Air Force Calls out for Commercial Technologies for Cislunar Space Operations

Air Force Calls out for Commercial Technologies for Cislunar Space Operations

The Air Force is explicitly looking for payloads to provide space domain awareness from the lunar surface, lightweight sensors for space-based space domain awareness, and methodologies for orbit determination and catalog maintenance in cislunar space

Fremont, CA: The Air Force Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program has called out for companies to submit proposals for the cislunar space operations. These operations call out for technologies that are far beyond the geosynchronous Earth orbit, closer to the moon's orbit. The cislunar activities are one of the three space focused areas in the SBIR pre-solicitation notice released by the Air Force technology accelerator known as AFWERX. The deadline for submission of proposals is February 12th, and the list includes a total of 19 topics.

“As the space beyond geosynchronous orbit becomes more crowded and competitive, it is important for the Air Force to extend its space domain awareness responsibilities to include this new regime,” read the pre-solicitation. “The Air Force is seeking commercial innovation in support of space domain awareness for future cislunar operations.”

The Air Force is explicitly looking for payloads to provide space domain awareness from the lunar surface, lightweight sensors for space-based space domain awareness, and methodologies for orbit determination and catalog maintenance in cislunar space. They are also interested in concepts for providing position, navigation, and timing solutions for cislunar space operations, visualization of cislunar orbits, and terrestrial-based concepts for achieving space domain awareness of cislunar space.

According to Shawn Usman, astrophysicist and founder of space consultancy firm Rhea Space Activity, the inclusion of cislunar space capabilities in the SBIR program was unexpected. This could be a sign of the Air Force, and the “to be established” Space Force responding to the advancements made by China. “This is definitely a pretty big turning point for the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. ‘new space’ industry, our near-peer competitors, and for the upcoming Space Force,” he added.

As per the pre-solicitation, the Air Force is also seeking technologies to improve the performance of small satellites. The ability to manufacture and launch small satellites quickly makes small satellites a valuable asset to the military. One of the goals is to reduce integration and assembly time and to improve the manufacturability of components, buses, and payloads.

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