sol gels for microstructure hardening. The applicant will gain experience in conducting literature search, working in a chemistry lab, spray coating, and microstructure modification.


Nuclear Explosion Monitoring
Mentor: Glenn Eli Baker, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

The goal of our program is to improve nuclear explosion monitoring capability through studies focused on seismic signal and array processing, Earth structure, wave propagation, source characterization, and explosion source physics. Specific details of the project will be based on aligning interests of the program with the applicant’s background to ensure effective progress on a problem of interest to the Air Force. The intent of the summer project is that it will build capability at AFRL while providing the student with results they can build on and use in their thesis work.


Nuclear Explosion Monitoring
Mentor: Kenneth Ryan, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The goal of our program is to improve nuclear explosion monitoring capability through studies focused on seismic signal and array processing, Earth structure, wave propagation, source characterization, and explosion source physics. Specific details of the project will be based on aligning interests of the program with the applicant’s background to ensure effective progress on a problem of interest to the Air Force. The intent of the summer project is that it will build capability at AFRL while providing the student with results they can build on and use in their thesis work.


Nuclear Explosion Monitoring Research
Mentor: Glenn Eli Baker, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The goal of our program is to improve nuclear explosion monitoring capability through studies focused on seismic signal and array processing, Earth structure, wave propagation, source characterization, and explosion source physics. Specific details of the project will be based on aligning interests of the program with the applicant’s background to ensure effective progress on a problem of interest to the Air Force. The intent of the summer project is that it will build capability at AFRL while providing the student with results they can build on and use in their thesis work.


Nuclear Explosion Monitoring Seismology
Mentor: Frederick Schult, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The goal of our program is to improve nuclear explosion monitoring capability through seismology studies focused on seismic signal and array processing, Earth structure, wave propagation, source characterization, and explosion
source physics. Specific details of the project will be based on aligning interests of the program with the applicant's background to ensure effective progress on a problem of interest to the Air Force. The intent of the summer project is to build capability at AFRL while providing the student with results they can build on and use in their thesis work.


Numerically Calculating a Ballistic Missile’s Null Range Axis for a Desired Impulse
Mentor: Mark Brandon Hinga, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters

Using the theory of linearized perturbation techniques in concert with a two point boundary value shooting method, it is possible to refine the trajectory of a ballistic spacecraft by applying an optimum impulsive velocity maneuver at some time t to alter and improve its position at final time tf . This same theory may also be used to solve for the inertial direction (out of plane if desired) along which a small desired velocity impulse may be applied during ballistic flight of a missile at some time t, that does not alter the warhead’s intended target position (ground impact) at arrival time. This paper introduces an approach to calculate not only this inertial direction, known as the Null Range Axis (NRA), but also the particular direction that corresponds to an arbitrary or desired impulsive magnitude. Included in this investigation is a J2 gravity field for a rotating Earth, which requires that a plane change be incorporated into the computation of a missile’s NRA direction at time t. Earth atmosphere is ignored. Ultimately it is desired to compute this inertial direction in "real time", not prior to flight. Simple notional kinematic spinning reentry vehicle pointing (circular coning) will be developed if time allows.


Observational Changes in Geosynchronous Satellites’ Photometric Signatures due to Space Aging
Mentor: Scott Milster, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Photometric signatures of GEOs are a valuable tool for identifying satellites, resolving cross tags, and determining their health status. The effects of space aging of the satellites’ materials has received scant attention. The summer project will consist of collecting unresolved images of GEO satellites with telescopes and electronic cameras, processing the data, and comparing it to older data to determine the effects of aging. Additionally, we may compare the data to laboratory measurements of artificially aged materials. Observations may be collected at Kirtland AFB or Magdalena Ridge Observatory.


Observational Changes in Geosynchronous Satellites’ Photometric Signatures due to Space Aging
Mentor: Scott Milster, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Photometric signatures of GEOs are a valuable tool for identifying satellites, resolving cross tags, and determining their health status. The effects of space aging of the satellites’ materials has received scant attention. The summer project will consist of collecting unresolved images of GEO satellites with telescopes and electronic cameras, processing the data, and comparing it to older data to determine the effects of aging. Additionally, we may compare the data to laboratory measurements of artificially aged materials. Observations may be collected at Kirtland AFB or Magdalena Ridge Observatory.


Observational Changes in Geosynchronous Satellites’ Photometric Signatures due to Space Aging
Mentor: Scott Milster, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

Photometric signatures of GEOs are a valuable tool for identifying satellites, resolving cross tags, and determining their health status. The effects of space aging of the satellites’ materials has received scant attention. The summer project will consist of collecting unresolved images of GEO satellites with telescopes and electronic cameras, processing the data, and comparing it to older data to determine the effects of aging. Additionally, we may compare the data to laboratory measurements of artificially aged materials. Observations will be collected at Kirtland AFB.


On-Orbit Computing for Spacecraft
Mentor: Tyler M. Lovelly, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Professional Educator

Due to harsh and inaccessible operating environments, embedded systems for spacecraft are subject to many unique challenges and constraints that limit on-orbit computing performance. However, the increasing need for real-time sensor and autonomous processing, coupled with limited communication bandwidth with ground stations, is increasing on-orbit computing demands for next-generation space missions. To address these challenges, AFRL’s Space Electronics Technology program has established a dedicated architecture analytics project called the Spacecraft Processing Architectures and Computing Environment Research (SPACER) Laboratory to provide the DoD with the capability to assess on-orbit computing solutions for spacecraft. This topic provides scholars with the opportunity to analyze a variety of the latest commercial-grade and space-grade processors including multi/many-core CPUs, DSPs, GPUs, FPGAs, SoCs, and neuromorphic architectures using a combination of metrics, benchmarks, simulations, and emulations. These architectures will be analyzed in terms of their performance, power efficiency, memory usage, reliability, programmability, or other factors using several compute-intensive space applications. Results will help determine how to best optimize architectures for various applications and which architectures are best suited for which missions, and can be used to guide future DoD investment decisions. Projects will be tailored to the interests and expertise of the scholars to provide a meaningful experience.


On-Orbit Computing for Spacecraft
Mentor: Tyler M. Lovelly, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

Due to harsh and inaccessible operating environments, embedded systems for spacecraft are subject to many unique challenges and constraints that limit on-orbit computing performance. However, the increasing need for real-time sensor and autonomous processing, coupled with limited communication bandwidth with ground stations, is increasing on-orbit computing demands for next-generation space missions. To address these challenges, AFRL’s Space Electronics Technology program has established a dedicated architecture analytics project called the Spacecraft Processing Architectures and Computing Environment Research (SPACER) Laboratory to provide the DoD with the capability to assess on-orbit computing solutions for spacecraft. This topic provides scholars with the opportunity to analyze a variety of the latest commercial-grade and space-grade processors including multi/many-core CPUs, DSPs, GPUs, FPGAs, SoCs, and neuromorphic architectures using a combination of metrics, benchmarks, simulations, and emulations. These architectures will be analyzed in terms of their performance, power efficiency, memory usage, reliability, programmability, or other factors using several compute-intensive space applications. Results will help determine how to best optimize architectures for various applications and which architectures are best suited for which missions, and can be used to guide future DoD investment decisions. Projects will be tailored to the interests and expertise of the scholars to provide a meaningful experience.


On-Orbit Computing for Spacecraft
Mentor: Tyler M. Lovelly, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D., Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Due to harsh and inaccessible operating environments, embedded systems for spacecraft are subject to many unique challenges and constraints that limit on-orbit computing performance. However, the increasing need for real-time sensor and autonomous processing, coupled with limited communication bandwidth with ground stations, is increasing on-orbit computing demands for next-generation space missions. To address these challenges, AFRL’s Space Electronics Technology program has established a dedicated architecture analytics project called the Spacecraft Processing Architectures and Computing Environment Research (SPACER) Laboratory to provide the DoD with the capability to assess on-orbit computing solutions for spacecraft. This topic provides scholars with the opportunity to analyze a variety of the latest commercial-grade and space-grade processors including multi/many-core CPUs, DSPs, GPUs, FPGAs, SoCs, and neuromorphic architectures using a combination of metrics, benchmarks, simulations, and emulations. These architectures will be analyzed in terms of their performance, power efficiency, memory usage, reliability, programmability, or other factors using several compute-intensive space applications. Results will help determine how to best optimize architectures for various applications and which architectures are best suited for which missions, and can be used to guide future DoD investment decisions. Projects will be tailored to the interests and expertise of the scholars to provide a meaningful experience.


On-Orbit Computing for Spacecraft
Mentor: Tyler M. Lovelly, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Due to harsh and inaccessible operating environments, embedded systems for spacecraft are subject to many unique challenges and constraints that limit on-orbit computing performance. However, the increasing need for real-time sensor and autonomous processing, coupled with limited communication bandwidth with ground stations, is increasing on-orbit computing demands for next-generation space missions. To address these challenges, AFRL’s Space Electronics Technology program has established a dedicated architecture analytics project called the Spacecraft Processing Architectures and Computing Environment Research (SPACER) Laboratory to provide the DoD with the capability to assess on-orbit computing solutions for spacecraft. This topic provides scholars with the opportunity to analyze a variety of the latest commercial-grade and space-grade processors including multi/many-core CPUs, DSPs, GPUs, FPGAs, SoCs, and neuromorphic architectures using a combination of metrics, benchmarks, simulations, and emulations. These architectures will be analyzed in terms of their performance, power efficiency, memory usage, reliability, programmability, or other factors using several compute-intensive space applications. Results will help determine how to best optimize architectures for various applications and which architectures are best suited for which missions, and can be used to guide future DoD investment decisions. Projects will be tailored to the interests and expertise of the scholars to provide a meaningful experience.


