AFRL Breaks Ground on $3.5 Million Space Environment Laboratory

The Air Force Research Laboratory on March 16 broke ground on a 3,500-square-foot facility located on 72 acres at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., that will allow the Space Vehicles Directorate to test sensor systems before sending them to the field. 

The Skywave Technology Laboratory is slated to cost $3.5 million, and “will provide the work space our teams needs for space environment research, which 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,” said Todd Parris, head of the Geospace Environment Impacts and Applications Branch, in a release. “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 warfighter.” 

AFRL’s field development team conducts research, develops prototypes, and tests technologies used to monitor and predict the space environment, as well as the potential effects on air and space systems, according to the release. 

“Understanding the space environment is super important to our Air and Space Forces,” Col. Eric J. Felt, the director of the Space Vehicles Directorate, said in the release. “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. 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 Air Force Research Laboratory realigned to support both the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force after the new service was established in December 2019.