The Space Dynamics Laboratory (SDL), in support of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) and the Air Force Research Laboratory, Space Vehicles Directorate (AFRL/RV), announces two GFY 2022 competitions for research to promote and sustain university research and education focused on small satellites and related technologies.

Eligible and interested universities are encouraged to submit a proposal in accordance with the criteria in these RFP’s.




These competitions are open only to, and full proposals are to be submitted only by, U.S. institutions of higher education (universities), including DoD institutions of higher education, with degree-granting programs in science and/or engineering.

Funding Opportunities

The objective of the University Nanosatellite Program (UNP) is to promote and sustain university research and education focused on small satellites and related technologies. The primary outcome of individual projects funded under this program is the design, fabrication, and functional testing of a small satellite. Secondary objectives are to foster research in enabling technologies for small satellites and the design of experiments that can be performed by small satellites in orbit.

Teaming by a maximum of two universities is an acceptable option. The team of universities will share, as a team, the constraints of a single entry into the small satellite program, thereby splitting available design space and funding between team members. Each such proposal should detail the overall team objectives and the role of each university. One institution should be indicated as the Point of Contact (POC) for team operations.


Initial awards will be for a 2-year period and include educational and program review activities offered by UNP Government and industry partners. At the end of the project period, a milestone review will be held to identify the small satellite(s) that have displayed the ability for space launch and operation. UNP Government and industry partners will work with selectees who progress into a second phase of UNP, which will promote the space-worthy design and fabrication in preparation for a potential launch.

The following is a list of small satellite research areas of interest. Please note that the list is by no means comprehensive. Proposers are encouraged to propose innovative technologies/experiments not included below.

  1. Enabling technologies in advancement of the small satellite platform
  2. Small satellite communications (improved performance, reduced size, weight, and power (SWaP), path agnostic communications, etc.)
  3. Enabling technologies in advancement of formation flying
  4. Satellite distributed network technologies including but not limited to: space-ground networks, improved cyber security, enhanced cryptography especially for mesh networks
  5. Laser communications and associated capabilities
  6. Autonomy (operations, decision making, image/event recognition)


Initial funding will be for a 4-month period and will include educational and program review activities offered by SDL, AFRL/RV, Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), and AFRL support contractors. At the end of this period, a Design Review 2 milestone will be held to determine the design’s ability to meet requirements for space launch and mission operation. If the design is found to be feasible for launch and operations, additional funding can be requested to take it through critical design, assembly, integration, delivery, and operations.

SSPIDR is a Congressionally funded project for maturing the necessary technologies to develop a space-based solar power transmission capability. This potential prototype system will use high-efficiency solar cells to collect the sun’s energy and convert it to radio frequency (RF) for transmission to a receiving station on earth. After collection on the ground, that RF can then be converted back into power and provided to expeditionary forces operating in unimproved areas (e.g., forward operating bases). The SSPIDR project consists of multiple incremental demonstrations, such as Arachne, the keystone flight experiment.

The selected university will design, build, test, deliver, and operate a 6U CubeSat as outlined within this RFP. The CubeSat is expected to serve as a power beaming receiver for Arachne, ultimately, demonstrating novel free-space RF power beaming capabilities while in orbit.

Proposal Submission

Proposals deadline is October 1, 2021 at 4:00 PM EDT

Proposal Format

The required full proposal format is as follows:

  • Specify which proposal in file name (NS-11 or TI-1).
  • Paper Size - 8.5 x 11 inch
  • Margins - 1 inch
  • Spacing - single or double spaced
  • Font - Times New Roman, 12 point
  • Page Limit - no more than twenty (20) single-sided pages of program description
  • Pages in excess of the page limit will not be evaluated
  • NOTE: Budgetary information is not included in the 20 page limit


  • An entity may propose to both NS-11 and TI-1, but if selected for one, will receive lower consideration for the second. If proposing to both NS-11 and TI-1, email with your proposal names and state your priority of selection.

Recorded RFP Q&A Sessions


Evaluation & Awards

Evaluation Criteria

Proposals will be evaluated under three principal selection criteria, of equal importance, as follows:

  1. Technical merits of the proposed research and development
  2. Potential relationship of the proposed research and development to DoD objectives (Reference Research Areas listed above)
  3. Educational impact (both undergraduate and/or graduate) of the project

Other evaluation criteria used in the technical reviews, which are of lesser importance than the principal selection criteria are:

  1. Experience of key personnel

The technical and cost information will be analyzed simultaneously during the evaluation process.

Review & Selection

Proposals submitted under this announcement will be evaluated by a scientific review process involving personnel at SDL, AFRL, AFOSR, and/or by outside evaluators retained by AFRL or AFOSR. Employees of commercial firms under contract to the Government may be used to administratively process proposals. These support contracts include nondisclosure agreements prohibiting their contractor employees from disclosing any information submitted by other contractors.

Full proposals will be selected on a competitive basis by a panel of experts from SDL, AFRL and from external entities after consideration of the recommendation of the scientific reviews.

Award Notices

Should your proposal be selected for award, the principal investigator will receive a letter from SDL stating this information. This is not an authorization to begin work. Your business office will be contacted by the SDL contracting officer to negotiate the terms of your subcontract.