On-Orbit Computing for Spacecraft
Mentor: Tyler M. Lovelly, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Due to harsh and inaccessible operating environments, embedded systems for spacecraft are subject to many unique challenges and constraints that limit on-orbit computing performance. However, the increasing need for real-time sensor and autonomous processing, coupled with limited communication bandwidth with ground stations, is increasing on-orbit computing demands for next-generation space missions. To address these challenges, AFRL’s Space Electronics Technology program has established a dedicated architecture analytics project called the Spacecraft Processing Architectures and Computing Environment Research (SPACER) Laboratory to provide the DoD with the capability to assess on-orbit computing solutions for spacecraft. This topic provides scholars with the opportunity to analyze a variety of the latest commercial-grade and space-grade processors including multi/many-core CPUs, DSPs, GPUs, FPGAs, SoCs, and neuromorphic architectures using a combination of metrics, benchmarks, simulations, and emulations. These architectures will be analyzed in terms of their performance, power efficiency, memory usage, reliability, programmability, or other factors using several compute-intensive space applications. Results will help determine how to best optimize architectures for various applications and which architectures are best suited for which missions, and can be used to guide future DoD investment decisions. Projects will be tailored to the interests and expertise of the scholars to provide a meaningful experience.


Optical Characterization of Spacecraft Materials Damaged in a Simulated GEO Environment
Mentor: Ryan Hoffmann, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The goal of this study is to characterize how the optical properties of commonly used spacecraft materials change due to exposure to energetic particles. In space, energetic particles break bonds within a material such as polyimide (Kapton®), often forming free radicals. These radicals can then reform the original bond, or they can form new bonds, creating a new material. Understanding the chemical mechanisms for bond breaking and forming processes individually will allow for development of a model to predict the material’s chemical composition as a function of environmental exposure and time. We will simultaneously characterize the optical properties and chemistry of the materials, and develop understanding and correlations between material chemistry and optical signatures.


Optical Frequency Combs and Low Phase Noise Oscilators
Mentor: Kyle William Martin, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Phase-stabilized optical frequency combs were first developed as a means for measuring the frequency of an optical clock (i.e. to 'count' optical frequencies). The wide spectral coverage and femtosecond-level timing precision offered by a frequency comb makes it an attractive tool for many advanced technologies. Compact and robust frequency comb sources are now available as all-polarization-maintaining fiber lasers, which have been shown to operate outside the metrology laboratory. Moreover, micro-resonator combs offer unique promise in their wide mode-spacing and small footprint. We are developing frequency comb sources suitable for terrestrial and space applications; digital control algorithms for frequency comb stabilization; and applications that exploit the attractive features of the comb related to free-space optical time transfer, optical communications, and coherent spectroscopy.


Optimization of InAsSbBi-based mid-infrared materials and devices
Mentor: Preston Thomas Webster, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

In the world of electro-optical space sensors, many of the optoelectronic performance characteristics and quantum phenomenon assessed over the course of a technologies development can be traced back to the quality and properties of the basic material growth. Molecular beam epitaxy is a common semiconductor growth technique which is particularly interesting from a research perspective due to the wide variety and precise control of the growth conditions. Novel InAsSbBi alloys are currently being investigated as a mid- to long-wave infrared detection technology, and their fundamental material and device properties are presently being optimized. These properties will be assessed as a function of molecular beam epitaxy growth conditions using reflection high-energy electron diffraction, optical micrographs, X-ray diffraction, Hall, photoluminescence spectroscopy, transient microwave reflectance, and spectroscopic ellipsometry. This project offers the opportunity to characterize this new alloy systems being investigated by the Advanced Electro-Optical Space Sensors group, and quantify the material and device performance properties as a function of fundamental growth conditions.


Optimization Problems in Spacecraft Dynamics and Formation Flying
Mentor: Alan Lovell, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Many problems in orbital dynamics can be formulated as optimization problems with an appropriate choice of cost function. This research focuses on the formulation and solving of optimization problems for multi-spacecraft trajectory and formation applications. Formation design problems often involve a number of constraints of various types. For instance, one current area of research interest is the design of formations for localization of ground or space based transmissions. For this example, the optimal formation will be one that gives the best viewing geometry of the area of interest, while minimizing the fuel required to create the formation, arriving over the target in a timely fashion, and perhaps allowing for reconfiguration for later mission requirements, allowing for maximum redundancy and other possible factors. Other optimization problems of interest include optimal maneuver planning to support proximity operations, viewing of other objects for orbit determination, or cooperative operations. Possible approaches include classical optimization problem solving methods, as well as genetic algorithms, pseudo-spectral methods or other innovative techniques.


Optimization Problems in Spacecraft Dynamics and Formation Flying
Mentor: Alan Lovell, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

Many problems in orbital dynamics can be formulated as optimization problems with an appropriate choice of cost function. This research focuses on the formulation and solving of optimization problems for multi-spacecraft trajectory and formation applications. Formation design problems often involve a number of constraints of various types. For instance, one current area of research interest is the design of formations for localization of ground or space based transmissions. For this example, the optimal formation will be one that gives the best viewing geometry of the area of interest, while minimizing the fuel required to create the formation, arriving over the target in a timely fashion, and perhaps allowing for reconfiguration for later mission requirements, allowing for maximum redundancy and other possible factors. Other optimization problems of interest include optimal maneuver planning to support proximity operations, viewing of other objects for orbit determination, or cooperative operations. Possible approaches include classical optimization problem solving methods, as well as genetic algorithms, pseudo-spectral methods or other innovative techniques.


Optimization Problems in Spacecraft Dynamics and Formation Flying
Mentor: Alan Lovell, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Professional Educator

Many problems in orbital dynamics can be formulated as optimization problems with an appropriate choice of cost function. This research focuses on the formulation and solving of optimization problems for multi-spacecraft trajectory and formation applications. Formation design problems often involve a number of constraints of various types. For instance, one current area of research interest is the design of formations for localization of ground or space based transmissions. For this example, the optimal formation will be one that gives the best viewing geometry of the area of interest, while minimizing the fuel required to create the formation, arriving over the target in a timely fashion, and perhaps allowing for reconfiguration for later mission requirements, allowing for maximum redundancy and other possible factors. Other optimization problems of interest include optimal maneuver planning to support proximity operations, viewing of other objects for orbit determination, or cooperative operations. Possible approaches include classical optimization problem solving methods, as well as genetic algorithms, pseudo-spectral methods or other innovative techniques.


Physical Chemistry of Plume Species
Mentor: Christopher J Annesley, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The LaSR laboratory is studying a variety of thruster plume species, particularly looking at the life cycle in the space environment, using a variety of physical chemistry techniques. In one set of experiments we are investigating vacuum ultraviolet induced fluorescence of molecules and radicals to better understand fluorescent signatures from solar radiation. We have recently completed a study on water where lyman-α light causes a photofragmentation and OH fluorescence (J. Phys. Chem. A 122 5602 (2018)), and have recently added a discharge radical source to our apparatus. There is also projects in modeling of these processes. We are also studying ionic liquids, which are being considered as a fuel for next generation electrospray thrusters. To better understand the plume chemistry arising from these thrusters we are studying ionic liquids in two different ways. First, we are studying the solar effects on ionic liquid ion pairs through molecular beam, pump-probe spectroscopic methods. In this way, a two photon ionization scheme (J. Phys. Chem. A. 117 12419, PCCP 18 17037 (2016)) can be used to determine what decomposition the IL pairs will undergo during single photon absorptions in the solar environment. We also are using electrospray ionization to create IL clusters and study their thermal decomposition, following on to recent collision induced dissociation experiments (J. Phys. Chem A 122 1960 (2018)). We are seeking a student who is interested on working on one or more of these projects.


Physics of defects in semiconductors under pressure
Mentor: Arthur Henry Edwards, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Point defects have crucial impacts on semiconductor devices, from enabling transistor action through doping, to killing carrier lifetimes as deep recombination centers, to limiting or destroying device reliability. Radiation-induced defects have particular importance in space-based electronics and sensors, and so are of singular importance in the space vehicles directorate. We offer an opportunity to be part of a strong experimental group collaborating with theorists to identify defects in both narrow and wide-/ultrawide band gap semiconductor materials. This group will study radiation-induced defects under pressures, both hydrostatic and uniaxial, up to 12 KPa using deep level transient spectroscopy, and, potentially spin-resonance techniques. This effort will be mirrored by an effort using density functional theory, allowing both results and predictions to flow to and from experiment and theory.


Physics of Electron Emission
Mentor: Joseph Connelly, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Field electron emission occurs when a strong electric field is applied to the surface of a material. Our team designs, conducts, and analyzes experiments and develops mathematical models to study field emission on a variety of time and geometry scales. Students will have the option to pursue a variety of topics, which can be tailored to their interests and background, including building, testing, and analyzing novel field-emission cathode geometries and materials, designing and implementing new test-stand diagnostics, and performing simulations and developing models to predict emission characteristics.


Plasma Chemistry for Space Applications
Mentor: Albert Viggiano, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Ph.D.

