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:
- air drop cargo from the rocket after re-entry in order to service locations where a rocket or aircraft cannot possibly land.
- develop intermodal cargo containers that are mass-optimized for space launch,
- 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.