space situational awareness satellite

The Air Force and the Wright Brothers Institute yesterday launched a new competition with cash prizes for industry partners who can create augmented reality and virtual reality visualization tools for space.

The competition runs through Jan. 15, 2019 and the goal is to develop visualization tools that will “enhance DoD space operator understanding and awareness of satellites and other objects in Earth orbit,” according to a news release issued by the Air Force Research Laboratory and Wright Brothers Institute.

The Air Force Visionary Q-Prize Competition was developed to encourage nontraditional industry partners who have limited means to engage with military customers — like universities, small businesses and individuals — to find solutions for safe and secure operations in space.

No background in space applications is required.

“The need for timely and accurate object tracking is paramount to the defense of space, and this competition will help augment existing capabilities with visualization tools that enable operators to intuitively absorb and quickly navigate massive amounts of space object data,” Brig. Gen. William Liquori, architectures and analysis director with Air Force Space Command’s Strategic Requirements, said in the release.

Air Force Space Command Space Capabilities Division Director Col. Michael Kleppe said it’s not only critical for space operators to get up-to-date information on this rapidly evolving environment, “they must also be able to quickly process and interpret the information necessary for decisive action on compressed timelines when only seconds may remain to prevent or mitigate catastrophic events.”

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According to the release, select problems have been scoped and packaged for rapid concept generation and tangible product development. Contestants may submit traditional user interface solutions, displayed or projected on a flat screen, or AR/VR interfaces.

Solutions are needed that present new ways of visualizing and understanding:

  • Satellite maneuvers
  • High-speed conjunctions in Low Earth Orbit 
  • Proximity operations and relative orbital activity in Geosynchronous Earth Orbit 
  • New object discovery
  • Satellite/debris breakups
  • Constellation insertions (multiple satellites on a single launch)
  • Lost or “stale” objects

All submissions will be evaluated by military space operators, space development professionals and human factors experts.

Up to $100,000 in prize money will be awarded, with multiple prizes awarded for each category and a single VQ-Prize to be awarded to the top overall submission.

The challenge is posted on the WBI Tec^Edge Challenge Pavilion at

To watch the VQ-Prize video, visit