Kirtland Air Force Base gets space defense upgrades
By SCOTT TURNER | Albuquerque Journal | Published: June 12, 2019
(Tribune News Service) — The U.S. Air Force has begun construction on a facility at Kirtland Air Force Base that will play a major role in defending the nation from attacks by other countries on U.S. satellites.
The Air Force Research Laboratory's 26,000 square-foot, $12.8 million Space Control Laboratory will consolidate efforts now being conducted in six different facilities on the base.
"Space is now a war-fighting domain," said Air Force Col. Eric Felt, director of the Space Vehicles Directorate at the base. "That doesn't mean we want war in space. We certainly don't. It doesn't mean we have to have war in space. ... If our adversaries attempt to counter us in that domain, we need to have the capabilities and the tools for our nation to counter that."
At a groundbreaking ceremony at the base on Thursday, Felt said the new facility will help in that effort. He said the building will be a major addition to AFRL's research in advancing in "space situational awareness, command and control of space systems and the survivability of space assets."
"This is a space control technology building," he said. "Space control starts with space domain awareness, making sure we know everything that is going on in space. From there, it goes to making sure we can protect ourselves in space, protect our assets that are up in space. "All the basic components that we need to do for that part of the mission is going to be developed here. The next generation cutting edge capabilities that our nation needs are going to be developed here. And if we do need to perform offensive operations in space, we will be working on those components as well."
Brian Engberg, the chief of the space control technologies branch of AFRL's Spacecraft Components Division said researchers in the facility would be determining what satellites were doing.
He also said researchers would not only be addressing threats from other countries, but "threats from the space environment itself."
Work at the facility will also include the development of satellite technology.
"Every satellite that we have up there needs to be resilient," Felt said. "It needs to be there when we need it. If we happen to be in a conflict with a peer competitor, our satellites have to have the defense capabilities when we need them the most."
The facility will include office and lab space for 65 civilian and military contractors. It will contain a 5,000 square-foot high-bay laboratory space and more than 5,000 square feet of secure office, laboratory and meeting space.
Enberg said scientists and researchers had input on the design, "making sure that everything going into this building will be exactly what we need in order to accomplish our mission, and integrate our people and our ideas better in an innovative environment in order to support our war-fighter mission."
"We're looking forward to having a sufficient amount of space in order to collaborate with our industrial partners and our partners in government," he said. "We have many, many projects we are working on. This facility will be a great step forward."
AFRL principal technical adviser Michael Gallegos helped lead the effort to bring the facility to Kirtland, an effort he said began about two decades ago.
"It's a new state of the art facility that will equip our workforce with secure labs, secure conference space and all of the required lab support space that it needs," he said.
Construction of the facility is expected to be completed in December 2020. The contractor for the project is KL House Construction Co.
"This was envisioned 20 years ago, back before anybody thought of space as a war-fighting domain, back when space control was just a side project," Felt said. "There were visionary folks who saw our nation was going to need this, that our labs were going to need this."