Space

Air Force begins construction of new space environment lab

WASHINGTON — The Air Force Research Laboratory broke ground on its new facility to study space weather and how it affects military systems.

Located at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Skywave Technology Laboratory will provide workspace for the AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate’s space environment research.

That work “involves developing and testing new instrumentation, preparing for field experiments around the globe, as well as collecting and processing data to support ionospheric and radio frequency research,” according to a statement from Todd Parris, the lead for AFRL’s Geospace Environment Impacts and Applications Branch. “We have been working out of temporary shipping containers and from our lab across base. It’s exciting to have this new facility to explore innovative capabilities to bring to the war fighter.”

AFRL develops new technologies for the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Space Force, and understanding the space environment is important to both, Col. Eric Felt, Space Vehicles Directorate director, said in a statement.

“The space environment affects many military systems and services, everything from the actual spacecraft operating in the environment to any radio frequency service that has to operate in or through space.” Felt said. “This lab will give us the knowledge we need to take our research to the next level. We want to be able to measure, predict and command the space environment to give us that tactical advantage in space and terrestrial domains.”

The 3,500-square-foot facility will cost $3.5 million to construct, with 72 acres to test large antennas and distributed sensor arrays.

“This exceptional site allows us to develop and test space environment sensing technologies for US military applications,” said Parris. “It leverages local observations and commercial, academic and government partner facilities and systems across the United States to collect information about the dynamics of near-earth space.”

AFRL says the facility will be ready in early 2022.

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