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AFRL to feature key programs, innovative technologies at National Space Symposium

  • Published
  • By Whitney Wetsig
  • Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL) – The Air Force Research Laboratory will showcase space-related programs and technologies along with the Hack-a-Sat competition, ways to share ideas or capabilities with AFRL, and SpaceWERX, the U.S. Space Force affiliated arm of AFWERX during the 37th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, April 4-7, 2022.
AFRL supports both the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force, seamlessly working high priority research areas across the lab, meeting operational needs and delivering warfighting technologies to Airmen and Guardians. 
AFRL Commander Maj. Gen. Heather Pringle will speak on a panel titled ‘Combining Science and Technology: A Service Labs Discussion’ on April 7 from 8:45 to 9:30 a.m. Mountain time with Capt. Daniel Keane, commanding officer of the U.S. Coast Guard Research and Development Center and Dr. Bruce Danly, director of research for the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. Led by Deputy Technology Executive Officer for Space Science and Technology, Dr. Andrew Williams, the discussion focuses on accomplishments in S&T, opportunities for collaboration among the service labs and future plans for protecting our nation’s vital interests in space.
“Our ability to operate freely in space can no longer be assumed, and AFRL is tasked with delivering cutting-edge technologies to Guardians,” said Williams. “The Joint Force depends on robust space capabilities,” he said.
Pringle will also participate at a media engagement to be held in Media Briefing Room A, in the Columbine Room on the second floor of Broadmoor Hall, April 7 from 10 - 11 a.m. Mountain time, where she will discuss the latest updates on Navigation Technology Satellite 3 (NTS-3), one of the Department of the Air Force’s Vanguard programs, and AFRL’s overall support of the U.S. Space Force Science and Technology needs as One Lab Supporting Two Services. Joining Pringle will be Dr. Andy Williams, AFRL’s Deputy Technology Executive Officer for Space Science and Technology; Mr. Cordell DeLaPena, (SES), PEO for COMM/PNT; Ms. Lea Kirkwood (SES) AFLCMC Agile Combat Support PEO; and Dr. Joanna Hinks, NTS-3 Deputy Program Manager.

Vanguards represent high-priority initiatives led by a partnership between scientists, engineers and Program Executive Offices where these groups join forces and work closely with warfighters to deliver advanced capabilities on aggressive timelines. NTS-3 is pushing the boundary of today’s position, navigation and timing (PNT) technology via an experimental navigation satellite. The program aims to make GPS more robust and resilient with added flexibility to help meet the technical challenges of tomorrow.
“I’m extremely proud of the Science and Technology support that AFRL provides to the U.S. Space Force,” said Pringle. “By partnering with Guardians, acquirers, industry, and academia, the lab advances innovative space technologies that enhance space domain awareness as well as our capabilities related to space control, communication path diversity, on-orbit processing and autonomy.”
AFRL Programs
In addition to NTS-3, some of the other space programs and technologies to be showcased by AFRL include Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research Project (SSPIDR), Cislunar Highway Patrol System (CHPS), Tactically Responsive Space Access (TRSA) and Advanced Spacecraft Energetic Non-Toxic (ASCENT) propellant.
SSPIDR and CHPS are two AFRL-led space programs delivering new capabilities at operationally relevant speeds. SSPIDR is a series of integrated demonstrations and technology maturation efforts to address space-based power collection and transmission capabilities while CHPS is a spaceflight experiment designed to demonstrate space domain awareness capabilities in the cislunar regime.
AFRL will also highlight the lab’s cutting edge rocket propulsion capabilities, which are enabling delivery of tomorrow’s payloads in safer, more efficient ways. Scientists and engineers are maturing and demonstrating advanced rocket propulsion and space access technologies with commercial and government partners to enable Tactically Responsive Space Access. The goal is to facilitate USSF space access that is resilient, survivable, rapid and responsive, while ensuring relevant timelines and supporting a vibrant and stable launch market.
With ASCENT, an advanced monopropellant formulation developed by AFRL's Rocket Propulsion Division, AFRL delivers increased performance and operability, enabling a wider range of platform envelopes and mission objectives. This “green” propellant and the associated propulsion technology are positioned to replace hydrazine, a highly toxic substance that fueled spacecraft for the last 50 years. ASCENT boasts numerous advantages since the formula is safer for workers to handle during load operations. It also promotes improved performance in space with better fuel efficiency plus it increases satellites’ lifespans.
In the command and control arena, AFRL will highlight Hack-a-Sat, an event that brings together the world’s top cybersecurity talent, challenging them to help reduce vulnerabilities and build more secure space systems. The competition is building a non-traditional community of security researchers, government, industry and academia that works together to develop novel approaches for securing the space cyber domain. The qualification round for Hack-a-Sat 3 will be held May 21-22. For more information, visit
Connecting with AFRL
AFRL will also highlight various avenues for connecting with the lab at its NSS booth including SpaceWERX and the Tech Connect website. SpaceWERX, the U.S. Space Force-affiliated arm of the AFWERX team, focuses on advancing innovative technologies for USSF Guardians and expanding the space industrial space by guiding additional partners, leveraging commercial investment and rapidly pursuing new technologies, while closely aligning its efforts with space operators and acquisition professionals within the USSF.
Orbital Prime, a SpaceWERX program, advances commercially developed technologies for orbital operations. The initiative focuses on the emerging market known as OSAM, short for on-orbit servicing, assembly and manufacturing. This includes a broad range of technologies to repair and refuel existing satellites, remove orbital debris and create new capabilities in space.
Meanwhile, innovators who would like to share ideas with AFRL, are encouraged to visit the Space Force Tech Connect website, a portal where users can submit ideas and capabilities with AFRL subject matter experts for potential feedback, collaborations and opportunities.
For more information about the 2022 National Space Symposium, please visit
About AFRL
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit: