AFRL is building the future of air and space, commander tells Space Symposium

‘We launch rockets and we code like crazy’

The Air Force Research Laboratory is developing the technology that will support both the Air Force and the Space Force now and into the future, the commander of AFRL told the 36th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo. Thursday.

Indeed, space is nothing new to AFRL, which has been churning out space-related technologies for “quite some time,” Maj. Gen. Heather Pringle said.

“We were there at the dawn of aviation and we’re excited to be here with you now at the dawn of a second space age,” Pringle said.

The two-star general oversees the Air Force’s $3 billion science and technology mission, anchored at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio’s largest concentration of workers in one location.

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Pringle also oversees an additional $3 billion in externally funded research and development. She is responsible for leading 6,500 employees in the laboratory’s nine component technology directorates, the 711th Human Performance Wing (also based at Wright-Patterson), and AFWERX, which has been exploring the utility of flying cars at Springfield Air National Guard Base and elsewhere.

The lab is found in 10 states and three international locations.

Pringle has long emphasized that AFRL is working for what she calls “our newest sister service,” repeating her mantra that AFRL is “one lab supporting two services.”

That means crafting solutions and technologies that work for more than one service in more than one domain, including technologies that protect spacecraft from high-altitude nuclear attacks, satellite navigation technologies, new thrusters for NASA, battlefield targeting systems, micro-electronics and the ability to “deliver air power, anytime, anywhere,” extending to the moon and beyond.

“We launch rockets, and we code like crazy,” she said. “It’s a broad portfolio, about as broad as the experts who sit in this room here, but it’s all done for a purpose, with deliberate malice aforethought, if you will.”

Basic research leads to tests, which lead to deployment in the field, among other steps, but Pringle said the process can sometimes take too long. She called for a faster way to “invent tomorrow’s technology today.”

“In fact, we want to make it easier, quicker to get technologies from the lab and into the hands of our warfighters,” she said.

Thursday is the final day of the four-day Space Symposium.

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