Since its inception as the Laboratories Division, the corporation’s Physical Sciences Laboratories (PSL) have supported the effective and timely development and operation of national security systems through scientific research and the application of advanced technology. Vital to the success of Aerospace has been the technical staff’s wide-ranging expertise and its ability both to stay abreast of and to shape new technological developments and the rapidly evolving space systems associated with the corporation’s mission and its program offices.
PSL’s research and assessment covers three broad investigative areas: electronics and photonics; space materials; and space science applications. All together, PSL operates more than 80 specialized laboratories for research and testing.
Throughout their history, the laboratories have been led by scientists from diverse backgrounds and have been best known for their technical leadership in rocket propulsion; reentry physics; high-power chemical lasers; rocket plume phenomenology; electric propulsion; composite materials; nondestructive evaluation; space and atmospheric environment; spacecraft surface behavior; space materials survivability; hyperspectral imaging; sensors for photoreconnaissance; millimeter-wave technology; advanced microelectronic devices; spacecraft and launch vehicle batteries; LIDAR; atomic clock research and development; and space tribology.
In the near future it is anticipated that PSL will build upon its current capabilities and address the new key issues facing the country’s space science community, including further miniaturization of electronic devices; wave properties of atoms; quantum computing and cryptography; power generation and storage; ultrashort pulsed lasers and multifunctional materials; nanomaterials; and more agile space systems.
Electronics and Photonics
Research is focused on electrical power systems for rockets and spacecraft; microelectronics, optoelectronics, and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS); laser technologies, active optical remote-sensing systems, optical communications, fiber-optic sensor applications; and applications of atomic physics (atomic clocks, quantum communications, and computing).
Research ranges from basic materials science, propulsion science, and materials processing to investigating new innovative materials. Facilities in this lab area examine bearings, composites, lubricants, and materials used to construct and operate spacecraft and the effects of the space environment on these materials. In addition, researchers conduct studies and analyses in micropropulsion, micro and nanotechnologies and satellites, laser micromachining, and microsensors and sensor systems.
Space Science Applications
Scientists in this area provide a diverse array of services and analyses in surveillance technologies, remote sensing, space instrumentation and testing, and the effects of radiation, plasma, and the elements of the atmosphere and ionosphere on these technologies. The Imaging Spectroscopy Department has become a leading center for the development and application of hyperspectral imaging instruments and data collection.