We study a broad range of plasma chemistry including electron attachment, ion-molecule reactions, dissociative recombination, and mutual neutralization. We specialize in studying difficult species, radicals, and extended temperature ranges. Several fast flow plasma reaction apparatuses are used. The ion-molecule temperature range is 90-1800 K, while for the other plasma processes temperatures up to 1400 K can be studied. Recent successes include measuring the only product distributions for mutual neutralization, electron attachment to fluorocarbon radicals, and the discovery that electrons catalyze mutual neutralization. A recent upgrade has allowed for studies of radicals with electrosprayed ions, which is important for solar fuels research.
The data support a wide variety of AF/DoD applications including the natural ionosphere, hypersonic vehicles, plasmas assisted combustion, high power lasers, conversion of gaseous to liquid fuels, trace gas detection, high energy density materials, and other catalytic processes.


Plasma Chemistry for Space Applications
Mentor: Albert Viggiano, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Ph.D.

We study a broad range of plasma chemistry including electron attachment, ion-molecule reactions, dissociative recombination, and mutual neutralization. We specialize in studying difficult species, radicals, and extended temperature ranges. Several fast flow plasma reaction apparatuses are used. The ion-molecule temperature range is 90-1800 K, while for the other plasma processes temperatures up to 1400 K can be studied. Recent successes include measuring the only product distributions for mutual neutralization, electron attachment to fluorocarbon radicals, and the discovery that electrons catalyze mutual neutralization. A recent upgrade has allowed for studies of radicals with electrosprayed ions, which is important for solar fuels research.
The data support a wide variety of AF/DoD applications including the natural ionosphere, hypersonic vehicles, plasmas assisted combustion, high power lasers, conversion of gaseous to liquid fuels, trace gas detection, high energy density materials, and other catalytic processes.


Plasma Chemistry for Space Related Operations
Mentor: Albert Viggiano, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Ph.D.

Our group studies a wide array of plasma chemistry in fast flow tubes. Our goal is to improve chemistry models of plasmas of interest to the Air Force and DoD. Typical examples include the natural ionosphere, high speed combustion, reentry, solar, and trace gas detection. There are four separate apparatuses in the laboratory for studying reactions at extreme temperatures and pressures as well as a variety of processes including ion-molecule, electron-molecule, ion-electron, and ion-ion. New areas of interest include solar fuels, laser ignition, and catalysis for advanced propulsion.


Plenoptics Research fo Applications to SSA
Mentor: Waid Thomas Schlaegel, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

There has been increasing interest in plenoptics for a variety of applications. The AFRL Space EO Division is looking for applications related to observing satellites, and investigating what benefits might be obtained using plenoptics. The selected scholar will perform a literature search of research in the area of plenoptics to learn what applications have been researched. Then discuss these areas of research with SSA researchers to generate ideas for potential SSA uses of plenoptics. The scholar will then perform analytical simulations to demonstrate potential payoffs for the top applications to provide guidance for future research within the Space EO Division of AFRL. The results will be presented to interested SSA-related personnel. Applying scholars should have a firm grasp of plenoptics and the ability to write code to perform the required simulations (standard programming languages, including, but not limited to MATLAB, C, C++, C#, Python, Java,etc.)


Pooled Resilient Satellite Communications
Mentor: Khanh Pham, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Ph.D.

Prospective investigators ought to develop necessary scientific foundations, design principles, and add-on modular components, including but not limited to: i) dynamic application data fragmentation and stream splitting based on a wide range of transmission, power capabilities, time-varying channels due to weather changes, mobility, and antenna beam patterns; ii) adaptive load balancing for multi-path routing in the presence of demand assigned multiple access with time-bandwidth efficiency; iii) configurable multi-modem adapters which flexibly select specific modems, waveforms, gateways, satellites, and service providers via policy-based management; iv) agile router-modem interactions where modems inform the router current data rates, supportable modes, queue statistics to not only ensure minimal queue backlogs but also allow router full QoS control; and v) carrier disaggregation and aggregation in support of disaggregating and aggregating a single carrier across individual channel bandwidth on transmit and receive. In addition, additional protection could be explored through synthetic multipath at satellite communications gateways, realizing assignments of beam specific power delay profiles.


Porting and Benchmarking of Object Tracking and Detection Algorithms
Mentor: Andrew Carballo Pineda, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Applicants will port and optimize standard unclassified object tracking and detection algorithms on embedded processing hardware including low power CPUs, GPUs or FPGAs, depending on the applicants hardware expertise. They will then perform benchmarking studies of these algorithms to assess their performance (speed), scalability (problem size) and power utilization using unclassified synthetic data. The student will work closely with both algorithm development and hardware benchmarking and analysis teams in the Space Vehicles directorate.


Porting and Benchmarking of Object Tracking and Detection Algorithms
Mentor: Andrew Carballo Pineda, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

Applicants will port and optimize standard unclassified object tracking and detection algorithms on embedded processing hardware including low power CPUs, GPUs or FPGAs, depending on the applicants hardware expertise. They will then perform benchmarking studies of these algorithms to assess their performance (speed), scalability (problem size) and power utilization using unclassified synthetic data. The student will work closely with both algorithm development and hardware benchmarking and analysis teams in the Space Vehicles directorate.


Precision magnetic traps for atomic physics
Mentor: Brian Kasch, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Controlled magnetic fields are critical to the operation of confined atom interferometers, and associated inertial sensors. This project involves further developing in-house capabilities for laser etching so-called 'atom chips'. We use inexpensive DBC substrates: aluminum nitride with a layer of copper bonded to each face. By laser cutting specific wire shapes into the copper, we can create well-controlled magnetic fields simply by varying the applied currents. These chips already enable a variety of experiments involving ultracold atoms, and were used to create a Bose-Einstein condensate. Our goal is to progress to more advanced structures and processes, carefully characterize the laser mill cuts, and reduce the need for post-processing due to trace defects.


Precision magnetic traps for atomic physics
Mentor: Brian Kasch, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

Controlled magnetic fields are critical to the operation of confined atom interferometers, and associated inertial sensors. This project involves further developing in-house capabilities for laser etching so-called 'atom chips'. We use inexpensive DBC substrates: aluminum nitride with a layer of copper bonded to each face. By laser cutting specific wire shapes into the copper, we can create well-controlled magnetic fields simply by varying the applied currents. These chips already enable a variety of experiments involving ultracold atoms, and were used to create a Bose-Einstein condensate. Our goal is to progress to more advanced structures and processes, carefully characterize the laser mill cuts, and reduce the need for post-processing due to trace defects.


Precision magnetic traps for atomic physics.
Mentor: Brian Kasch, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Controlled magnetic fields are critical to the operation of confined atom interferometers, and associated inertial sensors. This project involves further developing in-house capabilities for laser etching so-called 'atom chips'. We use inexpensive DBC substrates: aluminum nitride with a layer of copper bonded to each face. By laser cutting specific wire shapes into the copper, we can create well-controlled magnetic fields simply by varying the applied currents. These chips already enable a variety of experiments involving ultracold atoms, and were used to create a Bose-Einstein condensate. Our goal is to progress to more advanced structures and processes, carefully characterize the laser mill cuts, and reduce the need for post-processing due to trace defects.


Precision measurements with levitated nanoparticles
Mentor: Maxwell David Gregoire, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

We are researching ways to use laser-levitated nanoparticles to measure acceleration. Our ultimate goal is to create a small, portable accelerometer rivaling the precision of state-of-the-art systems to be used on satellites, aircraft, and other military vehicles. By levitating nanoparticles with a focused laser beam forming what is known as “optical tweezers,” we can explore physics at the boundary between classical and quantum mechanics and make extremely precise measurements of forces. A scholar on this project may help develop methods of launching and catching nanoparticles in ultra-high vacuum, engineer ways to isolate acoustic noise from measurements, write computer programs to manage or model data acquisition, create and modify laser and optical systems, or explore the theory of interactions between light and matter in optical cavities.


Precision measurements with levitated nanoparticles
Mentor: Maxwell David Gregoire, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

We are researching ways to use laser-levitated nanoparticles to measure acceleration. Our ultimate goal is to create a small, portable accelerometer rivaling the precision of state-of-the-art systems to be used on satellites, aircraft, and other military vehicles. By levitating nanoparticles with a focused laser beam forming what is known as “optical tweezers,” we can explore physics at the boundary between classical and quantum mechanics and make extremely precise measurements of forces. A scholar on this project may help develop methods of launching and catching nanoparticles in ultra-high vacuum, engineer ways to isolate acoustic noise from measurements, write computer programs to manage or model data acquisition, create and modify laser and optical systems, or explore the theory of interactions between light and matter in optical cavities.


Probabilistic safety and performance with learned models
Mentor: Meeko Oishi, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Learning techniques have immense promise in robotic manufacturing, but typically lack rigorous assurances of safety. Safety assurances typically take the form of mathematical guarantees that constraints on the system will be maintained with at least a desired likelihood, or that desirable states will eventually be reached with a desired likelihood. Such an assurance is powerful, but often requires extensive knowledge of system dynamics. This project seeks to integrate algorithms for probabilistic safety with dynamical models that are updated via learning algorithms. The proposed work involves implementation of machine learning algorithms to approximate the value function when the transition kernel is not well known.


Processing and analysis of ionospheric plasma data measured by satellites
Mentor: Chaosong Huang, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The ionosphere is a region consisting of charged particles, from ~100 to ~1000 km above the Earth’s surface. Dynamic processes at different spatial and temporal scales always exist, and the ionosphere is significantly disturbed during geomagnetic storms. Low-Earth orbit satellites, such as the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) and Communications/Navigation Outage Forecasting System (C/NOFS) satellites, provide in-situ measurements of ionospheric plasma density, temperature, electric field, and other parameters. The objective of this project is to study ionospheric disturbances during geomagnetic storms. The primary duties of the summer scholars will be to process and analyze ionospheric satellite data to identify ionospheric disturbances. Good computer skills for data processing are important. Background on ionospheric physics is desirable but not required.


