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.

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, Upper-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 Custom Axes Controls
Mentor: Jeremy Stanford, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters

A large scale, advanced manufacturing gantry is used for multi-functional, three dimensional printing. The current configuration requires dual programming controls due to partial proprietary limitations. This project would involve attempting to replace the in situ control drives with one standard system of drives to control all axes and subsystems.


Advanced Photovoltaics for Space
Mentor: Christopher Kerestes, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: 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 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, link budget simulations and analysis, digital communications, microwave engineering, power amplifiers, antenna, signal processing, and experiment data analysis. Projects will be tailored to student’s interest and skill level. Projects will require collaboration with other students and researchers.


Advanced Satellite Communications Research
Mentor: Steven A. Lane, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

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, link budget simulations and analysis, digital communications, microwave engineering, power amplifiers, antenna, signal processing, and experiment data analysis. Projects will be tailored to student’s interest and skill level. Projects will require collaboration with other students and researchers.


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.


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 Self Balancing Cube Project
Mentor: Liam John O'Brien, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

The Nonlinear Mechatronic Cube (NLM Cube) is a demonstration device being developed by the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) Maker Hub's branch in Kirtland, New Mexico. The Maker Hub provides support services to AFRL and plays a core role in its educational outreach. The NLM cube demonstrates the physical principles of reaction wheel control systems as well as offering a platform for curriculum discussing the various mechanical, electrical, and software systems. STEM outreach needs a basic technological hook to spark interest, then be able to demonstrate the scientific principle and show engineering parameters that directly affect the technology. The NLM Cube provides that by defying the expectations of common everyday reality by balancing on its corner, and by demonstrating positive control of the subsystems as it changes attitude. The entire project illustrates the opportunities the Maker Hub offers to the Air Force community, being designed and manufactured in-house.


AI- and Palm Vision-based Assembly Navigation
Mentor: Rafael Fierro, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

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.


Allied Ground System Network Design
Mentor: Zachary Thomas Bergstedt, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

The Hybrid Architecture Demonstration is aggregating commercial, international, and government space command and control (C2) assets into a single architecture to capitalize on the strengths and weaknesses of each part of the space domain. However, the lack of a unified and interoperable ground component across allies and providers is a significant roadblock to maximizing utility of space assets. This project will focus on defining standards for interoperability, implementing an API for ground station tasking and scheduling, establishing hardware and software baselines, and developing tactics, techniques, and procedures.


Amplification of Lasers
Mentor: Jacob Robert Grosek, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

This project will involve the computer simulation of specific aspects of high-power fiber laser amplifiers. The project will compare and assess the reliability of different modeling approaches, especially in regards to fiber coiling effects. One goal will be complete a parameter sensitivity study for uncertainty quantification purposes. There is no prerequisite to understand lasers, fiber amplifiers, nor nonlinear optics - the relevant information will be taught as the project progresses.


Analysis of Space-Based Hybrid Architecture
Mentor: Zachary Thomas Bergstedt, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

The Hybrid Architecture Demonstration is aggregating commercial, international, and government space assets into a single architecture to take advantage of the strengths and weaknesses of each part of the currently disjointed space domain. This project will focus on mapping, understanding, and reporting on the cutting edge exploitation and space-based sensor capabilities that are available, if they have the potential to fill capability gaps for the HAD, and where they fit in on the road map and in the architecture.


Anchoring of a Synthetic Pattern of Life to Real World Data
Mentor: Mark Brandon Hinga, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Ground based electro-optical systems utilizing sensors operating on the visible, and infrared spectrums are largely employed for observing/tracking/characterizing Geosynchronous Satellites. Due to the great distance between the satellites and telescope systems, variations in flux or magnitude over time may be the first/only indicator of a change in modality or presence of an anomaly. Accurate predictions provide an operator or algorithm the ability to detect changes from the norm. Current sPoL need to be anchored to real world data to determine when unexpected changes occur and provide recommendations for improving methods and models.


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.


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.


Augmented Reality enabling real-time telepresence and control of dynamics
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 in dynamic environments is the interface between inspectors, the structures, and the behavior of the testing/environment. Multiple datasets need to be processed before making an objective decision about the experiment and there are multiple efforts to present humans with those experiments with monitors and remote sensing. However, ultimately it is accepted that the real-time observation of dynamic experiments benefits the understanding of the behavior of those structures. This proposal investigates both the telepresence of humans and structures across space using Augmented Reality, including the control of input forces of those experiments remotely with new human-structures interfaces in the context of experimental dynamics. The interfaces will be enabled wireless sensors networks which enable the communication between the human and the shakers or actuators through new intuitive interfaces enabled with Augmented Reality. There is another aspect of this project that will investigate the education and training opportunities to accelerate the installation and running of dynamic experiments using Augmented Reality. 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 SHM
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 Cis-Lunar Navigation of a Lagrange Point Orbiting Satellite
Mentor: Mark Brandon Hinga, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Autonomous cis- or trans-Lunar 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 solar system bodies to provide observations which enable autonomous estimation of position and velocity of the spacecraft, that can be telemetered to those interested space based or ground based consumers. An improved Gaussian-Initial Orbit Determination (IOD) algorithm, based on the exact values of the f and g series (free of the 8th order polynomial and range guessing), for spacecraft state estimation, is presented here and exercised in the inertial coordinate frame (2-Body Problem) to provide an initial guess for the Batch IOD that is performed in the Circular Restricted Three Body Problem (CRTBP) reference frame, which ultimately serves to initialize a CRTBP Extended Kalman Filter (EKF) navigator that collects angle only measurements to a known Asteroid 2014 EC (flying by the Earth) to sequentially estimate position and velocity of an observer spacecraft flying in a Halo orbit. With the addition of simulating/expressing the accelerations that would be sensed in the IMU platform frame due to delta velocities caused by either perturbations or corrective guidance maneuvers, this three phase algorithm is able to autonomously track the spacecraft state on its Cis-Lunar journey while observing the motion of the Asteroid.


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.


Beam Control Testbed for Adaptive Optical System Study
Mentor: Christopher Charles Wilcox, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

AFRL conducts studies into the various aspects to control lasers and laser systems. Adaptive optics is the set of technologies and techniques to improve the optical system performance that may be degraded from aberrations from different sources such as platform vibrations, atmospheric aberrations, aero-optical distortions, and many more. This opportunity involves the development and testing of optical hardware that can be electronically controlled to study the degradations of system performance from such sources and investigate the techniques to correct them. AFRL has a beam control testbed ready for use that houses deformable mirrors and wavefront sensors to conduct testing. Summer Scholars will have to opportunity to set up this system and work with various aspects of its existing software as well as develop custom software for connecting to and controlling the devices. Software is primarily written in LabVIEW and MATLAB. Basic experience in these software packages is preferred.


Benchmarking Processing Algorithms for Space
Mentor: Andrew Carballo Pineda, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Processing requirements for future spacecraft are expected to be very high. For example, high resolution sensors are expected to produce data at rates too high to transmit all the data to ground. Other applications generate less data, but require complicated decision making with little intervention from the ground. Size, weight and power restrictions associated with operation in space are forcing us to examine the capabilities of a broad range of processing architectures ranging from the traditional - e.g., multicore processing, many core processing with graphics processors (GPUs), Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs), Digital Signal Processors (DSPs) - to the novel - e.g., neural networks, memristor-based circuits, approximate computing, etc. Students working on this project will aid in the development and benchmarking of model processing kernels that will allow us to compare the capabilities of these architectures for various applications.


Benchmarking Processing Algorithms for Space
Mentor: Andrew Carballo Pineda, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

Processing requirements for future spacecraft are expected to be very high. For example, high resolution sensors are expected to produce data at rates too high to transmit all the data to ground. Other applications generate less data, but require complicated decision making with little intervention from the ground. Size, weight and power restrictions associated with operation in space are forcing us to examine the capabilities of a broad range of processing architectures ranging from the traditional - e.g., multicore processing, many core processing with graphics processors (GPUs), Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs), Digital Signal Processors (DSPs) - to the novel - e.g., neural networks, memristor-based circuits, approximate computing, etc. Students working on this project will aid in the development and benchmarking of model processing kernels that will allow us to compare the capabilities of these architectures for various applications.


Characterization and Modeling of Spacecraft Plumes
Mentor: Benjamin Douglas Prince, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Detection and characterization of thruster firings in orbit is a utility desired by the Air Force. In this project, the selected student will use a set of AFRL-developed software tools to examine key observables associated with simulated and actual thrust maneuvers for a variety of different propulsion systems being observed with different sensors. The findings will determine ideal sensor types and capabilities for future space missions.


