The power of one small basic research investment

By Molly Lachance and Brianna Hodges, Air Force Office of Scientific Research

A small basic research investment by the Air Force Research Laboratory, in partnership with the National Science Foundation, has created a community of origami researchers who in six short years have transitioned to working on applied technologies for the Air Force.

The story begins in 2012 when AFRL’s Air Force Office of Scientific Research partnered with NSF to develop the Origami Design for Integration of Self-assembling Systems for Engineering Innovation program. Over the years, NSF and AFOSR have invested nearly $28M in this program with the goal of creating the mathematical and material foundation for self-folding origami systems and commercializing the concepts. The origami research community received a big boost when Congress decided to include a $5 million congressional interest item in the fiscal year 2017 budget and made plans for a $4.8 million CII in fiscal year 2018.

AFOSR issued the funding opportunity announcement for the first CII and a team from Georgia Institute of Technology and Florida International University won in open competition. Concurrently, AFRL began taking notice of origami basic research as a promising concept for transition to Air Force applications and provided an additional $20 million of funding to a number of small teams around the lab. AFOSR stayed in the mix by managing that investment and creating a venue for university and AFRL researchers to collaborate and share knowledge.

Now six years after its initial investment, AFRL researchers are developing origami antennas deployable in space. This type of technology requires a multidisciplinary approach, leveraging the knowledge of original and new university partners as well as the expertise of AFRL experts from the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, Aerospace Systems Directorate, Sensors Directorate, and Space Vehicles Directorate.

“We’re interested in really compelling scientific and engineering challenges that can lead to applications in the future,” said Ken Goretta, AFOSR program officer. “Compelling science and Air Force relevance drive us to invest, and origami antennas have that.”

This community met on September 13 for a workshop on origami antennas and electromagnetics and September 14 for a kick-off meeting for the new Center for Physically Reconfigurable and Deployable Multifunctional Antennas located at Florida International University.

The goal of the center, which celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon cutting September 15, is to develop innovative and advanced origami-based antenna technologies for next-generation Air Force and Department of Defense system.

“We want to use the center as an opportunity to create and train a diverse workforce with state of the art training and antenna programs for our nation and create a pipeline for very well trained engineers that they can go in work in the government” said Dr. Stavros Georgakopoulos, TAC Center Director and Inventor, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at FIU.

Georgakopoulos expresses he never imagined after being funded initially that his grant co-funded by AFOSR would be so transformative for his career. “The Air Force Research Lab have a very strong presence. We are going to collaborate and we are going to use some of their expertise and we are going to do more interdisciplinary type of work. So we are very excited.”

For more information about the history and intent of project as well as its significance to Air force and the Department of Defense, visit https://tac.fiu.edu/.

This story is an example of how AFRL creates asymmetric S&T advantage for the Air Force by making small strategic investments that create communities and conversations with far reaching scientific impact.

https://www.wpafb.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1659730/the-power-of-one-small-basic-research-investment/

The Sky is The Limit for Agile Air Force Science Test and Evaluation

Dr. Brett Pokines, AFOSR Program Officer for the Test Science for Test and Evaluation (T&E) program, hosted a three-day conference at the Doolittle Institute in August, maximizing access for the Test and Evaluation Community at Eglin AFB in Western Florida.

Highlights from the meeting include:

  • Keynote speaker, Dr. Elisabetta Jerome, Technical Advisor for Armament and Weapon Test and Evaluation, shared the Air Force Test Center (AFTC) strategic vision and integral role basic science investments present in the needs, changes, and opportunities within the AFTC Enterprise. AFTC’s Span of Operations occupies 32 locations equipped with over 200 Ground Test Facilities. The Test Center includes 100 Aircraft featuring 21 different variants, 12 Unique Test Cells, and three major installations.
  • Lt Colonel Daniel Montes, Director of Curriculum at the USAF Test Pilot School (TPS), presented links between the TPS mission and fundamental T&E research. The USAF TPS is home to the Air Force’s top pilots, navigators and engineers in conducting flight tests and representative data to carry out test missions.
  • Lt Colonel Randy Gordon, Test and Evaluation Lead for AFWERX, highlighted the cultural changes taking place within the T&E community and encouraged review participants to push beyond traditional developmental thinking. AFWERX is driven by innovation to bring tomorrow’s tools to the warfighter today.
  • Mr. Keith Kirk, Experimentation Program Manager in the Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation Directorate, provided a compelling example in his talk, as Co-lead for Phase II of “The Light Attack Aircraft Experiment,” which evaluated the Light Attack Aircraft capabilities to inform an expeditious procurement process. The program was instrumental in demonstrating how T&E and acquisition teams are reimagining the concepts of bringing capabilities to the Air Force.

Opportunities to network, collaborate, and connect with stakeholders set the stage for groundbreaking work in the Science Test and Evaluation community in the countdown to 2030. The conference provided an engaging platform for the T&E community to align opportunity, capability, and innovation in support of the Air Force mission.