AFRL breaks ground on radiation research ‘fortress’

Air Force Research Laboratory has broken ground on a facility to study how to better protect military electronics from the effects of radiation.

AFRL started construction this week on the $4.5 million Facility for Radiation Tolerance Research on Electronics for Space and Strategic Systems, or FORTRESS, a 6,200-square-foot site next to the AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate Deployable Structures Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.

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There, AFRL researchers will investigate ways to protect “trusted, high-performance” electronic components to ensure the survivability of U.S. Space Force and Air Force systems in harsh environments, both natural and man-made.

“Replacing a facility that is over 50 years old, this new laboratory will provide a state-of-the-art structure to house and use our irreplaceable test equipment,” Erin Pettyjohn, deputy director of AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate, said in a release. “Ionizing radiation sources are essential for the development of technologies and components needed for our national security space and nuclear deterrence systems and operations.”

Some 95% of U.S. spacecraft are enabled by electronics produced or researched by this team, Pettyjohn said.

“This laboratory revitalization effort strengthens the U.S. supply of radiation-tolerant electronic components and accelerates the transition of the highest performing technologies,” said Mark Roverse, Spacecraft Technology division chief.

The building should be complete by late November 2023, AFRL said.

AFRL is headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

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