The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Space Vehicles Directorate has opened a Deployable Structures Laboratory, DeSel, at Kirtland AFB, N.M.
Construction on the $4 million, 7,000 square foot DeSel began last December.
Benjamin Urioste, a research engineer at DeSel, said that the lab “was specifically built for testing novel, deployable space structures.”
“With the push toward hybrid architecture and smaller satellites, high packing efficiency structures and the ability to bring large satellite capability to small satellites is more important than ever,” he said in an AFRL statement.
The “new class of high strain composite enabled structures requires new ground test facilities,” per Urioste. “Satellite deployments are nerve-wracking, one-shot endeavors and the high-fidelity ground testing that will take place in the DeSel is critical to ensuring on-orbit success.”
The lab is capable of testing 300 square meter structures in a “secure, climate-controlled, cibration-isolated” environment, AFRL said.
“The structures made possible by high strain composites will enable new mission paradigms for the U.S. Space Force,” per Mark Roverse, AFRL’s Spacecraft Technologies Division Chief.
Col. Eric Felt, the director of AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate, said that “the capabilities and game-changing research that will be carried on in the DeSel…will give our air and space warfighters the best advantages possible over our adversaries.”
“Some of the first structures that we look forward to testing in this new lab are those required for our Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstration and Research (SSPIDR) project, one of our top priority programs,” he said. “SSPIDR is a system that will collect solar energy in space, convert it to radio frequency, and beam it to forward operating bases.”
“This innovative research will help us to deliver the essential energy our warfighters need at the right place at the right time,” per Felt.
AFRL’s opening of the new lab comes, as SpaceX and the United Launch Alliance of Boeing [BA] and Lockheed Martin [LMT], attempt to rectify a series of recent launch scrubs, including continued difficulties with the classified NROL-44 mission aboard a ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket.
Tory Bruno, the president of ULA, said on Oct. 27 that the alliance is “still working through the swing arm hydraulics” for the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Fla. and that ULA “drained 2000 gallons of oil, will be flushing for a few days, then replacing lots of servos.”