Characterization of a Synthetic Pattern of Life
Mentor: Mark Brandon Hinga, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Ground based electro-optical systems utilizing sensors operating on the visible, and infrared spectrums are largely employed for observing/tracking/characterizing Geosynchronous Satellites. Due to the great distance between the satellites and telescope systems, variations in flux or magnitude over time may be the first/only indicator of a change in modality or presence of an anomaly. Accurate predictions provide an operator or algorithm the ability to detect changes from the norm. Metrics still need to be identified so that sPoL can be developed when no truth data is available to compare the model against.


Characterization of Electrode Materials for Space-Based Energy Storage
Mentor: Alec James Jackson, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: 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 tens 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 Spacecraft Plumes
Mentor: Benjamin Douglas Prince, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

Detection and characterization of thruster firings in orbit is a utility desired by the Air Force. In this project, the selected student will use a set of AFRL-developed software tools to examine key observables associated with simulated and actual thrust maneuvers for a variety of different propulsion systems being observed with different sensors. The findings will determine ideal sensor types and capabilities for future space missions.


Chemical Device Development
Mentor: Thomas L Peng, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

Interested in science and technology? Why not try spending a summer working at an AFRL laboratory attempting to develop a chemical system for establishing and removing novel coatings on a variety of materials on demand. Work during this internship can cover a wide range of areas such as preparing chemical solutions, carrying out experiments designed by in-house experts, writing computer programs, learning scientific principles, and conducting precision measurements. All required training for this internship will be provided on-site. No prior experience working in a laboratory environment or education beyond what was asked of you during your high school education is needed.


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 Experiment Fabrication
Mentor: Stacy Schramm, 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, 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, low-power computer-experiment building, and/or development and testing of new cold-atom control routines/hardware for use in future or current experiments. Also, building and engineering hardware and apparatus for current and future experiments, to include glass and silicon atom chambers.


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.


Computational Design, Fabrication, Characterization, and Development of Functional Coatings and Materials
Mentor: Thomas L Peng, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Help the Air Force Research Laboratory develop new coatings and dopants to impart novel properties, such as electrical conductivity, fluorescence, and enhanced robustness, onto a variety of materials by running computer simulations of molecules and chemical reactions.

The Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate is charged with developing new capabilities for use on space platforms. One promising approach is to capitalize on the power of chemistry to design novel molecules that inherently have properties of interest. Such an approach is sought as localizing desired properties to individual molecules enables easy deployment as the properties as such molecules can be readily imparted onto spacecraft components by integrating them into composite materials or painting them onto key surfaces. To guide experimental efforts to create such molecules, the undergraduate sought for position will be tasked with running computer simulations to predict synthetic targets for experimentalists to attempt to synthesize and support efforts to interpret experimental results. Anyone with a computer programming background and an interest in developing their skills in computational chemistry is encouraged to apply.


Computational math of laser propagation
Mentor: Max Anton Cubillos-Moraga, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Accurate modeling of laser weapon systems must overcome many computational challenges. Some of these include the vast disparity in length scales, ranging from propagation distance (kilometers) to turbulence eddies (millimeters to meters) to the wavelength of light (micrometers); multi-physics phenomena, such as thermal blooming (heating of the atmosphere by the laser, changing the index of refraction); non-isotropic and non-homogeneous turbulence, such as in aero-optics and the atmospheric boundary layer; computational fluid dynamics.

The goal of this project is to use cutting edge techniques in applied and computational math to produce more accurate and efficient models of laser propagation -- in particular, using advanced methods in numerical partial differential equations, multi-scale modeling, and boundary integral equations.


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: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Space Vehicles Directorate is actively creating many computer models of space-based capabilities using the Advanced Framework for Simulation, Integration and Modeling (AFSIM). Models of many civilian space-based capabilities (communications, some Global Navigation Satellite Systems, remote sensing, etc.) are needed but have not yet been created in AFSIM. The interested student should have experience developing computer models in C++, JAVA or AFSIM and will use that experience to specifically develop models of civilian space-based capabilities in AFSIM.


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.


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

The Advanced SatNav Technologies (AST) 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 AST 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 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 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.


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

The Advanced SatNav Technologies (AST) 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 AST 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 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 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.


Decision Making on Satellite Systems
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 is complex, 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. Techniques employed could include, but are not limited to, Machine Learning, Neural Networks, Hybrid Systems, Advanced Optimization, etc.


Design, Fabrication, Characterization, and Development of Functional Coatings and Materials
Mentor: Thomas L Peng, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Help the Air Force Research Laboratory develop new coatings and dopants to impart novel properties, such as electrical conductivity, fluorescence, and enhanced robustness, onto a variety of materials.

The Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate is charged with developing new capabilities for use on space platforms. One promising approach is to capitalize on the power of chemistry to design novel molecules that inherently have properties of interest. Such an approach is sought as localizing desired properties to individual molecules enables easy deployment as the properties as such molecules can be readily imparted onto spacecraft components by integrating them into composite materials or painting them onto key surfaces. 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 molecules anticipated to have the desired properties. Advanced manufacturing skills will be needed to fabricate test coupons and component prototypes. Material science skills will be needed to analyze test samples and evaluate their performance.

Interested in joining this effort and developing your skills in the aforementioned areas? The candidate selected for this program will be tasked with applying their scientific expertise to design new molecules, create new chemical synthesis procedures, and develop new fabrication techniques. Anyone with a desire to build their expertise in these areas is encouraged to apply.


Design of A 3D Printable 555 Timer
Mentor: Malcolm Steven Reese, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

As multi-tool 3D printing is advancing, 3D printed electronics and electronics systems are becoming more common. The goal of the AFRL Agile Manufacturing (AgMan) lab is to combine machine learning and robotics with advanced additive manufacturing to create high value, low volume systems. We have outlined 4 different stages/levels of granularity for a 3D printed RF system that utilizes a 555 timer, and the objective of this project is to design and successfully 3D print one of those stages. 555 timers are very popular integrated circuits (IC) that are used in a wide range of devices from holiday lights to motion detectors to RF systems, so a practical 3D printable design is highly beneficial for many focus fields.

Several 3D printers in the lab can be used for this project, and we will help you decide which one to use and how to use them correctly. Most likely, our multi-tool fused filament fabrication (FFF) and pneumatic direct write (PDW) combination printer will be used.


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

The Advanced SatNav Technologies (AST) 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 AST 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 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 (jamming and spoofing) elements.


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

The Advanced SatNav Technologies (AST) 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 AST 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 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 (jamming and spoofing) elements.


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.


Directed Energy Applications for Event-Based Sensors
Mentor: Nicholas John Morley, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Recent advances in camera technology have led to the development of the Event-Based Sensor (EBS), which has the potential to overcome limitations in traditional frame-based cameras. Specifically, since these devices only respond to changes, they offer the potential of dramatic improvements in traits such as dynamic range, high-speed operation, and bandwidth requirements. Because of the relatively recent technological advances, their utility for many applications remains unexplored. This project will specifically look at the potential of event-based sensors to outperform traditional frame-based cameras in complex applications including target detection and tracking for both military and consumer applications.
The Directed Energy Scholar would investigate the capabilities of the EBS within these applications. Specifically, the work would be experimental, theoretical or both. In the experimental track, the Scholar would design and conduct experiments with an EBS, with options for both lab and field experiments. In the theoretical track, the Scholar would support EBS research by conducting modeling and simulation at either the system-level or the component-level. In each case, the scholar would have the opportunity to identify and develop new EBS applications.

Example projects could include but are not limited to:
• Development and evaluation of tracking, target detection and classification, or image reconstruction algorithms
• Design and construction of EBS subsystems, including the optical system, test targets, and a camera steering system.
• Development of novel wavefront sensor applications using EBS


Dragon Army Operations: Continuous Validation for Operational Space C2 Technologies
Mentor: Emily C Bohner, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

All major military operations rely on space. Space operations are inherently software centric (arguably the one domain where software is most critical). The software world moves entirely too fast for our traditional acquisition paradigm (5+ years timeline from concept to operational use). In order to be relevant in software we need to go from “wild idea” to deploying in operations in 18-24 months. This requires streamlining and automating the process from code level to human level, including integration, security, safety, test, and training. We are seeking to implement a process of Continuous Operational Validation (DevSecDT/OTOps) by bringing people, processes and software technologies together on a two-week development and operations cadence for testing/stress-testing all of the above (people, processes, technologies). We are developing a live and live-virtual-constructive environment for operationally testing Space Control, Space C2 and Space Domain Awareness capabilities.


Dragon Army Operations: Continuous Validation for Operational Space C2 Technologies
Mentor: Emily C Bohner, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Experience with software languages/developer tools/applications: JavaScript, NodeJS, Python, C++, Unity, Unreal, C#, Grafana, Tableau, Kubernetes, GitLab, Kibana, ElasticSearch, Amazon Web Services, Atlassian suite (JIRA/Confluence), Relational Databases (MySQL), NoSQL, Kafka, REST services, Salesforce CRM
Experience with agile software development methodologies
Experience with DevOps concepts
Experience with CI/CD pipelines (Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery)
Systems Engineering mindset and desire to optimize operational workflows
Aerospace Engineering experience, coursework in orbital mechanics
Desire to gain experience in space operations (space surveillance, space object tracking, command and control)
(The ideal candidate will have a combination the skills/experience listed above)


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.