Processing and analysis of ionospheric plasma data measured by satellites
Mentor: Chaosong Huang, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

The ionosphere is a region consisting of charged particles, from ~100 to ~1000 km above the Earth’s surface. Dynamic processes at different spatial and temporal scales always exist, and the ionosphere is significantly disturbed during geomagnetic storms. Low-Earth orbit satellites, such as the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) and Communications/Navigation Outage Forecasting System (C/NOFS) satellites, provide in-situ measurements of ionospheric plasma density, temperature, electric field, and other parameters. The objective of this project is to study ionospheric disturbances during geomagnetic storms. The primary duties of the summer scholars will be to process and analyze ionospheric satellite data to identify ionospheric disturbances. Good computer skills for data processing are important. Background on ionospheric physics is desirable but not required.


Propagation of solar energetic particles in space
Mentor: Stephen Kahler, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

Big solar eruptive events often result in the production of highly energetic particles that propagate from the Sun out to the Earth and beyond.  In some cases these solar energetic particles (SEPs) reach GeV energies, cause serious communications and spacecraft problems, and can be detected with ground based detectors.  The general understanding is that SEPs are accelerated in shock waves in the solar corona that are driven by mass ejections in the eruptive events.  The SEPs propagate along magnetic field lines away from the Sun and spread throughout interplanetary space.  Our work attempts to understand the origin of the SEPs - what seed particles are accelerated, and when and where in the eruptive events?  What eruptions or solar conditions are favorable or unfavorable for SEP production?  We use data sets of spacecraft in situ observations of SEPs and space and groun-based optical, radio, EUV, and X-ray observations of solar eruptions to characterize and understand SEP production.  Because of the great diversity of SEP events, the work is often statistical in nature, with analysis of properties of many observed SEP events.


Propagation of solar energetic particles in space
Mentor: Stephen Kahler, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Big solar eruptive events often result in the production of highly energetic particles that propagate from the Sun out to the Earth and beyond. In some cases these solar energetic particles (SEPs) reach GeV energies, cause serious communications and spacecraft problems, and can be detected with ground based detectors. The general understanding is that SEPs are accelerated in shock waves in the solar corona that are driven by mass ejections in the eruptive events. The SEPs propagate along magnetic field lines away from the Sun and spread throughout interplanetary space. Our work attempts to understand the origin of the SEPs - what seed particles are accelerated, and when and where in the eruptive events? What eruptions or solar conditions are favorable or unfavorable for SEP production? We use data sets of spacecraft in situ observations of SEPs and space and ground-based optical, radio, EUV, and X-ray observations of solar eruptions to characterize and understand SEP production. Because of the great diversity of SEP events, the work is often statistical in nature, with analysis of properties of many observed SEP events.


Radiation experiments for memristor circuits
Mentor: Arthur Henry Edwards, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

Memristors hold great promise for non-volitile memory, including multi-state memory, for threshold logic, and for more advanced neuromorphic computation. There are questions about their utility in a radiation environment. In this project, we plan to study total dose, dose-rate and, possibly, single event effects on memristor circuits. Most work will use the AFRL-Kirtland radiation sources.


Radio emission from the solar atmosphere
Mentor: Stephen M White, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

This project will study the relationship between the radio emission in the Sun's corona and other physical properties such as solar magnetic fields and emission from hot plasma at EUV wavelengths. The project will use images of the Sun obtained at a range of wavelengths from radio telescopes such as the Very Large Array and the Nobeyama Radioheliograph, as well as complementary satellite data.


Reaction Wheel Control of Free Floating Robotic System
Mentor: Andrew Jacob Vogel, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

Requesting an Undergraduate level student to work on installing a reaction control wheel hardware onto a air-bearing lofted base. This will also include developing the control algorithm in software to move the wheel to create a desired orientation.


Real-time Optimization for Spacecraft Guidance & Control
Mentor: Christopher Daniel Petersen, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

Optimization techniques are difficult to implement in real-time on spacecraft due to many factors, including but not limited to (a) computational burden, (b) use of memory, and (c) confidence in obtaining a solution. This project will focus on exploring and developing a wide range of optimization methods that mitigate the challenges above. The algorithms developed will then be benchmarked against others for different scenarios (in simulation & robotic testbed implementation). Applications of these algorithms include, but are not limited to, Model Predictive Control (MPC), Reference Governors (RG), optimal orbit transfers, agile slewing, etc.


Real-time Optimization for Spacecraft Guidance & Control
Mentor: Christopher Daniel Petersen, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Optimization techniques are difficult to implement in real-time on spacecraft due to many factors, including but not limited to (a) computational burden, (b) use of memory, and (c) confidence in obtaining a solution. Students will focus on exploring and developing a wide range of optimization methods that mitigate the challenges above. The algorithms developed will then be benchmarked against others for different scenarios in simulation & robotic testbed implementation. Experience in MATLAB and Simulink required. C-coding is a plus, but not required.


Reinforcement-Learning AI Development for Competitive Space-Based Games
Mentor: Richard Scott Erwin, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

This topic is centered on development of AI engines (primarily reinforcement learning approaches) to compete in a multi-player, competitive, zero-sum game involving space dynamics and space environment constraints, e.g. power, thermal, communications, etc. The project will involve co-opting or developing the game mechanics as needed; using openly available game engines and physics simulations to implement the game in a form suitable for play by computers; the development & training of AI engines using openly available development environments; the analysis of AI player performance against human players; and documentation of results via reports and/or technical papers.


Reinforcement-Learning AI Development for Competitive Space-Based Games
Mentor: Richard Scott Erwin, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

This topic is centered on development of AI engines (primarily reinforcement learning approaches) to compete in a multi-player, competitive, zero-sum game involving space dynamics and space environment constraints, e.g. power, thermal, communications, etc. The project will involve co-opting or developing the game mechanics as needed; using openly available game engines and physics simulations to implement the game in a form suitable for play by computers; the development & training of AI engines using openly available development environments; the analysis of AI player performance against human players; and documentation of results via reports and/or technical papers.


Reinforcement-Learning AI Development for Competitive Space-Based Games
Mentor: Richard Scott Erwin, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

This topic is centered on development of AI engines (primarily reinforcement learning approaches) to compete in a multi-player, competitive, zero-sum game involving space dynamics and space environment constraints, e.g. power, thermal, communications, etc. The project will involve co-opting or developing the game mechanics as needed; using openly available game engines and physics simulations to implement the game in a form suitable for play by computers; the development & training of AI engines using openly available development environments; the analysis of AI player performance against human players; and documentation of results via reports and/or technical papers.


Robotic Manipulator State Error Estimation
Mentor: Kyra Schmidt, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Requesting an Undergraduate or Graduate level student to design and integrate algorithms or filters for estimation of state error for a robotic manipulator in the Robotic Orbital Control (ROC) Lab. The ROC lab has a free-floating robot, or a robotic manipulator on top of air bearing platform to simulate zero friction on a planar surface, that uses fiducials for localization. The proposed project will expand on the use of fiducials and other related localization to have a closed-loop state error-based control. Related topics include but are not limited to Kalman-filter based robot localization based in either computer vision or inertial measurements.


Safe Human-Robot Interaction in Agile Manufacturing
Mentor: Rafael Fierro, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

In an agile manufacturing environment, robots should be able to collaborate with human users and adapt to new assembly requirements and constraints. The basic goal of human-robot interaction (HRI) is to develop interfaces that enable natural communication and safe interaction with robotic systems. In most HRI applications collision avoidance is achieved by a minimum safety distance. However, effective interaction may require physical contact between robot and human. This project aims at developing a human-robot interface that allows a robot to understand basic human commands (i.e., gestures) and assist the human in an assembly task. The work involves integration of machine learning, computer vision, and motion planning algorithms.

State-of-the-art robotic systems (e.g., Baxter from Rethink Robotics, WAM robot from Barrett Technologies, possible a KUKA manipulator) are available for this project. A variety of sensors including ZED stereo cameras, LIDAR, and VICON motion capture can be used to sense the robot’s environment and human actions. The Robot Operating System (ROS) provides the software framework for the project. The task for the robot-human team is to assembly a small satellite.


Seismic monitoring of underground nuclear explosions
Mentor: Raymond James Willemann, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Projects of interest are those that build on an applicant’s experience in original analysis of seismological or other geophysical data. The goal of AFRL’s Nuclear Explosion Monitoring program is to improve national capability in detecting and characterizing underground nuclear tests. Topics of interest include seismic signal and array processing, inverse calculations to determine of properties of seismic sources and Earth structure, and analysis of existing catalogs to improve their utility of further research. Specifics of a project would be based on aligning interests of the program with the applicant's background to achieve progress on a problem of interest to the Air Force. The intent of the summer project is to build capability at AFRL while also advancing the student’s thesis work.


Simulating high intensity laser plasma interactions
Mentor: Ryan Edward Phillips, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

The ultrashort pulse laser (USPL) group is seeking young scientists and engineers to join the USPL team. Students will learn to use the laser propagation code gUPPE and execute targeted simulations on laser plasma interactions of interest to the USPL experimental and modeling team in the filamentation regime. Students will leverage the Air Force's world leading High Powered Computing (HPC) resources to accelerate simulation runtimes for at scale problems of interest and also perform data post-processing and data analysis.


