SMDC Utilizes No-Cost R&D Agreements to Bring Technology to Soldiers


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Utilizing no-cost cooperative research and development agreements to develop technology for the warfighter is becoming a standard practice for the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s Technical Center, according to its senior executive.

The command entered a no-cost CRADA with Capella Space in October, to integrate Capella synthetic aperture radar data into the U.S. Army's Payload Development Lab. However, Thomas Webber, director, USASMDC Technical Center, said this is just one of many CRADAs the command has in the works.

Capella700.jpg
Caption: An artist’s rendering of one of Capella Space’s synthetic aperture radar satellites. SAR satellites provide 24-hour all-weather Earth observation with the unique ability to penetrate atmospheric conditions, providing near real-time visibility in cloud covered areas, both day and night. (Capella Space rendering)

“We’re pursuing multiple technologies that support the tactical warfighter,” Webber said. “CRADAs are great for industry as well as the Army, because it’s a way for us to partner with those companies without formal contracts in place or exchanging funding.”

The CRADA with Capella Space will allow the Technical Center to explore options for providing synthetic aperture radar data directly into the Army’s tactical operations.

“The Capella CRADA is very interesting for us because it gives us the opportunity to explore a potential advance in low-cost and current state-of-the-art synthetic aperture radar satellites,” Webber said. “The focus here is how we put the emphasis on experimentation efforts that show promise to reduce data latency between the sensor and the shooter.”

Webber said the synthetic aperture radar data can be used to address the Army and other Department of Defense space requirements, including imagery taskings and uplink; synthetic aperture radar satellite downlink and ground stations; image processing; and image dissemination.

As the Technical Center continues to establish CRADAs, Webber said there are further options to pursue capabilities his team assesses through the agreements.

“If we like what we see and there’s a viable capability to our warfighter, there are multiple options on how the Army can acquire those capabilities,” Webber said. “The Tech Center can further develop and build on that capability or if it’s mature enough, the program executive offices can buy them outright.”

Webber said the importance of forming these space-focused CRADAs is to ensure as the Army continues modernization, Soldiers have the capabilities necessary to complete the Army’s missions.

“All of our space efforts are focused on enabling our ground combat forces to have unprecedented access to space and space-enabled capabilities, and we want to do that at the lowest echelons of the tactical warfighter,” Webber said. “It’s very important to note that the Army’s critical modernization efforts — such as air and missile defense; long-range precision fires; assured position, navigation and timing — rely on space-enabled capabilities and access to space.”

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