Earthshine as an Alternate Illumination Source for Daylight Imaging of Satellites
Mentor: Waid Thomas Schlaegel, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Daylight observations of satellites is a challenging task due to the adverse position of the Sun relative to the satellite. However, there are situations where sunlight reflected off of the surface of the Earth illuminates the underside of the satellite, making it visible to a sensor. In this project the chosen scholar will collect satellite imagery using one of the AFRL small telescopes and a CCD sensor. The goal of this imagery collection is to demonstrate the value of using Earthshine as an illumination source. The scholar will predict favorable passes, plan the observations, execute the observations, and post-process/analyze the collected imagery. This effort is in support of ongoing research being performed at Kirtland AFB. As such, the scholar will be interacting with many researchers to assure a successful outcome of the project.


Education Curriculum Development in Robotics
Mentor: John Bryan Plumley, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Professional Educator

To help involve and familiarize educators with STEM experimentation at the R&D level, Space Vehicles Directorate is actively pursuing educators to aid in the application of machine learning and artificial neural network for technological advancements in robotics. The applicant will be expected to utilize image recognition software and robotics hardware to train AI to perform tasks that could also be applied to satellite maintenance.


Embedded System Cyber Resiliency
Mentor: Robert W Vick, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

This project will focus on research aimed at enhancing the cyber-resiliency and mission assurance of embedded systems. Researcher will explore the use of virtualization technologies for use in real-time, embedded computing systems as a cyber-hardening approach. Current work is investigating the impact of virtualization technologies on mission assurance posturing as well as quantifying what performance costs will be experienced.


Embedded System Cyber Resiliency
Mentor: Robert W Vick, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

This project will focus on research aimed at enhancing the cyber-resiliency and mission assurance of embedded systems. Researcher will explore the use of virtualization technologies for use in real-time, embedded computing systems as a cyber-hardening approach. Current work is investigating the impact of virtualization technologies on mission assurance posturing as well as quantifying what performance costs will be experienced.


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 distant targets that are moving and maneuvering. For laser weapon systems, the tracker usually locks onto specific regions or features on the target, which is even more challenging. A number of effects hamper such efforts, including camera noise, sun glints, weather, atmospheric turbulence, optical speckle, background clutter, and a number of other 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 is designed to be relatively easy to learn and use. 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, 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 distant targets that are moving and maneuvering. For laser weapon systems, the tracker usually locks onto specific regions or features on the target, which is even more challenging. A number of effects hamper such efforts, including camera noise, sun glints, weather, atmospheric turbulence, optical speckle, background clutter, and a number of other 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 is designed to be relatively easy to learn and use. 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, 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.


Event-Based Sensor Research for DE Applications
Mentor: Nicholas John Morley, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

Recent advances in camera technology have led to the development of the Event-Based Sensor (EBS), which has the potential to overcome limitations in traditional frame-based cameras. Specifically, since these devices only respond to changes, they offer the potential of dramatic improvements in traits such as dynamic range, high-speed operation, and bandwidth requirements. Because of the relatively recent technological advances, their utility for many applications remains unexplored. This project will specifically look at the potential of event-based sensors to outperform traditional frame-based cameras in complex applications including target detection and tracking for both military and consumer applications.
The Directed Energy Scholar would investigate the capabilities of the EBS within these applications. Specifically, the work would be experimental, theoretical or both. In the experimental track, the Scholar would design and conduct experiments with an EBS, with options for both lab and field experiments. In the theoretical track, the Scholar would support EBS research by conducting modeling and simulation at either the system-level or the component-level. In each case, the scholar would have the opportunity to identify and develop new EBS applications.
Example projects could include but are not limited to:
• Development and evaluation of tracking, target detection and classification, or image reconstruction algorithms
• Design and construction of EBS subsystems, including the optical system, test targets, and a camera steering system.
• Development of novel wavefront sensor applications using EBS


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 Navigation Satellite Signals Simulation and Testing
Mentor: Charles Schramka, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

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, financial transactions, 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. As part of this effort, the experimental Navigation Technology Satellite – 3 will launch in late 2022.

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 advance the research and development effort and 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. Beneficial skills include familiarity with orbit determination and signal processing. Experience with a programming language such as Python, C++, or MatLab is also preferred. Previous familiarity with GPS is highly beneficial but not required. Ultimately, the research topic will be tailored to the intern’s interest and skill set.


Experimental Navigation Satellite Simulation and Testing
Mentor: Charles Schramka, 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, financial transactions, 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. As part of this effort, the experimental Navigation Technology Satellite – 3 will launch in late 2022.

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 advance the research and development effort and 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. Beneficial skills include familiarity with orbit determination and signal processing. Experience with a programming language such as Python, C++, or MatLab is also preferred. Previous familiarity with GPS is highly beneficial but not required. Ultimately, the research topic will be tailored to the intern’s interest and skill set.

This project is high-priority and of high-relevance to AFRL. As such, successful project completion will garner high visibility, and the Scholar may have the opportunity to brief their results to multiple organizations.


Experimental Navigation Satellite Simulation and Testing
Mentor: Charles Schramka, 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, financial transactions, 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. As part of this effort, the experimental Navigation Technology Satellite – 3 will launch in late 2022.

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 advance the research and development effort and 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. Beneficial skills include familiarity with orbit determination and signal processing. Experience with a programming language such as Python, C++, or MatLab is also preferred. Previous familiarity with GPS is highly beneficial but not required. Ultimately, the research topic will be tailored to the intern’s interest and skill set.

This project is high-priority and of high-relevance to AFRL. As such, successful project completion will garner high visibility, and the Scholar may have the opportunity to brief their results to multiple organizations.


Experimental Structure and Reactivity of Ionic Liquids
Mentor: Christopher J Annesley, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

Our laboratory is studying fundamental chemistry relating to space vehicles; we are particularly interested in ionic liquids, which show promise as inherently space compatible liquids because of their low vapor pressure. By using a novel electrospray ion trap mass spectrometer coupled with lasers, we can do two types of gas-phase experiments. The first is to do infrared and ultraviolet spectroscopy of ions at temperatures ranging from 20 Kelvin to room temperature. This low temperature, as well as the spectroscopic range, will allow us to determine the molecular structure of a larger variety of ionic liquids than previous experiments have been able to study. An accurate structure explains why bulk properties, such as the viscosity, vary significantly with small changes in structure. The second direction within the project is to study the first steps in reactions of ionic liquids. One reaction of interest is the reaction of ionic liquids and nitric acid as they undergo a hypergolic reaction, meaning that they spontaneously ignite upon mixing. We want to determine the steps that take place before combustion using our temperature- and mass-controlled ion trap, which acts as a mini-reactor. This allows us to study an isolated reaction that undergoes few collisions to remove bulk effects that have made it difficult to study these reactions in the past. By understanding the first steps of reaction, we can provide the information necessary to tailor ionic liquids to specific end goals. This project will provide the opportunity to understand, at the molecular level, species that were previously only studied in the bulk, and it will provide details about these ionic liquid systems that were not understood before.


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.


Generalized Robotic End-Effector for On-Orbit Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing
Mentor: Andrew Jacob Vogel, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

Generalized robotic end-effectors exist in every robotic system domain. When it comes to robotic servicing, assembly, and manufacturing a multitude of additional environmentally constrained factors influence the design of generalized end-effectors. AFRL is interested in exploring creative solutions to creating a generalized system capable of a wide range of on-orbit tasks.


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: Peter Mardahl, 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: 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: 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.


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).


Heterogenous Computing Architectures for Spacecraft GNC
Mentor: Richard S Zappulla, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

Several scientific and engineering disciplines have reaped the benefits of heterogeneous computing architectures and have seen impressive advances in recent years (e.g., high-performance computing). Miniaturization has allowed for high-performance, low power, and low-cost System-on-Modules (SOMs), such as the NVIDIA Jetson TX2, to permeate the embedded computing marketplace. The maturity of these systems is rapidly improving, with some embedded systems (e.g., Xavier by NVIDIA) reaching Automotive Safety Integrity Level D, ISO 26262 -- most stringent level of functional safety for automotive applications. These rapidly maturing embedded systems could soon find their way into spacecraft. In this research effort, it is desired to explore the potential of a heterogeneous computing architecture for spacecraft guidance, navigation, and control.