Simulation of Distributed Heterogeneous Robotic Systems for Agile Manufacturing
Mentor: Rafael Fierro, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The AFRL-UNM Agile Manufacturing Laboratory is developing technologies to reduce the cost of assembling small satellites and integrated directed energy systems. To this end, the research is organized into four main thrusts: (1) multi-material additive manufacturing; (2) machine learning; (3) computer vision; and (4) advanced robotic systems. The Agile Mfg lab is equipped with high-performance computing facilities, state-of-the-art robotic systems (including two Baxter robots from Rethink Robotics, two WAM robots from Barrett Technologies), a number of 3D printers, and a variety of sensors including stereo cameras, LIDAR, and VICON motion capture system.

This project is about developing a flexible simulation environment for agile manufacturing based on Gazebo and the Robot Operating System (ROS). “Gazebo offers the ability to accurately and efficiently simulate populations of robots in complex indoor and outdoor environments. At your fingertips is a robust physics engine, high-quality graphics, and convenient programmatic and graphical interfaces. Best of all, Gazebo is free with a vibrant community.” http://gazebosim.org/

More specifically, in this project the simulation environment should include robots (Baxter, WAM) working together on satellite assembly tasks. In addition to the physical layer (robots, controllers, end-effectors, sensors, etc.), the simulator should integrate motion planning, machine learning, and computer vision algorithms. This simulator will make it possible to test algorithms and verify their correctness, and train machine learning system using realistic scenarios.


Small Telescopes Observation Technologies and Techniques Research
Mentor: Waid Thomas Schlaegel, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The Space Electro Optics Division is investigating the use of innovative technologies and techniques as applied to space situational awareness (SSA). Small telescopes provide an inexpensive and agile platform on which to develop these technologies and techniques. For this project, the chosen scholar will propose, develop, and demonstrate innovative solutions to SSA problems/issues. A presentation to fellow researchers may be required, depending on the applicability of demonstrated solution(s). The scholar will have access to several small telescopes with which to perform their research. Experience with TheSkyX Pro is a plus, but not necessary. We are looking for a motivated, innovative, creative student with the discipline to observe satellites, collect data, and keep records of the observations and data.


Small Telescopes Observation Technologies and Techniques Research
Mentor: Waid Thomas Schlaegel, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

The Space Electro Optics Division is investigating the use of innovative technologies and techniques as applied to space situational awareness (SSA). Small telescopes provide an inexpensive and agile platform on which to develop these technologies and techniques. For this project, the chosen scholar will propose, develop, and demonstrate innovative solutions to SSA problems/issues. A presentation to fellow researchers may be required, depending on the applicability of demonstrated solution(s). The scholar will have access to several small telescopes with which to perform their research. Experience with TheSkyX Pro is a plus, but not necessary. We are looking for a motivated, innovative, creative student with the discipline to observe satellites, collect data, and keep records of the observations and data.


Small Telescopes Observation Technologies and Techniques Research
Mentor: Waid Thomas Schlaegel, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

The Space Electro Optics Division is investigating the use of innovative technologies and techniques as applied to space situational awareness (SSA). Small telescopes provide an inexpensive and agile platform on which to develop these technologies and techniques. For this project, the chosen scholar will propose, develop, and demonstrate innovative solutions to SSA problems/issues. A presentation to fellow researchers may be required, depending on the applicability of demonstrated solution(s). The scholar will have access to several small telescopes with which to perform their research. Experience with TheSkyX Pro is a plus, but not necessary. We are looking for a motivated, innovative, creative student with the discipline to observe satellites, collect data, and keep records of the observations and data.


Social Learning over Weakly Connected Networks
Mentor: Khanh Pham, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Ph.D.

Primary focuses of the research topic will cover decision aid tools and architectural design trade studies for open and self-organizing networks. Expected findings and results include modeling, simulation and analysis capability enabling collaborative uses of spatially distributed wireless communication assets via crosslinks. Prospective heterogeneous assets work jointly to produce a common understanding of the totality of operational situations (e.g., positioning, navigation, timing (PNT), space situational awareness, space control, etc.), where clustered assets are strongly and weakly connected and further subjected to congested and/or contested operating conditions.

Specifically, this topic is investigating a class of social learning problems over weakly connected time-varying networks, where information flows are not bidirectional among network nodes. Some relevant technical challenges include, but not limited to: i) modeling, simulation and analysis for realistic situations, where receiving sub-networks are under potential influences by sending sub-networks; ii) learning models and diffusion protocols on how to recover true beliefs for receiving sub-networks; and iii) features and factors of limiting beliefs towards inherent attributes of time-varying networks.


Solving Lambert’s Problem for Space Situational Awareness Applications
Mentor: Paul W. Schumacher, Directed Energy
Location: AMOS
Academic Level: Masters

The classical two-position-and-time boundary-value problem of orbital motion, known as Lambert’s problem, has many applications in the Space Situational Awareness mission area. A few examples include track initiation in multi-target, multi-sensor tracking; reachable-set analysis in maneuver planning and threat characterization; and mitigation of debris-collision risk for operational spacecraft. In most of these applications, we need to produce large families of Lambert solutions. This project seeks to create a new parallel, non-iterative algorithm for solving the Keplerian version of Lambert’s problem. It is well known that this problem can be reduced to a scalar root-finding problem for a function involving the given time of flight between the given positions. In standard practice, iterative root-finding methods make the generation of large numbers of Lambert solutions computationally burdensome, so that the solution procedure does not scale well to large families of Lambert problems. In this project, we will express the root in exact analytic terms of a definite integral that can be evaluated numerically. Then all the function evaluations needed for the numerical quadrature can be done in parallel, producing a completely non-iterative solution procedure. In order to make the method efficient and reliable, we will need to derive rigorous upper and lower bounds on the root, obtain several analytical derivatives of the function in question, and create suitable validation criteria for the results.


Solving Systems of Polynomials for Astrodynamics Applications
Mentor: Alan Lovell, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

DESCRIPTION: This project involves linear algebra-based techniques to solve
systems of coupled polynomials in several variables. Such polynomials have
applications in many scientific fields, particularly orbital mechanics. While
solving the roots of polynomials is not trivial, several approaches have been
derived in the mathematics field. For this project, it is desired that the
student will use existing approaches to solve systems of polynomials for
problems in spacecraft navigation and space surveillance. This can be
accomplished in part with basic "pen and paper" algebraic derivation, but can
also be performed using computational software (e.g. MATLAB or Mathematica) if
the student is capable in that area. Specific applications of these
techniques will include spacecraft navigation and radio-frequency localization
(i.e. geolocation). This work has the potential to be published in a
conference paper or journal article.


Solving Systems of Polynomials for Astrodynamics Applications
Mentor: Alan Lovell, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Professional Educator

This project involves linear algebra-based techniques to solve systems of coupled polynomials in several variables. Such polynomials have applications in many scientific fields, particularly orbital mechanics. While solving the roots of polynomials is not trivial, several approaches have been derived in the mathematics field. For this project, it is desired that the applicant will use existing approaches to solve systems of polynomials for problems in spacecraft navigation and space surveillance. This can be accomplished in part with basic "pen and paper" algebraic derivation, but can also be performed using computational software (e.g. MATLAB or Mathematica) if the applicant is capable in that area. Specific applications of these techniques will include spacecraft navigation and radio-frequency localization (i.e. geolocation). This work has the potential to be published in a conference paper or journal article.


Spaceborn Auto-Navigation via Implementation of Optical Planetary Angle-Only Measurements
Mentor: Mark Brandon Hinga, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

Autonomous spacecraft navigation is critical to mission success as communication to ground stations and access to GPS signals could be lost. However, if the satellite has a camera of sufficient quality, line of sight (unit vector) measurements can be made to known planetary bodies and provide observations enabling estimation of position and velocity of the spacecraft. Because the well-known solar system bodies might also be near coplanar with the spacecraft's orbit, advanced orbit determination algorithms may be needed to mitigate the expected problem of the relative co-planarity between both the spacecraft's and the visible planet's orbit.

This investigation has two goals. The first is to determine the minimum quality of line of sight navigation measurements to target planet bodies necessary for successful insertion into destination orbit. The second is to design an improved initial orbit determination (IOD) algorithm to mitigate the anticipated co-planar (singularity causing) problem without the need of an a priori assumption of either orbit class or any specific orbital regime of the spacecraft. What is novel in this proposed research is its consideration of a least squares batch initial state estimator that implements the linearized perturbation technique (fixed final time guidance) in conjunction with a Lambert solver and a stabilized Gaussian-IOD method. This latter method might be expected to handle the co-planar singularity condition as low as 0.1 deg. and aid in the initialization of an EKF that can maintain track of the unique stabilized solution of the host spacecraft. This stabilized batch algorithm might also allow for accurate initial orbit estimation of the spacecraft using a limited set of (as few as six might be possible) planetary measurements and is built upon a system of co-planar observed singularity conditions that form the normal equations of the exact values of the f and g series least squares solution.

This research will consider errors in the precise centering of the line of sight unit vector to the center mass of a measured target planet. The effect of light travel time and light aberration will be taken into account due to the large distances between the spacecraft and an observed planetary body.


Space Bourne Auto-navigation via Implementation of Optical Planetary Angle-Only Measurements
Mentor: Mark Brandon Hinga, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters

Autonomous spacecraft navigation is critical to mission success as communication to ground stations and access to GPS signals could be lost. However, if the satellite has a camera of sufficient quality, line of sight (unit vector) measurements can be made to known planetary bodies and provide observations enabling estimation of position and velocity of the spacecraft. Because the well-known solar system bodies might also be near coplanar with the spacecraft's orbit, advanced orbit determination algorithms may be needed to mitigate the expected problem of the relative co-planarity between both the spacecraft's and the visible planet's orbit.

