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Atmospheric Characterization for Directed Energy Applications


OBJECTIVE: There is a need to reliably measure, analyze and forecast with adequate accuracy and precision the high altitude (upper troposphere and stratosphere to 100 kft and beyond) atmospheric conditions relevant to high energy laser propagation. Existing ground-based atmospheric profilers and scintillometers capable of measuring at high altitudes are subject to cloud impacts, and/or they are not transportable and often lack the required spatial resolution for detailed analyses. In-situ measurements systems (i.e. airborne platforms) typically do not operate at altitudes above 45,000 feet. DESCRIPTION: Develop instrumentation hardware along with appropriate deployment system to effectively and efficiently measure (remote or in-situ) the high altitude atmospheric conditions related to directed energy propagation. Existing balloon-borne instrumentation (i.e. thermosonde instruments) are not robust enough for frequent use in the field, and are subject to their own weather sensitivities (e.g. icing in clouds). The atmospheric conditions should include temperature, moisture, winds, density, electromagnetic refraction, and optical turbulence. The technology will likely include a combination of atmospheric measurement (in-situ or remote sensing) and numerical weather prediction (modeling and simulation) to adequately characterize the spatial and temporal aspects of the problem. The focus of previous measurement and modeling-simulation efforts has been near the ground or near the tropopause (~30 kft), or yielded capabilities lacking adequate reliability, accuracy, and precision to effectively advance high energy laser applications. This new topic should advance the legacy research that focused on the lower altitude environment, and provide a user-friendly interface to the new technology and real-time data. PHASE I: Detailed analysis of the high altitude atmospheric conditions related to directed energy applications, and how the"Proof of Concept"instruments will quantitatively measure (with appropriate accuracy and precision) this environment. Survey of current/future numerical weather prediction (NWP) analysis/forecast models, and how the innovative atmospheric data could be assimilated into the NWP process and improve the analysis/forecast capability. Plan (or prototype) for atmospheric decision assistance tool that incorporates the measured data along with the NWP into a user-friendly application/system. PHASE II: Develop prototype instrumentation (remote and/or in-situ) and atmospheric modeling, analysis, and forecast capability with requisite accuracy and precision to capture the optical turbulence impacts. Develop a user-friendly, prototype atmospheric decision assistance toolkit to assimilate the measurements from the instrumentation (to include unique space-based information that exists) along with the atmospheric model data to enhance and graphically display the atmospheric conditions for operational testing. PHASE III: In this phase, the contractor will apply the innovations demonstrated in the first two phases to one or more MDA systems, subsystems, or components. The objective of Phase III is to demonstrate the Efficient and effective instrumentation and software (MS&A) to characterize and forecast the directed energy atmospheric conditions in the troposphere and stratosphere for MDA systems; then transition the component technology to the MDA system integrator or payload contractor, mature it for operational insertion, and demonstrate the technology in an operational level environment. COMMERCIALIZATION: The contractor will pursue commercialization of the various technologies developed in Phase II for potential commercial uses in other DOD high energy laser systems, astronomy, NASA, and space based long-range secure communications.
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