Heterogenous Computing Architectures for Spacecraft GNC
Mentor: Richard S Zappulla, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Several scientific and engineering disciplines have reaped the benefits of heterogeneous computing architectures and have seen impressive advances in recent years (e.g., high-performance computing). Miniaturization has allowed for high-performance, low power, and low-cost System-on-Modules (SOMs), such as the NVIDIA Jetson TX2, to permeate the embedded computing marketplace. The maturity of these systems is rapidly improving, with some embedded systems (e.g., Xavier by NVIDIA) reaching Automotive Safety Integrity Level D, ISO 26262 -- most stringent level of functional safety for automotive applications. These rapidly maturing embedded systems could soon find their way into spacecraft. In this research effort, it is desired to explore the potential of a heterogeneous computing architecture for spacecraft guidance, navigation, and control. It is highly desired if this topic is in-line with your thesis or dissertation work.


High-Fidelity Modeling of Three-Body Spacecraft Dynamics
Mentor: Alex Sizemore, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Over the past few years, an increasing amount of interest has been building towards returning to the moon. A second space race of private companies have pledged to send satellites to the Moon within the next decade. However, the dynamics involved in this regime are much more complicated than a typical Earth-orbiting satellite. Scholars applying to this topic will assist in advancing the capabilities of the Air Force in this new regime, developing high-fidelity three-body motion models and assisting in deploying them in a simulation environment.


High field ultrashort pulse laser experiments
Mentor: Wes Corbin Erbsen, 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: Wes Corbin Erbsen, 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 intensity laser-matter interactions
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. Students will direct USPL systems to gas or solid targets and study the resulting fast timescale plasma dynamics. Topics under investigation include laser wakefield acceleration, filamentation, and laser-solid or laser-gas interactions. Students will learn the basics of USPL operation, assist with the design and implementation of experimental hardware, build diagnostics, and perform data acquisition and analysis.


High Peformance Computing for Simulation of Laser Operation
Mentor: Ryan Andrew Lane, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

High power laser systems are an area of intense and sustained interest in the scientific community with applications in industry, research, and defense. Such systems are often expensive and difficult to produce and test in the laboratory. Thus, researchers often rely on sophisticated computer modeling to explore new designs and guide experimental efforts. These computer models employ a variety of numerical techniques and are highly-multi-physics often requiring the coupling of thermal, chemical, and electromagnetic governing equations. The complexity of these models requires that they be highly-parallel to operate on thousands of processors on supercomputers. This project will focus on expanding the capabilities of existing models, either by integrating new physics models or increasing the computational efficiency.


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 Pressure Photoluminescence of (Si)GeSn Alloys
Mentor: Perry Christian Grant, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

In the development of new electro-optical space sensor technologies, many issues affect the optoelectronic performance of the developing technology. Many of these issues can be traced back to the material growth. Issues such as the generation of defects in the growth of the material and the alignment of band-structure are prime examples of performance degradation avenues in sensor device technologies. Identification and strategies to mitigate generated defects allows for extremely high quality material for use in the space sensor technologies of tomorrow. Understanding band alignments of quantum structures is necessary to fully understand the ability to limit leakage currents that can cause device degradation. Few experimental techniques can be utilized to give information about both issues. The photoluminescence technique has been used to study the optical performance of grown materials before device fabrication. Bandgaps, quantum efficiency, recombination mechanisms can all be determined through the use of photoluminescence. Coupling the photoluminescence technique with the ability to apply pressure to the materials can expand the uses to include defect generation and band structure of quantum materials. Pressure perturbs the band edges of the material and defects that lie near the band edge can be moved in and out of the band gap and set up a luminescence state that cannot normally be seen. This same perturbation of the band edges can be used to identify the confinement of carriers in quantum structures as the band can be changed and thus the photoluminescence efficiency change with it. Having this knowledge can be used to improve materials and structures to produce high quality devices for electro-optical space sensors. This project offers the opportunity to use the high pressure photoluminescence characterization method to study the defect and band structure of quantum structures of new material systems being investigated by the Advanced Electro-Optical Space Sensors group.


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.


HPM Parameter Sensitivity Analysis using Machine Learning Techniques
Mentor: Ashar Ali, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

We will use the AFRL's Improved Concurrent Electromagnetic Particle-in-Cell (ICEPIC) to study various high powered microwave (HPM) devices. ICEPIC is used for modeling and prototyping these devices but ICEPIC can be quite slow and can require massive computational effort. Therefore, we would like to use machine learning techniques to speed up this process. A device can be designed very rapidly using machine learning algorithms. Afterwards, ICEPIC can be used for a more detailed and accurate analysis. This will include producing data using ICEPIC, training machine learning algorithms using the data, making predictions using the trained models, and then using ICEPIC to validate and refine the results.


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.


Impact of Non-Kolmogorov Turbulence on Beam Propagation and Turbulence Measurement
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 communications, and laser weapons.

Although researchers have developed many different types of instruments to measure the strength of atmospheric turbulence, recent measurements have shown some unexpected patterns. The strength of the turbulence can change very quickly with altitude. Further, the turbulence at any altitude often does not follow the expected theory (i.e., Kolmogorov theory). This research will use computer simulations to study such turbulence by propagating a simulated laser beam through it. It will use data from very accurate experimental measurements of turbulence to define the turbulence strength versus altitude for the simulations. It will then compare laser beams after propagation through the measured turbulence to laser beams after propagation through equivalent Kolmogorov turbulence. Further, it will consider different methods for modeling the turbulence (i.e., methods for creating optical “phase screens” to represent the turbulence) to seek the best balance between speed and accuracy. Additionally, it will investigate the ability of our common (medium-accuracy) 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 focus on optics, engineering, computer programming, or mathematics. In any case, some computer programming will be needed.


Impact of Non-Kolmogorov Turbulence on Beam Propagation and Turbulence Measurement
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 communications, and laser weapons.

Although researchers have developed many different types of instruments to measure the strength of atmospheric turbulence, recent measurements have shown some unexpected patterns. The strength of the turbulence can change very quickly with altitude. Further, the turbulence at any altitude often does not follow the expected theory (i.e., Kolmogorov theory). This research will use computer simulations to study such turbulence by propagating a simulated laser beam through it. It will use data from very accurate experimental measurements of turbulence to define the turbulence strength versus altitude for the simulations. It will then compare laser beams after propagation through the measured turbulence to laser beams after propagation through equivalent Kolmogorov turbulence. Further, it will consider different methods for modeling the turbulence (i.e., methods for creating optical “phase screens” to represent the turbulence) to seek the best balance between speed and accuracy. Additionally, it will investigate the ability of our common (medium-accuracy) 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 focus on optics, engineering, computer programming, or mathematics. In any case, some computer programming will be needed.


Investigation into the aero-optical component of the jitter for airborne directed energy systems
Mentor: Matthew Robert Kemnetz, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

One of the major quantities of interest for airborne laser systems is the unsteady variation in the pointing direction of the beam, or jitter. In airborne laser systems, the beam jitter is usually thought of as sourced from two components. The component of the jitter caused by mechanical vibration of the optical table, optical elements, etc. is called mechanical jitter. The component of jitter caused by flow structures on the order of the aperture size is called the aero-optical jitter. In typical experiments, information pertaining to the aero-optical component of the jitter is almost always corrupted by mechanical disturbances and is typically removed from the data. For this reason, much is unknown about the nature of aero-optical jitter disturbances. In the Aero-Effects Laboratory at AFRL we study, among other topics, the aero-optical component of the jitter and its relationship to target tracking performance. This study often involves both experimental work, as well as high fidelity simulations of the aero-optical environment. This project will involve closely guided and mentored research into the aero-optical jitter generated by canonical flows.


Investigation of the enhancement of the luminescence and gain of bismuth doped germanate glasses in the O-band via alterations of the composition of the base glass
Mentor: Leanne Joan Henry, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

The focus of this project will be on enhancing the luminescence and gain of bismuth doped germanate glasses in the O-band (1250-1350 nm) via alterations in the composition of the base glass. The student will first fabricate a series of glasses, varying components of the composition of the base glass matrix. This will involve determining the weights of the various raw materials for the composition being fabricated, weighing out and mixing the raw materials, and finally, melting / casting / annealing the glass. Next, the student will polish the resultant piece of glass so as to obtain parallel surfaces having good optical quality. After this, the student will then fully characterize the glass by carrying out: 1. UV-Vis-IR absorption spectroscopy, 2. Luminescence / lifetime spectroscopy, 3. measurement of the density of the glass, 4. Differential scanning calorimetry, and if necessary, 5. FTIR. For select samples, x-ray diffraction will be carried out at the University of New Mexico. Once the characterization data has been obtained, the student will analyze the data for trends as well as to guide future experiments. Relevant plots and other data will then be put into PowerPoint slides that will form the basis of a presentation at the end of the internship. The end goal of the project would be to obtain a scientific publication. Aside from this, the student will also learn the procedure for fabricating mid-infrared glasses based on tellurites.


