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Sun, Mar 27, 2022

Air Force Research Laboratory Widens Gaze to Luna

Seeks Industry Assistance in Design & Development of Moon Patrolling Satellite

The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate released a draft Request for Proposals this month seeking partners to set the initial parameters of a theorized lunar surveillance platform.

The lab is casting a wide net in looking for additional brainstorming in their efforts to refine a conceptual spacecraft conceived by the Directorate, the Cislunar Highway Patrol System (CHPS) satellite. As imagined now, CHPS would "provide space domain awareness beyond Geosynchronous orbit, in the region of the moon that is experiencing increasing activity." As the space race heats up, a variety of international entities and commercial interests have expressed a desire to begin establishing a presence on and around the moon. Currently, the US Space Force lacks the abilities needed to surveil the lunar region, currently possessing equipment designed to detect and track bodies in geosynchronous orbit or closer.

The CHPS "will search for unknown objects like mission related debris, rocket bodies, and other previously untracked cislunar objects, as well as provide position updates on spacecraft currently operating near the Moon or other cislunar regions that are challenging to observe from Earth," according to the initial announcement regarding the RFP.

As a helpful bonus, the lab says, the satellite's complex orbital path will serve as an excellent learning opportunity to mature procedures, systems, and technology needed for similar tasks going forward. The location targeted for the satellite is expected to be around 385,000 km, nearly 100 times the distance from their geosynchronous orbit equipment now.

“We are looking forward to seeing what industry will propose, to help us design and build the system,” said Lopez.

”Our goal is to create a satellite that will become critically important as the U.S. supports civil and commercial efforts in the Cislunar domain.”

FMI: www.afrl.af.mil, www.space-enterprise.org

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