Charles River Analytics was awarded a $1.25 million contract through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Intelligence Systems, Analytical Systems Branch. The funding enables Charles River to expand their work on an extended reality (XR) system for space situational awareness—as well as battle management and command and control—advancing the system for operational use.
“Space is vast and large, but things happen very quickly,” said Rob Hyland, Director of Technology Transition. “This accelerates the speed of decision-making.”
The XR capability, called SOLAR, a KWYN™ product, helps Guardians, analysts, and decision-makers visualize and understand space, which is especially important as thousands of satellites travel in various orbital paths in the contested space domain. Satellites and spacecraft are managed and tracked to protect the International Space Station and ensure crucial functions on Earth. With the help of SOLAR, Guardians will be able to more effectively monitor space operations that impact navigation, weather forecasts, television, environmental monitoring, treaty compliance, and communication systems.
Charles River has already delivered KWYN SOLAR to Guardians and other users for training programs including the Azimuth summer space program. Now, the Apogee enhancement of KWYN SOLAR will support users in operational training and mission support. The team will update the XR application suite to include upgraded features and customization for various operational environments. The user-friendly tool presents information in an intuitive way that translates abstract concepts about space into 3D visual representations that operators can understand.
“There is a lot about space that is counterintuitive and not easy to grasp,” said Dr. Susan Latiff, User Experience Scientist and Principal Investigator on the Apogee project. She adds, “When people put on the headset, it goes from ‘oh wow’ to ‘aha!’”
“This type of interactive space operations visualization of complex spatiotemporal relationships in extended reality will improve collaborative, distributed planning of multidomain operations and enable Guardians and analysts to achieve space domain awareness much more quickly and effectively,” said Daniel Stouch, Director of Space and Airborne Systems and Program Manager on the Apogee project.
Charles River will readily ingest relevant data sources and provide accurate and representative XR visualizations, content, tools, and interaction methods to support the development of dynamic scenarios for operational use. They will demonstrate and deliver the XR tools and infrastructure to develop, edit, save, and play back dynamic XR-based spatiotemporal scenarios to support future operations.
Guardians will use Apogee to make intelligent, speedy decisions in the space domain from accurate models of resident space objects and their orbital mechanics based on real-time data. Space Force leaders will also use this new tool to detail situations and possible courses of action to help government leaders make informed decisions. Potential commercial applications in diverse fields include elementary, secondary, undergraduate, and graduate-level STEM education with XR-based visualization and interaction with dynamic content in astronomy, astrophysics, Earth science, marine science, and physics.
This material is based upon work supported by the United States Air Force under Contract No. FA8750-23-C-0025. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Air Force.