Investigation of the enhancement of the luminescence and gain of bismuth doped germanate glasses in the O-band via alterations of the composition of the base glass
Mentor: Leanne Joan Henry, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Professional Educator

The focus of this project will be on enhancing the luminescence and gain of bismuth in the O-band (1250-1350 nm) via alterations in the composition of the base glass. The scholar will first fabricate a series of glasses, varying components of the composition of the base glass matrix. This will involve determining the weights of the various raw materials for the composition being fabricated, weighing out and mixing the raw materials, and finally, melting / casting / annealing the glass. Next, the scholar will polish the resultant piece of glass so as to obtain parallel surfaces having good optical quality. After this, the scholar will then fully characterize the glass by carrying out: 1. UV-Vis-IR absorption spectroscopy, 2. Luminescence / lifetime spectroscopy, 3. measurement of the density of the glass, 4. Differential scanning calorimetry, and if necessary, 5. FTIR. For select samples, x-ray diffraction will be carried out at the University of New Mexico. Once the characterization data has been obtained, the scholar will analyze the data for trends as well as to guide future experiments. Relevant plots and other data will then be put into PowerPoint slides that will be components of a presentation at the end of the internship. The end goal of the project would be to obtain a scientific publication


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.


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 Material Interaction Modeling
Mentor: Darren Patrick Luke, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The Laser Effects Modeling and Simulation Branch within AFRL conducts laser material interaction testing to help assess the military utility of pulse and continuous wave lasers in offensive/defensive mission areas. The research includes laser interaction testing against relevant materials/components, physics based modeling of target effects and vulnerability assessments of military systems. The successful applicant will conduct research in one of these three areas to help accelerate on-going projects. My primary research focus area is developing and applying physics-based models for predicting failure of components during laser heating, although the other two areas may be considered depending on experience/interest. No direct prior experience is expected but relevant coursework or internships may provide an advantage.


Learning algorithms in closed loop systems
Mentor: Robert L. Johnson, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

The Starfire Optical Range has recently implemented simple learning algorithms into closed loop systems. The scholar will investigate other learning algorithms, and recommend options to increase performance, efficiency, or stability within the closed loop system. The scholar will test the selected algorithms in simulation, and see the best candidate algorithm implemented either in a lab-based system, or on the Starfire Optical Range 3.5-m telescope. In case this turns out to be a virtual learning experience, the scholar will build a closed-loop system (perhaps a robot) to test the learning algorithms.


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

Extra‐laboratory atomic clocks are necessary for a wide array of applications (e.g. satellite‐based navigation and communication). Current GPS clock technologies tend to have high instabilities, due in large part to optical power fluctuations, as they are the most difficult clock instability mechanisms to suppress. We are currently investigating optical frequency standards as a future enabling technology. We are also investigating low phase noise frequency sources. The sources can provide precise timing information for a short duration.


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 in equatorial ionospheric irregularities and scintillation
Mentor: Chaosong Huang, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: 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: 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

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.


Millimeter Wave Applications R&D
Mentor: Anthony Eloy Baros, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

This project will involve working in the AFRL/RDHP millimeter-wave (mmW) test and measurement laboratory. The selected applicant will have the opportunity to assist our team in the development of materials which have dielectric, thermal, and mechanical properties suitable for use in a variety of applications of interest to the DOD. This will involve mastery and use of laboratory equipment such as a Vector Network Analyzer (VNA), Vacuum Induction Furnace, Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) cameras and software. In addition, the selected applicant will assist in the development and operation of Vacuum Electron Device (VED)-based mmW sources, such as Extended Interaction Klystron (EIK) systems and gyrotron-based systems, from low to high power (10's of watts to 100 kilo-watt), both continuous-wave (CW) and repetition-rate. These sources are used to produce the mmW radiation used in the material development efforts. The selected applicant may also have the opportunity to develop skills in performing free-space microwave material measurements using focused Gaussian beams. The majority of the work is anticipated to be in an indoor laboratory and office setting, but may also include to a lesser extent working outdoors at the site of our high-power millimeter wave transmitting system, and/or at an outdoor test range environment.


Millimeter Wave Applications R&D
Mentor: Anthony Eloy Baros, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters

This project will involve working in the AFRL/RDHP millimeter-wave (mmW) test and measurement laboratory. The selected applicant will have the opportunity to assist our team in the development of materials which have dielectric, thermal, and mechanical properties suitable for use in a variety of applications of interest to the DOD. This will involve mastery and use of laboratory equipment such as a Vector Network Analyzer (VNA), Vacuum Induction Furnace, Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) cameras and software. In addition, the selected applicant will assist in the development and operation of Vacuum Electron Device (VED)-based mmW sources, such as Extended Interaction Klystron (EIK) systems and gyrotron-based systems, from low to high power (10's of watts to 100 kilo-watt), both continuous-wave (CW) and repetition-rate. These sources are used to produce the mmW radiation used in the material development efforts. The selected applicant may also have the opportunity to develop skills in performing free-space microwave material measurements using focused Gaussian beams. The majority of the work is anticipated to be in an indoor laboratory and office setting, but may also include to a lesser extent working outdoors at the site of our high-power millimeter wave transmitting system, and/or at an outdoor test range environment.


Misc. Architecture, Engineering, and Construction Projects
Mentor: Priscilla Ohta, 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. The Infrastructure Management Branch oversees all PRS facilities and these positions support multiple RV and RD programs.


Misc. Architecture, Engineering, and Construction Projects
Mentor: Priscilla Ohta, 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. The Infrastructure Management Branch oversees all PRS facilities and these positions support multiple RV and RD programs.


Misc. Architecture, Engineering, and Construction Projects
Mentor: Priscilla Ohta, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, 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. The Infrastructure Management Branch oversees all PRS facilities and these positions support multiple RV and RD programs.


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 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 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: Jacob Robert Grosek, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

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 & Simulation of Heat in High Power Laser Systems
Mentor: Ryan Andrew Lane, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

High power lasers are a critical tool in industry, research, and defense. There are many types of laser sources that use diverse types of materials to amplify light. Examples include rare-earth doped fiber amplifiers, gas lasers, and solid-state lasers. Each type of laser has unique properties that can be advantageous or challenging for particular applications. A near-universal challenge for high power lasers is heat dissipation. Computer simulation of high power laser systems permits exploring how its advantageous properties can be harnessed and its challenges mitigated. This project will focus on building and using computer models to understand how the heat generated by laser operation will affect laser output power, beam quality, and other metrics and how the heat can be effectively managed.


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 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.


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.


Multiagent Autonomous Systems
Mentor: Rafael Fierro, Directed Energy
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 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.


Multi-Tool 3D Printing
Mentor: Malcolm Steven Reese, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

The main goal of this project is to streamline the process for joint fused filament fabrication (FFF) and pneumatic direct write (PDW) 3D printer systems. We use printers like this to print conductive pastes side by side with engineering-grade plastics to produce embedded electronics systems that are fully 3D printable. Currently, the process involves several layers of software interaction as well as a custom post-processing script to have repeatably high quality parts. You will investigate the current process we use, ways we can improve on that process, and new software that could simplify the process.

By the end of the summer, we hope to have a "1-stop" solution where a 3D model is input and a immediately usable machine code is output without the user having to then process through several other software or post-processors. This could mean linking each step automatically with a script, or maybe just finding one software solution for all of the needs we have.

Hopefully, this process will also be applicable to larger multi-tool systems such as a system that contains the following:
1 high temperature FFF print head
1 regular temperature FFF print head
1 PDW print head
1 subtractive tool head


neural network investigation of plasma formation in HPEM devices
Mentor: Ryan Edward Phillips, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

The modeling and simulation development group is looking for motivated young computer scientists, mathematicians, and physicists, and engineers to join our team. Using AFRL’s flagship particle in cell code ICEPIC, students will model high power electromagnetic (HPEM) devices to develop a model for plasma generation based on machine learning results and the physics of the problem to make recommendations on device design specs for real world applications on deployable devices. neural network created plasma generation models are needed to answer long standing questions of the ICEPIC team. Students will learn proper software development techniques includeing machine learning, plasma physics of HPEM devices, use of the Air Force’s world leading High Performance Computing resources, post-processing/ data analysis, and iterative prototyping.

This project is a great way to gauge if a career in the national lab setting would be a good fit for you. In addition to the science goals listed above, students will receive mentorship and career advice from world class scientists and pioneers in their fields.


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.


nonlinear effects on ultra short pulse laser propagation
Mentor: Ryan Edward Phillips, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The ultrashort pulse laser (USPL) modeling group is seeking young computer scientists, physicists, mathematicians, and engineers to join the USPL team. Using a Julia based generalized unidirectional pulse propagation equation code, students will model laser induced plasma filamentation in direct support of experimental efforts. The rich and complex nature of the physics involved in filamentation necessitates new features be added to the existing code framework such as turbulence and arbitrary polarization laser support. The new physics is needed to answer long standing questions about the group's experimental filamentation results. Students will learn to use a new emerging computer language, the Air Force's world leading High Performance Computing (HPC) resources, develop and implement new physics models into a software framework, rapid prototype new simulations based on experimental feedback, and perform post-processing and data analysis.

