Electromagnetic Manipulation of Plasma on Hypersonic Reentry Bodies

Navy SBIR 23.2 - Topic N232-112
SSP - Strategic Systems Programs
Pre-release 4/19/23   Opens to accept proposals 5/17/23   Closes 6/14/23 12:00pm ET

N232-112 TITLE: Electromagnetic Manipulation of Plasma on Hypersonic Reentry Bodies

OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Hypersonics;Sustainment

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

OBJECTIVE: The plasma layer from hypersonic reentry serves to further propagate heat into the reentry vehicles while also increasing its radar visibility and causing what’s known as a "communications blackout", a period in which no communications can be exchanged with the vehicle. The Navy seeks to implement developed technologies to manipulate or suppress the effects of environmental plasma with electromagnetic forces to mitigate the environments presented by environmental plasma layers upon atmospheric reentry.

DESCRIPTION: For the future of hypersonic vehicles carrying sensitive payloads into the atmosphere of earth or any other planet, the presence of a communications blackout is of utmost concern. It entails the causes of any catastrophe being rendered unknown, the lack of the period’s test data, and limitations in the innovation of reentry vehicles. The obvious candidate for improvement to these vehicles is in expanding upon plasma manipulation; in mitigating or eliminating the plasma frequency on the vehicle’s exterior, communications blackout can be mitigated, heat transfer can be reduced, and the craft’s electromagnetic signature can be minimized.

These concerns can be alleviated by a system well equipped to manipulate the inevitable accumulation of plasma from surfaces including the aeroshell and antenna window. It’s important in this design to consider the importance of mitigating the plasma oscillation effects on outgoing radio signals. Plasma oscillation, or the frequency of electron density oscillations, will control which frequencies may be received by the vehicle’s antenna; it’s important to consider it a primary goal to mitigate the effects of such a plasma layer by either reducing or eliminating this oscillation of electron density outside the intended emission point of the incoming radio signal, as the only radio frequencies allowed to pass through the plasma layer are those with frequencies higher than the plasma layer’s oscillation frequency.

Furthermore, a goal of this solution should include the minimizing of plasma density on the exterior of the vehicle.

Considerable research has been conducted on possible systems that can create "windows" in a plasma layer for radio waves to be transmitted through [Refs 1,2]. The utilization of magnetic fields has evidence of being effective in dispersing plasma "sheaths," but the concept of a "magnetic window" has not yet been fully explored [Ref 3].Recently there has been some experiments reducing the plasma sheath using pulsed magnetic fields, however for smaller time frames than what is required for communications [Ref 5].

In the application of magnetic fields for plasma manipulation, weight-conscious designs are imperative for the operation of hypersonic vehicles. The system should be optimized for breadth in radio frequency, quickly-initiated operation sustained for extended periods of time, and minimal load to the vehicle.

Proposals are solicited that address the following capabilities:

• Develop plasma manipulation concept implementation for 6-minute atmospheric reentry

• Assessment of other limiting factors and areas of concern

• Design, build, lab test scaled model of plasma manipulation system prototype Proposed solutions should support the following:

• System operation for up to 6-minute reentry time

• Capable leverage use of existing power supply or the specifications and requirements of an alternative power solution

• MIL-STD-461G (EMI)

• MIL-STD-464D

Work produced in Phase II may become classified. Note: The prospective contractor(s) must be U.S. owned and operated with no foreign influence as defined by DoD 5220.22-M, National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been implemented and approved by the Defense Counterintelligence Security Agency (DCSA). The selected contractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances, in order to perform on advanced phases of this project as set forth by DCSA and SSP in order to gain access to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected company will be required to safeguard classified material IAW DoD 5220.22-M during the advanced phases of this contract.

PHASE I: Develop a proof of concept of a system that will be able to manipulate or mitigate the effects of a plasma layer so that radio waves can be transmitted uninterruptedly. Model the system’s feasibility and energy usage. It should include initial design specifications and capabilities description to build a prototype solution in Phase II if chosen.

PHASE II: Mature the concept system and develop a prototype able to be tested in a laboratory to display the system’s capabilities to receive radio communication from beyond the plasma layer. Demonstrate the feasibility of the solution and delay time of effective operation from activation.

It is probable that the work under this effort will be classified under Phase II (see Description for details).

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Perform detailed design of a scaled plasma manipulation system, validating lab mockup communications through manufactured plasma layer. Develop a process for future use of the framework.

Dual-use applications will entail implementation on hypersonic vehicles, including manned and unmanned spacecraft, requiring safe reentry into planetary atmosphere. Dual use applications include more efficient testing of new exo-atmospheric spacecraft and aerospace technologies, ensuring safety of testing equipment and spacecraft communication devices, and more efficient means of developing advancements to Reusable Launch Vehicles (RLV) and Vertical Takeoff, Vertical Landing (VTVL) spacecraft.


  1. Kim, Min kwan., Iain D. Boyd, and Michael Keidar, Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, 2010, Modeling of Electromagnetic Manipulation of Plasmas for Communication During Reentry Flight
  2. Kim, Min Kwan, Electromagnetic manipulation of Plasma Layer for Re-entry blackout mitigation, University of Michigan Library, 2009 https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/handle/2027.42/63784
  3. R. A Hartunian, G. E. Stewart, S. D. Fergason, T. J. Curtiss, R. W. Seibold, Causes and mitigation of radio frequency (RF) blackout during reentry of reusable launch vehicles, Reository & open science access portal, 2007-01-26, https://rosap.ntl.bts.gov/view/dot/12493
  4. R. Savino, D. Paterna, M. D’Elia, Plasma-Radiofrequency interactions around atmospheric re-entry vehicles: modelling and arc-jet simulation, Semantic Scholar, 10, November, 2010, https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Plasma-Radiofrequency-Interactions-Around-Re-Entry-Savino-Paterna/5b8735d083e56716edae9c8723ad35053d6fa468?p2df
  5. Jiahao Xu, Xiaoping Li, Donglin Liu, Cong Xu, and Yongqiang Qin, "Density reduction on plasma sheath using pulsed magnetic field", Physics of Plasmas 28, 042509 (2021) https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0038127

KEYWORDS: Plasma manipulation; Electromagnetic; Hypersonic; Re-entry; RF; Plasma density reduction


The Navy Topic above is an "unofficial" copy from the Navy Topics in the DoD 23.2 SBIR BAA. Please see the official DoD Topic website at www.defensesbirsttr.mil/SBIR-STTR/Opportunities/#announcements for any updates.

The DoD issued its Navy 23.2 SBIR Topics pre-release on April 19, 2023 which opens to receive proposals on May 17, 2023, and closes June 14, 2023 (12:00pm ET).

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