This investigation has two goals. The first is to determine the minimum quality of line of sight navigation measurements to target planet bodies necessary for successful insertion into destination orbit. The second is to design an improved initial orbit determination (IOD) algorithm to mitigate the anticipated co-planar (singularity causing) problem without the need of an a priori assumption of either orbit class or any specific orbital regime of the spacecraft. What is novel in this proposed research is its consideration of a least squares batch initial state estimator that implements the linearized perturbation technique (fixed final time guidance) in conjunction with a Lambert solver and a stabilized Gaussian-IOD method. This latter method might be expected to handle the co-planar singularity condition as low as 0.1 deg. and aid in the initialization of an EKF that can maintain track of the unique stabilized solution of the host spacecraft. This stabilized batch algorithm might also allow for accurate initial orbit estimation of the spacecraft using a limited set of (as few as six might be possible) planetary measurements and is built upon a system of co-planar observed singularity conditions that form the normal equations of the exact values of the f and g series least squares solution.

This research will consider errors in the precise centering of the line of sight unit vector to the center mass of a measured target planet. The effect of light travel time and light aberration will be taken into account due to the large distances between the spacecraft and an observed planetary body.


Space Cadets
Mentor: Evelyn Anne Kent, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

Join operations crew as a mission planner (master scheduler for vehicle commanding). Learn about system, operations processes, and science by talking to vehicle and groundstation experts. Be able to pass flight operations team certification tests and possibly “solo” by end of term!


Spacecraft Charging Instrumentation, Measurement and Simulation
Mentor: Dale Curtis Ferguson, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

At AFRL Kirtland, there are vacuum-plasma chambers to test for surface charging of components and materials, radiation chambers to test for deep-dielectric charging, and spacecraft surface charging simulation software. We desire applicants who wish to work on instrumentation and measurements with the chambers and/or simulation of surface charging with the Nascap-2K software. Theory and experiment are both essential to studies of spacecraft charging.


Spacecraft Charging Instrumentation, Measurement and Simulation
Mentor: Dale Curtis Ferguson, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

At AFRL Kirtland, there are vacuum-plasma chambers to test for surface charging of components and materials, radiation chambers to test for deep-dielectric charging, and spacecraft surface charging simulation software. We desire applicants who wish to work on instrumentation and measurements with the chambers and/or simulation of surface charging with the Nascap-2K software. Theory and experiment are both essential to studies of spacecraft charging.


Spacecraft Dynamics Applied to Electromagnetic Transmitter Localization and Anti-Jamming
Mentor: Alan Lovell, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

This research entails the use of space-based receivers both to estimate the location of electromagnetic transmitters and to null any jamming/interference signal from the transmitters. The transmitters themselves could be land-, sea-, air-, or space-based. The location algorithms to be developed will be statistical in nature (typically either batch least-squares methods or sequential/filtering techniques). Typical available measurement types include time difference of arrival (TDOA), frequency difference on arrival (FDOA), and frequency ratio on arrival (FROA). This area also involves an understanding of spacecraft dynamics, in order to optimize orbit design for multiple-satellite clusters over one or more transmitters. Similarly, the anti-jamming task involves spacecraft dynamics, in that the signal-nulling capability depends on the geometric (i.e. orbital) spacing of the antennas. It should be noted that this research emphasizes the spacecraft dynamics and estimation aspects of these tasks, rather than the signal processing and/or antenna design aspects (although a fundamental understanding of those aspects is beneficial).


Spacecraft Dynamics Applied to Electromagnetic Transmitter Localization and Anti-Jamming
Mentor: Alan Lovell, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

This research entails the use of space-based receivers both to estimate the location of electromagnetic transmitters and to null any jamming/interference signal from the transmitters. The transmitters themselves could be land-, sea-, air-, or space-based. The location algorithms to be developed will be statistical in nature (typically either batch least-squares methods or sequential/filtering techniques). Typical available measurement types include time difference of arrival (TDOA), frequency difference on arrival (FDOA), and frequency ratio on arrival (FROA). This area also involves an understanding of spacecraft dynamics, in order to optimize orbit design for multiple-satellite clusters over one or more transmitters. Similarly, the anti-jamming task involves spacecraft dynamics, in that the signal-nulling capability depends on the geometric (i.e. orbital) spacing of the antennas. It should be noted that this research emphasizes the spacecraft dynamics and estimation aspects of these tasks, rather than the signal processing and/or antenna design aspects (although a fundamental understanding of those aspects is beneficial).


Spacecraft Dynamics Applied to Electromagnetic Transmitter Localization and Anti-Jamming
Mentor: Alan Lovell, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Professional Educator

This research entails the use of space-based receivers both to estimate the location of electromagnetic transmitters and to null any jamming/interference signal from the transmitters. The transmitters themselves could be land-, sea-, air-, or space-based. The location algorithms to be developed will be statistical in nature (typically either batch least-squares methods or sequential/filtering techniques). Typical available measurement types include time difference of arrival (TDOA), frequency difference on arrival (FDOA), and frequency ratio on arrival (FROA). This area also involves an understanding of spacecraft dynamics, in order to optimize orbit design for multiple-satellite clusters over one or more transmitters. Similarly, the anti-jamming task involves spacecraft dynamics, in that the signal-nulling capability depends on the geometric (i.e. orbital) spacing of the antennas. It should be noted that this research emphasizes the spacecraft dynamics and estimation aspects of these tasks, rather than the signal processing and/or antenna design aspects (although a fundamental understanding of those aspects is beneficial).


Spacecraft Mission Planning Software Development
Mentor: Hans-Peter Dumm, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

This project aims to develop new software tools for improving current and future mission planning activities. The goal is to reduce the time required to produce mission planning products while also improving their quality. Software developed has the potential to be used in current spacecraft operations. Tasks will involve developing or improving programs using a variety of languages to schedule activities, perform coordinate transformations, find fuel efficient trajectories, process and display data, perform optimization, and other. As part of these tasks, you can expect to learn about spacecraft mission planning, spacecraft operations, orbital mechanics, basic astronomy, and space situational awareness. Depending on the task, platforms will include Linux and Windows. Languages may include Perl, Python, Java, C, C#, Matlab, or application specific scripting languages depending on what system the software is integrating with.


Spacecraft Mission Planning Software Development
Mentor: Hans-Peter Dumm, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

This project aims to develop new software tools for improving current and future mission planning activities. The goal is to reduce the time required to produce mission planning products while also improving their quality. Software developed has the potential to be used in current spacecraft operations. Tasks will involve developing or improving programs using a variety of languages to schedule activities, perform coordinate transformations, find fuel efficient trajectories, process and display data, perform optimization, and other. As part of these tasks, you can expect to learn about spacecraft mission planning, spacecraft operations, orbital mechanics, basic astronomy, and space situational awareness. Depending on the task, platforms will include Linux and Windows. Languages may include Perl, Python, Java, C, C#, Matlab, or application specific scripting languages depending on what system the software is integrating with.


Spacecraft Thermal Modeling
Mentor: Rachel Oliver, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Traditional spacecraft thermal design is a very detailed process that results in a highly optimized design that cannot be easily adapted to other orbits or spacecraft. As a result, thermal design tends to be a costly and time-consuming process. These shortcomings can be mitigated through the incorporation of robust thermal control, in which high conductivity materials are used in conjunction with heat transfer modulating devices and efficient insulation to create a thermal control system that can handle a
wide range of component locations and heat loads. Student(s) chosen for this topic will use high-fidelity Thermal Desktop models, as well as reduced order models, to better quantify and map the abilities of robust thermal architectures to deal with off nominal conditions and/or changing orbits. Finite element/finite difference modeling experience is desired, but not strictly required.


Spacecraft Thermal Modeling
Mentor: Rachel Oliver, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Traditional spacecraft thermal design is a very detailed process that results in a highly optimized design that cannot be easily adapted to other orbits or spacecraft. As a result, thermal design tends to be a costly and time-consuming process. These shortcomings can be mitigated through the incorporation of robust thermal control, in which high conductivity materials are used in conjunction with heat transfer modulating devices and efficient insulation to create a thermal control system that can handle a
wide range of component locations and heat loads. Student(s) chosen for this topic will use high-fidelity Thermal Desktop models, as well as reduced order models, to better quantify and map the abilities of robust thermal architectures to deal with off nominal conditions and/or changing orbits. Finite element/finite difference modeling experience is desired, but not strictly required.


Spacecraft Thermal Modeling
Mentor: Rachel Oliver, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

Traditional spacecraft thermal design is a very detailed process that results in a highly optimized design that cannot be easily adapted to other orbits or spacecraft. As a result, thermal design tends to be a costly and time-consuming process. These shortcomings can be mitigated through the incorporation of robust thermal control, in which high conductivity materials are used in conjunction with heat transfer modulating devices and efficient insulation to create a thermal control system that can handle a wide range of component locations and heat loads. High School student(s) chosen for this topic will be introduced to the modeling tools required to produce high-fidelity models, as well as reduced order models, to better quantify and map the abilities of robust thermal architectures to deal with off nominal conditions and/or changing orbits.


Spacecraft Thermal System Design and Analysis
Mentor: Jonathan Allison, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

Traditional satellite thermal design is a very detailed process that results in a highly optimized design for a particular satellite, but cannot be easily adapted to other spacecraft. As a result, thermal design tends to be a costly and time-consuming process. These shortcomings can be mitigated through the incorporation of robust thermal control, in which high conductivity materials are used in conjunction with heat transfer modulating devices and efficient insulation to create a thermal control system that can handle a wide range of component locations and heat loads. Based on the abilities of the student(s) selected for this topic, the student(s) will be responsible for: thermal management technology design/prototype; thermal vacuum testing of a range of thermal management technologies; and spacecraft thermal modeling. In addition to laboratory prototypes, the student(s) may receive the opportunity to work on flight hardware.