Students will receive an in depth view of what a career in a national lab setting will be like. If you're not sure about going into academia, this is an opportunity to see what other options look like.


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.


Novel fiber lasers
Mentor: Brian Matthew Anderson, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The Novel High Energy Laser program is tasked with developing new laser sources for a variety of pulsed and CW applications, including those for active illumination and those for high energy laser applications, covering a wavelength range from the near infrared to mid-infrared. In particular, beam combined fiber lasers are a promising laser source scalable to the power levels needed for many DoD applications. However, the high intensities present in the optical fibers result in wide range of nonlinear effects that must be understood and mitigated. Primarily, stimulated Brillouin scattering (SBS), thermal mode instability (TMI), and the Kerr nonlinearity are key challenges to designing robust high power fiber amplifiers. Critical to improving performance of fiber lasers is to understand the temporal dynamics of these nonlinearities, understand their varying limitations in different gain media, their variations given limitations in manufacturing capabilities, and to understand any potential coupling between these nonlinearities with the external environment. Depending on the scholars interests and background, a variety of both experimental and modeling and simulation opportunities exist, including: Investigations on beam combination, optimization of novel optical modulation formats for suppression of the nonlinear effects, design of unique waveguides for improved performance, and characterization of nonlinear effects in high power fiber amplifiers.


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.


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: 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.


On-Orbit Neuromorphic Processing for Spacecraft
Mentor: Joshua R Donckels, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Machine learning is a powerful technique that can enable many next-generation applications for the DoD. This is why I and our team have great interest in this topic. I work in the Space Electronics Technology (SET) program in the Space Vehicles directorate of AFRL, specifically the Spacecraft Performance Architectures and Computing Environment Research (SPACER) laboratory. We work with various satellite processing architectures and based around the algorithm being looked at, complete trade-studies to produce the best recommendations and/or predictions for newer technologies. The idea of on-orbit processing could expand the capabilities greatly of next-generation space systems, but there are strict power limitations and the harsh effects that space radiation has on electronics. That is why neuromorphic and bio-inspired hardware is of interest to our group, as they complete highly parallelized processing at a fraction of the cost of traditional modern processors in specific cases, and have shown a good resiliency to bit flips during processing. We will explore many aspects of these systems and how well they can perform, which could broaden out into spiking neural networks or possibly lifelong learning training methods. Another possibility could involve improving and experimenting with neural network models for space related imagery and optimizing them for edge processing on-orbit.


On-Orbit Neuromorphic Processing for Spacecraft
Mentor: Joshua R Donckels, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Machine learning is a powerful technique that can enable many next-generation applications for the DoD. This is why I and our team have great interest in this topic. I work in the Space Electronics Technology (SET) program in the Space Vehicles directorate of AFRL, specifically the Spacecraft Performance Architectures and Computing Environment Research (SPACER) laboratory. We work with various satellite processing architectures and based around the algorithm being looked at, complete trade-studies to produce the best recommendations and/or predictions for newer technologies. The idea of on-orbit processing could expand the capabilities greatly of next-generation space systems, but there are strict power limitations and the harsh effects that space radiation has on electronics. That is why neuromorphic and bio-inspired hardware is of interest to our group, as they complete highly parallelized processing at a fraction of the cost of traditional modern processors in specific cases, and have shown a good resiliency to bit flips during processing. We will explore many aspects of these systems and how well they can perform, which could broaden out into spiking neural networks or possibly lifelong learning training methods. Another possibility could involve improving and experimenting with neural network models for space related imagery and optimizing them for edge processing on-orbit.


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 dynamics of spacecraft materials under simulated GEO space weather exposure
Mentor: Ryan Hoffmann, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

One way to detect and identify spacecraft is to gather the sunlight reflected from the spacecraft as it orbits overhead. These data contain a huge amount of information about the position, composition and intent of the spacecraft that is difficult to obtain in any other way. However, these light curves are dependent on the spacecraft surface materials and they are know to change in response to space weather exposure. So to make the most use of these types of data, we must understand how the reflectivity of spacecraft materials change.
During this project you will interface with the spacecraft observing community and lab based scientist to quantify the degree of optical changes to common spacecraft materials under simulated GEO exposure in the lab. These data will then be applied to observations of spacecraft in modeling software to recreate the complex light curve of real space objects.


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.


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.


Optically Pumped Lasers
Mentor: Greg A. Pitz, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

This topic involces conducting research and development in the field of optically pumped lasers. There various thrusts in this area including diode pumped alkali lasers as well as optically pumped rare gas lasers.  Experimental area includes small scale laser demonstrations,and pressure broadening and shift rate explorations. There is also oppurtunity to develop and test advanced diagnostics for enhancing the understanding of these systems.


Optical Turbulence Power Spectrum Analysis
Mentor: Melissa Kay Beason, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Accurate measurements of fundamental turbulence parameters along the propagation path are essential to understanding the atmosphere’s impact on a laser beam and to developing appropriate beam control methods to ensure the success of directed-energy missions. It is commonly accepted that turbulence statistics follow the classical Kolmogorov power law. However, researchers have recently begun to measure deviations in spectral power which could have a significant impact on our ability to use beam control to compensate for turbulence effects. In this research activity, the scholar may participate in field measurements incorporating a variety of turbulence measurement devices including a Hartmann Turbulence Sensor (HTS) and sonic anemometers and will analyze data from these devices using a more generalized turbulence theory to determine frequency, magnitude, and predominance of deviation from the Kolmogorov assumption.


Optical Turbulence Power Spectrum Analysis
Mentor: Melissa Kay Beason, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

Accurate measurements of fundamental turbulence parameters along the propagation path are essential to understanding the atmosphere’s impact on a laser beam and to developing appropriate beam control methods to ensure the success of directed-energy missions. It is commonly accepted that turbulence statistics follow the classical Kolmogorov power law. However, researchers have recently begun to measure deviations in spectral power which could have a significant impact on our ability to use beam control to compensate for turbulence effects. In this research activity, the scholar may participate in field measurements incorporating a variety of turbulence measurement devices including a Hartmann Turbulence Sensor (HTS) and sonic anemometers and will analyze data from these devices using a more generalized turbulence theory to determine frequency, magnitude, and predominance of deviation from the Kolmogorov assumption.


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.


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.


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 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.


Predictive Path Determination for On-Orbit Servicing
Mentor: Andrew Jacob Vogel, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters

On-orbit servicing has recent arrived on-scene as a potentially beneficial endeavour for the USSF. In the on-orbit servicing paradigm, it may be necessary to service a craft whose Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GNC) is malfunctioning. In this case, the path that the client craft will follow is more difficult to extrapolate. AFRL is interested in developing novel ways to predict what these semi-random paths may look like over time.


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: 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.


Rad-hard infrared detector material and device simulation using TCAD
Mentor: Christian Paul Morath, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Modeling of new infrared detector materials and device designs is needed to determine which underlying physical mechanisms are dominate and to make predictions about trends in the behavior and performance. Here, applicants will use AFRL's Silvaco TCAD program to simulate the conductivity of InGaAs/InAsSb superlattices and other materials and the performance of various barrier-detector designs. For detectors intended for space, radiation effects are vital to understand and their effects will also be considered here.


Radio Astronomy Techniques for Studying the Earth/Space Environment
Mentor: Kenneth S Obenberger, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

While the majority of radio based studies of the ionosphere use active transmissions, the goal of this project is to explore passive techniques that have only recently been made available, thanks to large, low frequency radio telescopes such as the Long Wavelength Array (LWA) in New Mexico. With unparalleled frequency coverage, field of view, duty cycle, angular and temporal resolution, the LWA radio telescopes are the world’s foremost instruments for passively studying the ionosphere. Students can pick from multiple topics related to this project which include:

1. Imaging riometry for studying atmospheric gravity/acoustic waves in the ionospheric D layer
2. Geolocating, tracking, and measuring electron density of sporadic E structures using unintentional radio noise from the electrical grid as a wide spread radar source
3. Studying the connection between Meteor Radio Afterglows and persistent trains


Radiometric and Radiation Characterization of III-V Barrier Architecture IR Detectors
Mentor: Vince Cowan, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The AF and DOD as a whole would like to increase the operating temperature of VIS-LWIR detectors.  The goal of this topic is to better understand the fundamental mechanisms that drive the overall dark current in III-V based barrier architecture detectors such as, but not limited to, nBn, pBp, complementary barriers, etc.  By developing an in-depth understanding of the mechanisms that limit performance it is anticipated that improved barrier architecture detector designs will result in detectors that can be operated at higher temperatures resulting in an eliminated or reduced need for cryocoolers.  Summer research thrusts can be in several areas including: dark current, QE, and noise measurements.  These detectors will ultimately be utilized in a space environment so there is keen interest in understanding their performance when subjected to ionizing radiation.  Deliverables from this research will ultimately dictate the path forward in future detector growth-characterization campaigns.


