The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate in New Mexico is one of 23 space-related organizations set to transfer to the U.S. Space Force under plans unveiled last month. 

As the Department of the Air Force’s “Center of Excellence” for space technology R&D, the Space Vehicles Directorate develops, demonstrates and transitions critical technologies for the entire gamut of military space missions, including communications; positioning, navigation and timing, missile warning, space situational awareness, and defensive space control.

Col. Eric Felt, the Air Force officer who leads the Space Vehicles Directorate and its team of 1,000 military, civilian, and on-site contractors, talks with SpaceNews Staff Writer Sandra Erwin and Editor-in-Chief Brian Berger about the R&D  investments the directorate is making to help the U.S. military maintain a technological advantage in the space domain.

  • How can the U.S build more resilient space technology in the face of anti-satellite threats?
  • What is the role of the private sector in bringing innovation into military programs? 
  • How does the standup of the U.S. Space Force change the thinking about R&D investments? 

Also joining the conversation is Paul Jaffe, a U.S. Naval Research Laboratory engineer and principal investigator for a space-based solar power experiment flying on the X-37B autonomous spaceplane the Space Force launched May 17.

Jaffe discusses the experiment and what it could mean for future capabilities to harvest power from space.


Col. Eric Felt
Director, Space Vehicles Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory

Paul Jaffe
PRAM Principal Investigator, Naval Research Laboratory

Webinar Audience Polls: ROSA saves the day. Or does she?

During the webinar, audience members were asked to respond to two polls — one serious and one just for fun.

In the serious category, Advertisementa plurality of respondents said space situational awareness is the Space Vehicles Directorate’s mission area most deserving of additional resources. SSA barely edged out space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), which garnered 30% of the vote.

In the just-for-fun category, webinar attendees were ask to vote for one of three  AFRL-related story lines SpaceNews would like to see Netflix  develop for the second season of its farcical “Space Force” series.

The winner, with 49 percent of the vote, was:

The other two story lines were:

  • When a mysterious blackout pulls the plug on Gen. Naird’s backyard beach bash, an NRL space solar power experiment aboard X-37B saves the day. The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson guest stars. (31% of the vote)
  • After POTUS calls for the cancelation of AFRL (mistaking it for the hirsute, cat-eating alien “Alf” of ‘80s sitcom fame), Space Force’s flakey flack mounts a social media offensive to save the lab. It does not go well. The real Alf guest stars. (19% of the vote)