AFRL offers university satellite program

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFRL) – The Air Force Research Laboratory’s University Nanosatellite Program (UNP) request for proposals (RFP) will be open until October 1. UNP funds U.S. university students and programs to design, build, launch, and operate small satellites with the primary goal to train the next generation of space professionals.

“For more than 20 years, UNP has equipped thousands of students across the country with foundational spacecraft systems engineering skills,” said Jesse Olson, UNP program manager. “However, this cycle has an added twist.”

This cycle is unique in that a new technical insertion call for proposals will be released in tandem with the standard cyclical RFP.

“Universities will be able to apply to both RFP’s and assign their priority of choice,” said Olson. “It is expected that multiple awards will be made for the standard RFP, however, only one university will be selected for the more advanced technical opportunity.”

AFRL will offer a compelling opportunity for the selected university to collaborate with the Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research (SSPIDR) project – AFRL’s endeavor to enable space-based power collection and transmission capabilities. To watch a SSPIDR video and learn more about the Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research project visit our YouTube page.

“UNP’s technical insertion initiative will focus on the development of a small satellite to accompany Arachne, SSPIDR’s keystone flight experiment,” said Rachel Delaney, SSPIDR project launch lead.

To learn more about Arachne CLICK HERE.

This collaboration has the potential to be the first orbital free-flying space-to-space power beaming demonstration.

“SSPIDR is excited to provide an innovative option for UNP participants to develop a companion satellite for Arachne which will catalyze the concept-to-flight development process, with a payload and directly enhance Arachne’s mission,” said James Winter, SSPIDR project manager. “It is a win-win for the university, SSPIDR, and UNP.”

“We welcome universities of all experience levels, and the next UNP cycle won’t open until 2024, so acting now is critical for those institutions who would like to participate,” said Olson. “We want to develop and strengthen the space industry by preparing a future workforce capable of taking the Space Force mission to new heights.”

To learn more about the University Nanosatellite Program opportunities, view the RFP, and submit a proposal, visit Email inquiries can be addressed to

illustration of ARACHNE

AFRL graphic representation of Arachne.

image of scientists

Two University Nanosatellite Program students assemble the Oculus-ASR satellite. (AFRL Courtesy Photo)