Radiometric and Radiation Tollerance Characterization of III-V Barrier Architecture IR Detectors
Mentor: Vince Cowan, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

The AF and DOD as a whole would like to increase the operating temperature of VIS-LWIR detectors. The goal of this topic is to better understand the fundamental mechanisms that drive the overall dark current in III-V based barrier architecture detectors such as, but not limited to, nBn, pBp, complementary barriers, etc. By developing an in-depth understanding of the mechanisms that limit performance it is anticipated that improved barrier architecture detector designs will result in detectors that can be operated at higher temperatures resulting in an eliminated or reduced need for cryocoolers. Summer research thrusts can be in several areas including: dark current, QE, and noise measurements. These detectors will ultimately be utilized in a space environment so there is keen interest in understanding their performance when subjected to ionizing radiation. Deliverables from this research will ultimately dictate the path forward in future detector growth-characterization campaigns.


Radiometric and Radiation Tollerance Characterization of III-V Barrier Architecture IR Detectors
Mentor: Vince Cowan, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

The AF and DOD as a whole would like to increase the operating temperature of VIS-LWIR detectors. The goal of this topic is to better understand the fundamental mechanisms that drive the overall dark current in III-V based barrier architecture detectors such as, but not limited to, nBn, pBp, complementary barriers, etc. By developing an in-depth understanding of the mechanisms that limit performance it is anticipated that improved barrier architecture detector designs will result in detectors that can be operated at higher temperatures resulting in an eliminated or reduced need for cryocoolers. Summer research thrusts can be in several areas including: dark current, QE, and noise measurements. These detectors will ultimately be utilized in a space environment so there is keen interest in understanding their performance when subjected to ionizing radiation. Deliverables from this research will ultimately dictate the path forward in future detector growth-characterization campaigns.


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.


Relative Motion Models under the Effects Three Body-Dynamics
Mentor: Alex Sizemore, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The study of relative motion between multiple resident space objects allows for the modeling and simulation of their interactions. Recent pushes toward spacecraft operating in this regime, such as the Gateway project developed by NASA, will require a new suite of relative motion models to be developed and tested for the new operating environment. Scholars applying to this topic will assist in advancing the capabilities of the Air Force in this new regime, developing and testing new relative motion models.


Robotic Manipulation of Deformable Objects
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. Using a Barrett Technology Whole Arm Manipulator (WAM) hand with a palm vision scanner and tactile sensors in the fingers, we will explore manipulation of deformable/soft objects. Specifically, we will investigate,
- Grasping and manipulation for deformable objects
- Visual & tactile sensing for manipulation of deformable objects
- Machine learning for manipulation of deformable objects


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.


Satellite Deployable Structures Research
Mentor: Niccoli Navarro Scalice, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters

The new generation of deployable space structures utilize thin, high-strain composite components in place of traditional metallic mechanisms. These high-strain composites offer many benefits including the ability to stow into much smaller volumes, being much lighter weight, and having near-zero coefficients of thermal expansion. The challenges of designing structural systems utilizing these composites include their integration into larger satellite systems. Using holistic design approaches that consider the effects of a subsystem on the larger system’s performance, and the ability to balance all strengths and weaknesses of a given design is vital.
With guidance, students will investigate novel deployable structure designs and integration concepts to maximize deployment reliability, stowage efficiency, and performance of deployable structures for future Air Force and DoD satellites. Students will have access to CAD modeling software (SolidWorks), Computational and FEM software (MatLab, ANSYS), and AFRL’s state-of-the-art fabrication facilities. Students will be expected to participate in the production of composite components and other hardware to support testing of their designs.


Satellite Reachability and Energy Maneuverability
Mentor: Ryan Coder, Directed Energy
Location: AMOS
Academic Level: Ph.D.

General theory has been established for describing the "range" a satellite may reach for specific amounts of fuel (e.g. delta-V) [1]. This has been expanded to include not only approaches which minimize fuel, but has been expanded to include continuum's of fuel optimal maneuvers which can be accomplished given finite planning horizons [2]. This methodology could then logically be coupled with game theory, which could establish physics-based constraints on the ability for satellites rendezvous [3]. This work would seek to add the critical element of time delayed feedback, where the actions of any satellite seeking to rendezvous with another are informed by delayed, imperfect knowledge of the movement of the secondary satellite.

[1] Holzinger, Marcus J., Daniel J. Scheeres, and R. Scott Erwin. "On-Orbit Operational Range Computation Using Gauss’s Variational Equations with J 2 Perturbations." Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics 37.2 (2014): 608-622.
[2] Brew, Julian, Marcus J. Holzinger, and Stefan R. Schuet. "Reachability subspace exploration using continuation methods." (2017).
[3] Prince, Eric R., et al. "Elliptical Orbit Proximity Operations Differential Games." Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics 42.7 (2019): 1458-1472.


Satellite Rendezvous & Proximity Operations Characterization
Mentor: Zachary Kahl Funke, Directed Energy
Location: AMOS
Academic Level: Ph.D.

The Air Force Maui Optical & Supercomputing Site is researching the application of new algorithms and techniques to apply to a coordinated network of space surveillance sensors for the purpose of observing and characterizing close encounters between satellites in an effective and autonomous manner. While accidental orbital conjunctions occur from time to time, this project is focused on intentional activity that may be considered interesting or possibly threatening. There are inherent challenges with observing and characterizing these rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO), such as inability to resolve distinct objects at close separations, properly keeping track of which object is which using relatively sparse observations, accurate knowledge of objects' trajectories when small and frequent maneuvers are taking place, and timely indication that one object appears to be planning or initiating RPO with another object.

It is believed that these challenges would be best addressed by exploring new techniques and algorithms that enable a sensor network to do the following things:

1. More quickly and accurately determine an object's orbit, i.e. position and velocity, for the purposes of characterizing RPO activity
2. More robustly handle objects which maneuver frequently and slightly, and accurately characterize those maneuvers
3. More robustly identify and associate objects, for example by using a logical reduction of raw optical imagery which associates objects based on their brightness or other characteristics in addition to their orbital motion
4. Autonomously task telescopes in such a way as to balance the information gain of characterizing an ongoing RPO situation with other competing requirements on those telescopes, such as custody of objects in different parts of the sky


Satellite Structural Systems Research
Mentor: Niccoli Navarro Scalice, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

The new generation of deployable space structures utilize thin, high-strain composite components in place of traditional metallic mechanisms. These high-strain composites offer many benefits including the ability to stow into much smaller volumes, being much lighter weight, and having near-zero coefficients of thermal expansion. The challenges of designing structural systems utilizing these composites include their integration into larger satellite systems. Using holistic design approaches that consider the effects of a subsystem on the larger system’s performance, and the ability to balance all strengths and weaknesses of a given design is vital.
With guidance, students will investigate novel technology applications, composite component designs, and/or deployable structure designs to further development of deployable structures for future Air Force and DoD satellites. Students will have access to CAD modeling software (SolidWorks), Computational and FEM software (MatLab, ANSYS), and AFRL’s state-of-the-art fabrication facilities. Students will be expected to participate in the production of composite components and other hardware to support testing of their designs.


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: Lower-level Undergraduate, 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.


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.


Sodium Laser Beacon and LIDAR
Mentor: Robert L. Johnson, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

o compensate for the distortion of light by the atmosphere, observatories with large telescopes generate a beacon using the fluorescence of sodium atoms in the mesosphere. This technique is called laser-beacon adaptive optics. At the Starfire Optical Range, we have two Raman-fiber amplified lasers, which we combine to produce a beacon. Work under this project will include modeling and simulating the Bloch equations, which govern the interaction of light produced by these lasers with the sodium atoms in the mesosphere. Because the brightness of the laser beacon depends on the sodium height and concentration, additional work may include building a sodium LIDAR system to monitor the sodium in the mesosphere. Depending on the scholar's, an internship under this project may involve computer modeling, laboratory work, or theoretical analyses.


Software Design for Modular Spacecraft Flight Software
Mentor: Mark Mercier, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Investigate existing flight software architectures and evaluate their application to modular space asset application. Survey should include NASA Core Flight Software and ROS-based flight software. Software development will include the implementation of these existing software solutions into Processor-In-the-Loop lab facilities. Research performed during this project will include the development of novel enabling software packages to extend flight software capabilities to operate in novel domains. Exploration during this project could also include unique software/hardware interactions through state-of-the-art processor technology.


