WASHINGTON — The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate recently opened a space research and development lab at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.

The $12.8 million Space Warfighting Operations Research and Development, or SWORD, lab will be used to track objects on orbit, advance satellite cybersecurity, and develop autonomous capabilities to help space vehicles avoid each other and space debris, Col. Eric Felt, the head of AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate, said in an announcement Tuesday.

“One of the reasons we stood up the U.S. Space Force was to ensure our nation has the capabilities to deter any threats in space,” Felt said. “Our job in the SWORD lab will be to continue to develop resilient and innovative technologies that will protect our nation and allies from threats by our adversaries. Recognizing that space is an emerging domain for warfighting, we want to make sure there is never a war in space.”

The 26,000-square-foot facility that will serve as the home of 65 personnel from AFRL’s Space Control Branch.

“This is a laboratory for the nation, for AFRL and the Air and Space Forces where new partnerships will be enabled,” Felt said. “We want to bring people together to ensure we will continue to deliver innovation to the nation.”

The new facility continues AFRL’s development of new infrastructure at Kirtland Air Force Base dedicated to space. In October 2020, AFRL opened the Deployable Structures Laboratory, or DeSel. That $4 million lab hosts the Spacecraft Component Technology Center of Excellence to develop materials for new deployable space structures.

Nathan Strout covers space, unmanned and intelligence systems for C4ISRNET.