Spacecraft Thermal System Design and Analysis
Mentor: Jonathan Allison, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Traditional satellite thermal design is a very detailed process that results in a highly optimized design for a particular satellite, but cannot be easily adapted to other spacecraft. As a result, thermal design tends to be a costly and time-consuming process. These shortcomings can be mitigated through the incorporation of robust thermal control, in which high conductivity materials are used in conjunction with heat transfer modulating devices and efficient insulation to create a thermal control system that can handle a wide range of component locations and heat loads. Based on the abilities of the student(s) selected for this topic, the student(s) will be responsible for: thermal management technology design/prototype; thermal vacuum testing of a range of thermal management technologies; and spacecraft thermal modeling. In addition to laboratory prototypes, the student(s) may receive the opportunity to work on flight hardware.


Spacecraft Thermal System Design and Analysis
Mentor: Jonathan Allison, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Traditional satellite thermal design is a very detailed process that results in a highly optimized design for a particular satellite, but cannot be easily adapted to other spacecraft. As a result, thermal design tends to be a costly and time-consuming process. These shortcomings can be mitigated through the incorporation of robust thermal control, in which high conductivity materials are used in conjunction with heat transfer modulating devices and efficient insulation to create a thermal control system that can handle a wide range of component locations and heat loads. Based on the abilities of the student(s) selected for this topic, the student(s) will be responsible for: thermal management technology design/prototype; thermal vacuum testing of a range of thermal management technologies; and spacecraft thermal modeling. In addition to laboratory prototypes, the student(s) may receive the opportunity to work on flight hardware.


Spacecraft Visualization, Interfaces, & Tools
Mentor: Christopher Daniel Petersen, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Students on this project will in particular focus on creating visualizations, interfaces, and tools to assist with testing/mission planning of spacecraft missions. Students will learn how missions can be planned, which in turn will be utilized for creating easy to use interfaces/tools. Another focus will be in designing visualizations of simulations via 3D modeling, augmented reality, etc. to better display and understand intuitively the spacecraft environment.


Spacecraft Visualization, Interfaces, & Tools
Mentor: Christopher Daniel Petersen, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Students on this project will in particular focus on creating visualizations, interfaces, and tools to assist with testing/mission planning of spacecraft missions. Students will learn how missions can be planned, which in turn will be utilized for creating easy to use interfaces/tools. Another focus will be in designing visualizations of simulations via 3D modeling, augmented reality, etc. to better display and understand intuitively the spacecraft environment.


Space Debris Characterization
Mentor: Waid Thomas Schlaegel, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Manmade space debris is an area of interest to many in the Space Situational Awareness community. AFRL/RDSMR-Kirtland is researching procedures for performing a survey of every object identified as debris in the satellite catalog. As such, the scholar will develop candidate procedures and processes for observing all low-Earth-orbiting debris in the catalog, and perform several observations of debris to optimize these procedures/processes to characterize the debris. The procedures/processes will consist of criteria for optimizing the collection of imagery to maximize characterization data collection. The scholar will also investigate the use of color filters to improve characterization of the debris as well as choosing what type of camera(s) to use to optimize success of characterizing the debris. At the conclusion of the session, the scholar will present the results of their study to RDSMR and other interested SSA researchers of what they developed.


Space Debris Characterization
Mentor: Waid Thomas Schlaegel, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Manmade space debris is an area of interest to many in the Space Situational Awareness community. AFRL/RDSMR-Kirtland is researching procedures for performing a survey of every object identified as debris in the satellite catalog. As such, the scholar will develop candidate procedures and processes for observing all low-Earth-orbiting debris in the catalog, and perform several observations of debris to optimize these procedures/processes to characterize the debris. The procedures/processes will consist of criteria for optimizing the collection of imagery to maximize characterization data collection. The scholar will also investigate the use of color filters to improve characterization of the debris as well as choosing what type of camera(s) to use to optimize success of characterizing the debris. At the conclusion of the session, the scholar will present the results of their study to RDSMR and other interested SSA researchers of what they developed.


Space Environmental Simulation Chamber
Mentor: Ryan Hoffmann, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Professional Educator

A spacecraft in geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) is subject to the harsh weather of space. Weather in GEO comprises primarily fluxes of high energy electrons, protons, and ultraviolet light. The Spacecraft Charging and Instrument Calibration Laboratory (SCICL) on Kirtland AFB (Albuquerque) is building the capability to accurately simulate the harsh GEO environment in a laboratory-based vacuum chamber. Toward that end, the candidate will construct an electron flood gun based on an in-house design and characterize the performance of a proton gun in order to simulate different GEO weather conditions such as a coronal mass ejection. Some of the activities associated with the project will be working with our in-house machine shop to create the components from which to build the electron source, instrument construction, programming of instrument control software using LabVIEW software, and initial investigations into the effects of GEO weather on some common spacecraft materials.


Space Environment Studies, Investigating Ionospheric Variability
Mentor: Jonah Colman, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

The Space Environment can have a major impact on technologies we all rely on. Satellite communication, Global positioning systems, even the electrical grid. The ionosphere is the layer of plasma around the earth created by solar radiation. As in the more familiar terrestrial environment systems we can separate the state of the Space Environment into climate and weather. Climate includes the large scale features of the environment, e.g. it's cold at nigh, it only snows here in the winter. Weather is the current state of the environment, e.g. it's 22 degrees outside, it's raining now. We will investigate climatological models of the ionosphere and compare them to measurements made here at Kirtland Air Force Base to try and capture the magnitude of ionospheric variability not captured by a climatology.


Space Environment Studies, Investigating Ionospheric Variability
Mentor: Jonah Colman, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

The Space Environment can have a major impact on technologies we all rely on. Satellite communication, Global positioning systems, even the electrical grid. The ionosphere is the layer of plasma around the earth created by solar radiation. As in the more familiar terrestrial environment systems we can separate the state of the Space Environment into climate and weather. Climate includes the large scale features of the environment, e.g. it's cold at nigh, it only snows here in the winter. Weather is the current state of the environment, e.g. it's 22 degrees outside, it's raining now. We will investigate climatological models of the ionosphere and compare them to measurements made here at Kirtland Air Force Base and elsewhere to try and capture the magnitude of ionospheric variability not captured by a climatology.


Space Environment Studies, Investigating Ionospheric Variability
Mentor: Jonah Colman, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The Space Environment can have a major impact on technologies we all rely on. Satellite communication, Global positioning systems, even the electrical grid. The ionosphere is the layer of plasma around the earth created by solar radiation. As in the more familiar terrestrial environment systems we can separate the state of the Space Environment into climate and weather. Climate includes the large scale features of the environment, e.g. it's cold at nigh, it only snows here in the winter. Weather is the current state of the environment, e.g. it's 22 degrees outside, it's raining now. We will investigate climatological models of the ionosphere and compare them to measurements made here at Kirtland Air Force Base and elsewhere to try and quantify the magnitude of ionospheric variability not captured by a climatology.


Space Operations Development Expert
Mentor: Evelyn Anne Kent, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters

Certify on operations crew as flight director (team leader) or mission planner (master vehicle command scheduler) for one or multiple missions; spin up quickly on system, operations processes, and science by talking to vehicle and ground system experts. Pass flight operations crew certification tests and possibly "solo" by end of term.

Give feedback on training materials; work with mentors to develop training and operations materials for faster on-boarding of new operations crewmembers.
Help GNC or Systems team in anomaly investigation or optimization problem for one or multiple missions; objective to solve multiple space vehicle or CONOP issues
Work on analysis of alternatives for known vehicle and ground issues. Help with ground/vehicle software tool development and augmentation.


Space Operations Development Specialist
Mentor: Evelyn Anne Kent, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Join satellite operations crew as flight director (crew leader) or mission planner (master commanding scheduler) for multiple missions. Learn about system, operations processes, and science by talking to vehicle and groundstation experts. Pass flight operations team certification tests and possibly “solo” by end of term!

Work with flight ops team mentors to enhance training materials, and develop materials for quicker on-boarding of new crew members.
Option to join navigation/control or Systems team in anomaly investigation or optimization problem for ONE mission. Solve a space vehicle or concept of operations issue.


Sparse coding algorithms applied to de-noising multidimensional data
Mentor: Arthur Henry Edwards, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Preliminary results show that sparse coding can be applied to de-noising data for more accurate classification. In this project we will explore limits of the use of sparse coding near the noise floor for multidimensional data (audio, visual, and, possibly, spectral data). We are especially interested in feasibility of these techniques on low-power computer architectures.


Spectroscopy and Reactivity of Thruster Plume Species
Mentor: Christopher J Annesley, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

The LaSR laboratory is studying a variety of thruster plume species, particularly looking at the life cycle in the space environment, using a variety of physical chemistry techniques. In one set of experiments we are investigating vacuum ultraviolet induced fluorescence of molecules and radicals to better understand fluorescent signatures from solar radiation. We have recently completed a study on water where lyman-α light causes a photofragmentation and OH fluorescence (J. Phys. Chem. A 122 5602 (2018)), and have recently added a discharge radical source to our apparatus. We are also studying ionic liquids, which are being considered as a fuel for next generation electrospray thrusters. To better understand the plume chemistry arising from these thrusters we are studying ionic liquids in two different ways. First, we are studying the solar effects on ionic liquid ion pairs through molecular beam, pump-probe spectroscopic methods. In this way, a two photon ionization scheme (J. Phys. Chem. A. 117 12419, PCCP 18 17037 (2016)) can be used to determine what decomposition the IL pairs will undergo during single photon absorptions in the solar environment. We also are using electrospray ionization to create IL clusters and study their thermal decomposition, following on to recent collision induced dissociation experiments (J. Phys. Chem A 122 1960 (2018)). We are seeking a student who is interested on working on one or more of these projects.


