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Aft Looking Spectrometer for Plume Characterization and Waking on Re-entry



TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Electronics, Sensors, Space Platforms

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals, their country of origin, and what tasks each would accomplish in the statement of work in accordance with section 5.4.c.(8) of the solicitation.

OBJECTIVE: Develop a spectrometer that can be mounted on the aft closure of a Re-entry Vehicle (RV) to observe re-entry waking or on the side of a booster to collect plume spectra.

DESCRIPTION: Currently, optical measurements available on target plumes and re-entry wakes are collected by air or ground assets which view the wake/plume photons after the observables have been filtered through the atmosphere. Because these sources are highly spectral (i.e., non-gray emission), the transmission through the atmosphere tends to remove a significant amount of the information needed to anchor models that simulate these phenomena. This topic solicits innovative approaches to mounting a spectrometer on the aft closure of the RV. This innovation would enable collection of near-field spectral measurement data that is unfiltered by the atmosphere. The acquired, unfiltered spectral measurement data should improve the current wake/plume models and expand our knowledge of the wake/plume species and the underlying chemistry of the wake/plume phenomena which are significant contributors to the observed wake/plume phenomenology.

PHASE I: Develop viable RV mounted spectrometer concepts for obtaining near-field wake/plume spectral measurements. Provide size, weight, and power estimates of the proposed concepts. Describe the types of species that should be detected and provide measurement accuracies that should be achieved by the spectrometer. Describe the expected wake/plume chemistry and resulting phenomenology that should be observed with the proposed spectrometer concept. Develop a schedule and discuss plans for transitions from Phase I through Phase III/commercialization.

PHASE II: Design and build a functional prototype capable of surviving a defined flight environment, ascent and re-entry, to collect the desired spectral observables. The prototype must be to-scale and fully functional with a defined flight vehicle. Test the capability of the prototype as it relates to spectral data collection. Demonstrate analytically the capability of the prototype system to withstand the thermochemical and thermophysical flight environment. Demonstrate analytically how the prototype would integrate with the defined flight vehicle.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Fully qualify the prototype system with a defined flight vehicle and integrate onto a defined government target mission.


  • U.S. Missile Defense Agency. November 3, 2015. Ballistic Missile Defense System. Retrieved from
  • U.S. Missile Defense Agency. November 3, 2015. Ballistic Missile Defense System. Retrieved from
  • A. Kastengren and J.C. Dutton. June 28, 2004. "Wake Topology in a Three-Dimensional Supersonic Base Flow," AIAA-2004-2340, 34th AIAA Fluid Dynamics Conference and Exhibit, Portland, OR.

KEYWORDS: Spectrometer, plume, waking, modeling


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