AFRL Announces Winners of Space University Research Initiative Funding Opportunity> Air Force Materiel Command> Post Display


WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR BASE, OHIO (AFRL) – The Air Force Research Laboratory, through its basic research office, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, announced on December 17 the winners of the new Space University Research Initiative (SURI) program – a first step in improving the transition from critical concepts in academia to new ones revolutionary military technologies for the US Air Force and US Space Force (USSF).

“The way we wage war depends on spatial superiority and AFRL has a long history of research and development to support this area. With the recent establishment of the USSF, along with the emergence of US Space Command and new energy in commercial space, we have exciting opportunities to modernize the way we lead and manage S&T ” , wrote the AFRL commander, Major General Heather Pringle in his intention to command 2021.

In March 2021, the AFRL company took up the challenge of accelerating change and modernizing its management of space sciences by launching the first funding opportunity for SURI. the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) announced AFRL-funded scholarships of up to $ 1,000,000 per year per scholarship over a period of three to five years in the areas of space logistics and mobility and space awareness (SDA).

“AFRL is committed to supporting the Space Force through its fundamental and applied research and advanced development activities. Expanding our partnerships and links with academia through the SURI program and its targeted efforts is an example of the targeted space innovation efforts needed by the DAF and our Airmen and Guardians, ”said Dr Timothy J. Bunning, AFRL technical director.

SURI is co-funded by basic and applied research dollars, and thus broadens the scope of work to include both scientific and technological development. The SURI program supports multidisciplinary research efforts, ideally creating synergies to accelerate research and development relevant to DOD by directing basic research towards applications that meet the needs and challenges of the USSF.

Out of 40 full proposals received against the FOA, AFRL selected two multi-institute teams to participate in the first class of the SURI pilot program.

Theme 1: Space logistics and mobility

The objective of this topic is to identify the fundamental research catalysts for the logistics and space maintenance paradigm, including assembly, resupply, repair and reassignment. These activities can have implications for many aspects of today’s satellites and how they are both designed and operated.

According to Dr Frederick Leve, AFOSR Program Manager for Dynamical Systems and Control Theory, “DOD’s current space assets outlast their boards and take up valuable space in the GEO belt. Either these satellites must be stationed in an orbit at the end of their life, or they must be maintained to extend their life. “

The winning proposition, Breaking the ‘throw once, use once’ paradigm was submitted by Principal Investigator Professor Howard Choset of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) as well as six other partners from CMU, Texas A&M, University of New Mexico and Northrop Grumman Corporation.

Using their combined expertise in artificial intelligence, robotics (hard and soft), additive manufacturing, astrodynamics, estimation theory, control and space systems, the team seeks to address the non-existent capabilities of maintenance, assembly. and In-Orbit Manufacturing (OSAM) in the Geosynchronous Equatorial Orbit (GEO) belt.

The success of this team means advancing transition-capable basic and applied research for OSAM and preparing it for transition to AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate and Northrop Grumman Corporation.

Subject 2: Space awareness

The objective of this topic is to identify fundamental research catalysts for innovative SDA applications concerning sensors and measurement strategies, data fusion and autonomy. The USSF is responsible for tracking objects in space, providing information to all satellite operators about potential collisions, and raising awareness of threatening situations.

This responsibility becomes more complex as the United States returns to the Moon alongside many other nations and commercial interests. These new activities increase not only the number of objects in space but also the volume to be monitored.

Due to the large distances involved (most USSF satellites are 36,000 km above Earth, and the moon is ten times farther than that), a detailed understanding of the thousands of objects in orbit requires increasingly sophisticated methods of detecting them in the first place, identifying them with confidence, predicting their trajectories and understanding their characteristics and activities.

“Low Earth orbit, geosynchronous orbit and trajectories to the moon each have their own challenges from a space domain knowledge perspective,” said Dr Jaime A. Stearns, Research Fellow in the Space Vehicles Directorate. of AFRL. “We have incredible capabilities today, but basic research is essential to ensure that we meet the challenges we see now and anticipate in the future. “

Professor John L. Crassidis, University of Buffalo, submitted the winning proposal titled “Understanding and Recognizing Complex Event Spatial Objects (SOURCE) “ as well as six partners from Pennsylvania State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Purdue University.

“The participants in this SURI proposal share diverse expertise and are world leaders in their respective fields,” says Stearns. “Their approach uses a combination of theoretical and experimental studies to answer key questions in the quest for better knowledge of the space domain.”

Team up to build the best team

AFRL Theme Leaders play a critical role in the success of SURI by providing research advice, encouraging the development of new talent and supporting the transition from research products to DAF applications.

In total, SURI will bring together 14 researchers and around 20 students from eight universities and a small company in the AFRL ecosystem to work on the challenges of space power. Three of these universities – Georgia Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Purdue University – are also part of USSF’s University Partnership Program (UPP) established in 2021. UPP seeks to create world-class research opportunities , advanced university degrees. , and workforce and leadership development for USSF Custodians.

“We are delighted to launch this new initiative as an AFRL supporting two services that strengthen the way we lead and manage the transition from basic academic research, through expanded AFRL and industry partnerships, to applications for our army of l ‘air and our space force,’ said AFOSR Chief Scientist Dr William P. Roach.

For more information on the Space University Research Initiative, visit

About AFRL
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the main scientific research and development center of the Air Force Department. AFRL plays an essential role in the discovery, development and integration of affordable combat technologies for our air, space and cyberspace. With a workforce of over 11,000 people in nine technology fields and 40 other operations around the world, AFRL offers a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from basic research to advanced research and technological development. For more information visit:

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) broadens the horizon of scientific knowledge through its leadership and management of the Air Force Department’s basic research program. As a vital component of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), AFOSR’s mission is to discover, shape and defend basic research that has a profound impact on future air forces and space. AFOSR accomplishes its mission through global investments in advanced discovery research efforts in relevant scientific fields. At the heart of AFOSR’s strategy is the transfer of the fruits of fundamental research to industry, supplier of Air Force acquisitions; to the university community, which can pave the way for even more accomplishments; and to other AFRL departments which are responsible for applied research leading to the acquisition.


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