The University Research and Engagement Program (UREP) was designed to engage institutions of higher education through the facilitation of Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) research that leads to the continued advancement of the U.S. Department of the Air Force and United States Space Force (USSF). UREP aims to provide undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral fellows with authentic research opportunities to stimulate interest and improve retention in STEM careers within AFRL.

UREP funding opportunities will focus on specific areas of research pertinent to the AFRL mission and may change each year. Colleges and universities interested in pursuing this opportunity should propose innovative solutions to address the critical research needs of the Air Force and Space Force.

Undergraduate, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows are a focal point of the University Research and Engagement Program (UREP). University Principal Investigators (PIs) will serve as mentors to these students. PIs selected for UREP will be required to allocate a portion of their total annual budget towards student and postdoctoral fellows stipend support and travel associated with program events on-site at Kirtland Air Force Base (KAFB).

Important Dates

Pre-Solicitation Information Webinar: September 24, 2021
Solicitation Announcement: September 2021
Letter of Intent Due: TBD
Proposals Due: November 2021
Subagreements awarded: February 2022

Pre-Solicitation Informational Webinar

Faculty at accredited U.S. colleges and universities are encouraged to involve undergraduates, graduates and post-doctoral fellows and apply! Propose innovative solutions to address critical research areas outlined here.
Join us to find out how you can get involved.

Friday, September 24, 2021
1:30 pm Central
Register in advance to attend the webinar: https://rb.gy/hacgvj

Solicitation Announcement

University Consortium Research Opportunity Announcement Coming Soon!

Faculty from accredited U.S. colleges and universities are encouraged to apply. Subagreements will be awarded for up to two years, contingent on availability of funds and consistent demonstrated progress of proposed research.

Letter of Intent

Colleges and universities interested in pursuing the University Consortium Research Opportunity funding will submit a one-page letter of intent to USRA.

Letter requirements and submission details are forthcoming.

Research Topics

It is anticipated the following critical research areas will be included in the University Consortium Research Opportunity solicitation announcement. Institutions currently exploring these topic areas or interested in pursuing an innovative solution are highly encouraged to submit a proposal response.

LEVERAGING MICROGRAVITY FOR MILITARY/COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS & PRODUCTS

The recent explosive growth in the satellite and launch industries has led to a corresponding increase in microgravity processing interest and opportunities (e.g. Virgin Galactic, Space Station commercial opportunities, etc.). A host of commercial entities are now actively exploring uses of the microgravity environment in near-Earth orbit for commercial product applications, many of which have joint military applications. This topic will explore both potential dual use commercial/military microgravity products, as well as the fundamental science underpinning the microgravity processing environment.

ON-ORBIT SERVICING, ASSEMBLY AND MANUFACTURING

The rapid increase in commercial and government investment has created a space domain that is ever growing in complexity. A key problem is how best to manage costs with limited launch capabilities and spacecraft lifetimes. One possible solution would be to use autonomous robotic spacecraft to perform work on spacecraft in situ. This would include duties such as on-orbit inspection, repair, functional upgrades, refueling and decommissioning/de-orbiting.

QUANTUM SENSING FOR LOCATION AND EM FIELD DETECTION

Quantum sensors can provide location information in environments where GPS signals are not available (e.g. underground, underwater, or in denied locations), and can detect electric and magnetic fields with high sensitivity to receive signals or detect other activity. How can we apply these capabilities in military, space, and other arenas?

RAPID INITIAL ORBIT DETERMINATION

As the economic value of space assets in GEO increases, it is critically important to ensure flight safety by rapidly determining the orbits of newly detected debris objects. While passive optical sensors routinely provide angles-only data to the Space Surveillance Network, augmenting current systems with range and range-rate information is one way to speed up the initial orbit determination process.

ROCKET CARGO TECHNOLOGY FOR AGILE GLOBAL LOGISTICS

The Department of the Air Force is determining the viability and utility of using large commercial rockets for Department of Defense global logistics. We are interested in solutions to improve our ability to:

  1. air drop cargo from the rocket after re-entry in order to service locations where a rocket or aircraft cannot possibly land.
  2. develop intermodal cargo containers that are mass-optimized for space launch,
  3. engineer a rocket cargo bay and logistics for rapid loading and unloading.

SMART SENSING AND MACHINE LEARNING FOR GROUND BASED REMOTE SENSING OF SATELLITES

Space domain awareness requires advanced sensing, data processing, and algorithms. Such sensing requires large amounts of data collection, which in turn requires automated reduction of data to highlight for a space guardian the most relevant activities in space. The emergent areas of investigation into smart sensing machine learning for automated reduction of data are areas that could potentially revolutionize how ground-based remote sensing of satellites and space debris is accomplished.

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Contact AFRL-UREP@usra.edu for questions.