Software Design for Modular Spacecraft Flight Software
Mentor: Mark Mercier, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Investigate existing flight software architectures and evaluate their application to modular space asset application. Survey should include NASA Core Flight Software and ROS-based flight software. Software development will include the implementation of these existing software solutions into Processor-In-the-Loop lab facilities. Research performed during this project will include the development of novel enabling software packages to extend flight software capabilities to operate in unique applications. Exploration during this project could also include unique software/hardware interactions through state-of-the-art processor technology.


Software Development and Analysis using AFSIM to Support Directed Energy Modeling, Simulation, and Analysis
Mentor: Joseph Aldrich, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

AFRL/RD (Wargaming and Simulation Branch) conducts experiments on Directed Energy technologies that require mission-level modeling, simulation, and analysis (MS&A) to translate engagement data collected during experiments into a Military Utility Assessment (MUA). The RD branch will be completing mission-level MS&A and wargames in Summer 2021 to show military utility of systems. RD is seeking an intern who would like to support a senior analyst in developing mission-level analysis in AFSIM and analyzing the results.


Solid Oxide Fuel Cells
Mentor: John Bryan Plumley, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

The Space Vehicles Directorate is actively pursuing ways to develop solid oxide fuel cells for use in space applications. Specifically, atmosphere-independent solid oxide fuel cells (AISOFC) are of interest to power space satellites. To help realize this capability, the applicant must assist in assembling an in-lab fuel cell testing setup to test and evaluate cell performance using one or more oxidizers. The applicant will be expected to run fuel cell testing experiments and be able to run a potentiostat and use Gamry software to collect voltage, impedance data, and I-V curves at different temperatures.


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.


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 Avionics Network Modeling and Simulation
Mentor: Robert W Vick, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Students will work with existing spacecraft or network modeling and simulation tools to develop avionics component models and develop and simulate spacecraft avionics architectures to test a variety of characteristics. Several existing commercial, open-source, and Government-developed tools will be provided on a test system as well as data about spacecraft components to for modeling.


Spacecraft Avionics Network Modeling and Simulation
Mentor: Robert W Vick, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Students will work with existing spacecraft or network modeling and simulation tools to develop avionics component models and develop and simulate spacecraft avionics architectures to test a variety of characteristics. Several existing commercial, open-source, and Government-developed tools will be provided on a test system as well as data about spacecraft components to for modeling.


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

The AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate develops and flies unique experimental satellites that present unique challenges and require specialized software tools for each mission. Scholars will train as a Flight Director (team lead) or Mission Planner (master vehicle command scheduler) on one or more currently on-orbit missions, with the ability to delve into technical and operations processes, identify areas for improvement, and implement improvements alongside vehicle and ground system experts. Additionally, scholars will assist in developing operations and training materials and investigate the causes of new or on-going anomalies. More opportunities for other development may be available depending on missions in development and student interests.


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.


Speed limits in supersonically rotating plasmas
Mentor: Remington Reid, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

When magnetized plasmas are subjected to very rapid rotation (10s - 100s km/s) there is a rich interplay between stabilizing centrifugal forces and competing instabilities that limit the rotation rate and degrade the plasma. This project is part of an experimental campaign to understand and overcome observed upper limits on the rotation speed. We create rotating plasmas using pulsed, high voltage electric currents to both ignite the plasmas and drive rotation. Students will gain hands-on experience through the process of designing an instrument, using the instrument to collect data and processing the data to understand their data.


Testing a new model for imaging and tracking of distant targets
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 distant targets that are moving and maneuvering. For laser weapon systems, the tracker usually locks onto specific regions or features on the target, which is even more challenging. A number of effects hamper such efforts, including camera noise, sun glints, weather, atmospheric turbulence, optical speckle, background clutter, and a number of other factors that require more research. AFRL recently prototyped a new software package for the study of target tracking. It is known as ETEM. It allows one to model the performance of a tracking system against various targets under various conditions. ETEM is a physics-based simulation package written in C++ and designed to run primarily on the Department of Defense supercomputers. Because it runs on the supercomputers, it allows very large studies, automated optimization, uncertainty quantification, and such. However, running on the supercomputers also adds some complexity and difficulty. The user adjusts the simulations either by using the new Graphical User Interface (GUI) or by editing text files. Because ETEM is new, it still requires a lot of testing and bug fixes. The scholar will spend the first part of the summer assisting in those efforts. Time and interest permitting, the scholar will also run the 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.


Testing a new model for imaging and tracking of distant targets
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 distant targets that are moving and maneuvering. For laser weapon systems, the tracker usually locks onto specific regions or features on the target, which is even more challenging. A number of effects hamper such efforts, including camera noise, sun glints, weather, atmospheric turbulence, optical speckle, background clutter, and a number of other factors that require more research. AFRL recently prototyped a new software package for the study of target tracking. It is known as ETEM. It allows one to model the performance of a tracking system against various targets under various conditions. ETEM is a physics-based simulation package written in C++ and designed to run primarily on the Department of Defense supercomputers. Because it runs on the supercomputers, it allows very large studies, automated optimization, uncertainty quantification, and such. However, running on the supercomputers also adds some complexity and difficulty. The user adjusts the simulations either by using the new Graphical User Interface (GUI) or by editing text files. Because ETEM is new, it still requires a lot of testing and bug fixes. The scholar will spend the first part of the summer assisting in those efforts. Time and interest permitting, the scholar will also run the 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.


Trusted Platform Module for Embedded Systems
Mentor: Robert W Vick, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Lower-level Undergraduate, Upper-level Undergraduate

Students will investigate the application of a commercial trusted platform module (TPM) for hardening an embedded computing system. A single-board computer running Linux and an existing set of embedded system software and including a TPM chip will be provided for development. Students will be responsible for developing software to interface with the TPM and integrating the TPM-enable capabilities into the existing embedded software.


Trusted Platform Module for Embedded Systems
Mentor: Robert W Vick, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Students will investigate the application of a commercial trusted platform module (TPM) for hardening an embedded computing system. A single-board computer running Linux and an existing set of embedded system software and including a TPM chip will be provided for development. Students will be responsible for developing software to interface with the TPM and integrating the TPM-enable capabilities into the existing embedded software.


Turbulence Sensor Statistical Analysis
Mentor: michael sexauer, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

Directed energy field is developing measurements techniques for measuring atmospheric turbulence parameters along a path. Atmospheric turbulence greatly effects laser effectiveness and generating accurate values to describe turbulence is critical for laser propagation testing. Atmospheric turbulence sensors in use generate large amounts of data and it’s not fully understood how much data is needed to accurately calculate individual parameters. In this research activity, the scholar will participate in experiments using a Hartman Turbulence Sensor (HTS) to extract turbulence parameters and use statistical methods to determine best operation practices, establish minimum data needed and perform an operational error analysis on a AFRL designed HTS.


Turbulence Sensor Statistical Analysis
Mentor: michael sexauer, Directed Energy
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

Directed energy laser field is developing measurements techniques for measuring atmospheric turbulence parameters along a path. Atmospheric turbulence greatly effects laser effectiveness and generating accurate values to describe turbulence is critical for laser propagation testing. Atmospheric turbulence sensors in use generate large amounts of data and it’s not fully understood how much data is needed to accurately calculate individual parameters. In this research activity, the scholar will participate in experiments using a Hartman Turbulence Sensor (HTS) to extract turbulence parameters and use statistical methods to determine best operation practices, establish minimum data needed and perform operational error analysis on a AFRL designed HTS.


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: 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.


Values and Beliefs Relating Motivation In the Workplace
Mentor: Judith Ann Saavedra, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: High School

Building on previous summer projects, we will continue to explore specific individual values and beliefs relating to motivation in the workplace. We will continue to gather an ever-expanding depth and breadth of information from AFRL personnel to better understand why we choose the organizations we do, and which aspects of our workplace are most important to our staying.


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

Building on previous summer projects, we will continue to explore specific individual values and beliefs relating to motivation in the workplace. We will continue to gather an ever-expanding depth and breadth of information from AFRL personnel to better understand why we choose the organizations we do, and which aspects of our workplace are most important to our staying.


Virtualization for Embedded System Software
Mentor: Robert W Vick, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Upper-level Undergraduate

The student will investigate the application of virtualization techniques such as hypervisors, virtual machines, and/or containers to improve portability and maintainability of spacecraft software functions. This project will involve instantiating a commercially-available virtualization software system on an ARM-based single-board computer.


Virtualization for Embedded System Software
Mentor: Robert W Vick, Space Vehicles
Location: Kirtland
Academic Level: Masters, Ph.D.

The student will investigate the application of virtualization techniques such as hypervisors, virtual machines, and containers to improve portability and maintainability of spacecraft software functions. This project will involve instantiating a commercially-available virtualization software system on an ARM-based single-board computer.


Wavefront Sensing Technique Advancement for Aero and Adaptive Optics
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 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 and using algorithms for their understanding and analysis. 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 techniques.