Spectrum Management Coatings
Mentor: Thomas L Peng, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Not all wavelengths of light are equally useful given specific circumstances. For example, UV light may be great for giving you a tan, but it may be better to red shift that light to longer wavelengths so that it can be more easily harvested by solar cells. Similarly, infrared light may be useful for warming your hands, but on a dark night, it may be better to blue shift that light to visible wavelengths so that this light can be used to illuminate your path. Candidates selected for this topic will be tasked with achieving this spectrum control in a deployable system by developing molecules that are efficient at absorbing specific bands of light and shifting them towards more desirable wavelengths, are reasonably transparent to wavelengths it is undesirable to perturb, are photostable so that their performance does not unacceptably degrade with use over their operational lifetime, and are fairly robust so they can tolerate use in a variety of environments such as in a hot and humid hanger or being bombarded by reactive particles in space.


Statistical Research for Laser Weapon Systems
Mentor: Matthew A Cooper, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

A critical area of research within laser systems is in developing techniques for precise control of optical beam steering for high energy laser applications. This broad area of research includes understanding atmospheric effects, long range propagation, optical theory, target acquisition, fine control of target tracking, and pose estimation. The specific project in this student effort will be modified to the background and interest of the student. Some example projects in this program have involved deep learning for jitter mitigation, developing simulations to reduce speckle and noise in imaging techniques, and running optical diagnostics in lab experiments. Interested students are highly encouraged to reach out to the primary mentor for more specific details, or to discuss potential topics.


Statistical Research for Laser Weapon Systems
Mentor: Matthew A Cooper, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

A critical area of research within laser systems is in developing techniques for precise control of optical beam steering for high energy laser applications. This broad area of research includes understanding atmospheric effects, long range propagation, optical theory, target acquisition, fine control of target tracking, and pose estimation. The specific project in this student effort will be modified to the background and interest of the student. Some example projects in this program have involved deep learning for jitter mitigation, developing simulations to reduce speckle and noise in imaging techniques, and running optical diagnostics in lab experiments.


Tunable Patch Antennae
Mentor: John Bryan Plumley, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

The Space Vehicles Directorate is actively pursuing ways to develop an electrochemically tunable patch antennae for communication space applications. Changing the metallic 2D pattern of a patch antennae effectively changes the RF frequency that it can transmit and receive. To be able the achieve this capability, the applicant must devise a way to electrochemically plate metal to form a bridge over a micron scaled dielectric gap between conductive regions on an electrode surface and conversely electrochemically remove the bridge. The applicant will be expected to experiment and try different techniques to get the metallic bridging to work in an experimental setup, such as varying the applied voltages, apply voltage pulsing, changing the electrolyte, changing the position of the working and counter electrodes, etc...


Ultrashort Pulse Laser Research
Mentor: Andreas Schmitt-Sody, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

The ultrashort pulse laser (USPL) group is seeking motivated young scientists and engineers to join the USPL team. The research in the group is focused on studying the basic physics of nonlinear USPL propagation, filamentation, plasma generation and USPL matter interaction. These laser sources have the potential to be very important to both AF and DOD applications. The laboratory facilities at AFRL are state-of-the-art and are on the leading edge of femtosecond laser research.


Ultrashort Pulse Laser Research
Mentor: Andreas Schmitt-Sody, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The ultrashort pulse laser (USPL) group is seeking motivated young scientists and engineers to join the USPL team. The research in the group is focused on studying the basic physics of nonlinear USPL propagation, filamentation, plasma generation and USPL matter interaction. These laser sources have the potential to be very important to both AF and DOD applications. The laboratory facilities at AFRL are state-of-the-art and are
on the leading edge of femtosecond laser research.


Ultrashort Pulse Laser Research
Mentor: Jennifer Elle, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Ph.D.

The ultrashort pulse laser (USPL) group is seeking young scientists and engineers to join the USPL team. Topics under investigation include laser wakefield acceleration, filamentation, and laser-solid or laser-gas interactions. Students will assist with the design and implementation of experimental hardware, build diagnostics, and perform data acquisition and analysis.


Ultrashort Pulse Laser Research
Mentor: Jennifer Elle, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

The ultrashort pulse laser (USPL) group is seeking young scientists and engineers to join the USPL team. Topics under investigation include laser wakefield acceleration, filamentation, and laser-solid or laser-gas interactions. Students will assist with the design and implementation of experimental hardware, build diagnostics, and perform data acquisition and analysis.


Ultraviolet (UV) and Vacuum Ultraviolet (VUV) Reflectivity and Transmissivity of Space Relevant Materials
Mentor: Ryan Steven Booth, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

Our research centers on the fundamental understanding of the optical properties of materials or molecules which are either used in or projected to be used in future space based operations. Specifically, the reflectance and transmittance of spacecraft materials is important in identifying spacecraft signatures. While much of these data are known for a large quantity of materials throughout the visible region of the electromagnetic spectrum (~400-700 nm), there is a lack of reliable data at wavelengths in the ultraviolet (UV) and vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) regions (~120-200 nm). Solar UV and VUV photon flux is large enough the produce detectable reflections. We plan to measure such reflectance and transmittance via a VUV/UV goniometric spectrophotometer. This instrument consists of a windowed deuterium lamp source giving light at wavelengths between 120 and 400 nm and is coupled to a monochromator and a rotating multi-sample stage. The monochromator allows scanning across the VUV/UV region with a resolution of ~0.1 nm while the rotating sample stages allow us to acquire reflectance measurements at angles from 0-180° and 0° transmittance. Compilation of reflectance measurements from various spacecraft materials will lead to modeling of the signatures caused by interaction of GEO-based space objects with the solar UV/VUV flux.


Unconventional imaging, wavefront sensing, and adaptive optics
Mentor: Mark F. Spencer, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Current imaging, wavefront-sensing, and adaptive-optics solutions are inadequate when in the presence of distributed-volume atmospheric aberrations and extended objects (aka the "deep-turbulence problem"). This shortcoming requires that we innovate towards a new solution. In leveraging a recent journal-article publication [https://doi.org/10.1364/JOSAA.36.000A20], this research opportunity will develop imaging, wavefront-sensing, and adaptive-optics approaches that sense and correct for the disturbances found all along the laser-propagation path. Overall, this volumetric solution will enable advanced remote-sensing and directed-energy functions at extended standoffs.


Unconventional Imaging, Wavefront Sensing, and Adaptive Optics
Mentor: Mark F. Spencer, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

Current imaging, wavefront-sensing, and adaptive-optics solutions are inadequate when in the presence of distributed-volume atmospheric aberrations and extended objects (aka the "deep-turbulence problem"). This shortcoming requires that we innovate towards a new solution. In leveraging a recent journal-article publication [https://doi.org/10.1364/JOSAA.36.000A20], this research opportunity will develop imaging, wavefront-sensing, and adaptive-optics approaches that sense and correct for the disturbances found all along the laser-propagation path. Overall, this volumetric solution will enable advanced remote-sensing and directed-energy functions at extended standoffs.


University Nanosatellite Program
Mentor: Jesse Olson, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

The University Nanosatellite Program (UNP) was founded in 1999 to foster satellite development expertise in young engineers and to generate new small satellite technologies on small satellite platforms. UNP works with various universities across the country to guide students in the end-to-end design and fabrication of small satellites. UNP typically selects 1 to 5 students to participate in the AFRL Scholars program to assist in this objective. Selected candidates will be required to assist in the analysis, test or documentation for the current nanosatellites preparing for launch. Often times this involves hands-on activities with the satellite. The candidates will also participate in program activities including spacecraft testing, troubleshooting, requirements verification, and providing technical expertise to other university participants within the program. Scholars may have the opportunity to accompany the UNP Office to official small satellite events during the summer. Scholars will have the opportunity to gain and swap systems engineering experience and expertise with other students and professionals in various small satellite lab programs across the US.


Validation of computer models of space-based capabilities
Mentor: Charles Francis Vaughan, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters

Space Vehicles Directorate has Advanced Framework for Simulation, Integration and Modeling (AFSIM) computer models of the Global Positioning System, space-based communication and space-based ISR. Some of these models have not been compared to or validated against other computer models or validated to data collected from real systems. Analysis of the validity of these models is needed.


Validation of computer models of space-based capabilities
Mentor: Charles Francis Vaughan, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Ph.D.

Space Vehicles Directorate has Advanced Framework for Simulation, Integration and Modeling (AFSIM) computer models of the Global Positioning System, space-based communication and space-based ISR. Some of these models have not been compared to or validated against other computer models or validated to data collected from real systems. Analysis of the validity of these models is needed.


Variable-field Hall measurements on III-V Type II superlattice
Mentor: Christian Paul Morath, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

III-V based, type II superlattice (T2SL) materials offer a potential alternative to HgCdTe for next generation infrared detectors. However, the material still suffers from minority carrier lifetime issues, which may stem from unintentional doping. Here, variable-field Hall measurements will be used to ascertain the transport properties of T2SL material. These measurements allow for multi-carrier fitting routines to be performed, which should ideally identify all the carrier types present and provide evidence towards their role, if any, in determining the lifetime.