United States Air Force Academy

Go to home page
Basic Sciences Division


The students, faculty, and researchers in the Department of Physics apply the principles of physics to better enable our modern technological society and enhance the capabilities of the Air Force and the Department of Defense.

About Us

The Air Force has a long history of technological innovation. Some of the Department of Defense’s most brilliant minds helped pioneer inventions such as nuclear energy, GPS, the internet and virtual reality. Our modern society owes much to these great government scientists.

The laws and equations behind every device which empowers our modern society were first discovered in a physics laboratory. And although the pace of scientific discovery over the past two centuries has been nothing short of amazing, there remains a plethora of fundamental “unknowns” for future physicists to discover—dark energy, dark matter, quantum gravity, Grand Unification Theory and more.

The U.S. Air Force Academy’s Department of Physics offers the opportunity for cadets to graduate with an accredited Bachelor of Science in either Physics or Meteorology, as well as a minor in Nuclear Weapons & Strategy. Graduates from these programs will go on to serve the Air Force as weather officers, physicists, pilots, nuclear research officers, space operators, flight test engineers, acquisition managers, engineers, intelligence officers, and in other AF career fields.

The department is home to four research centers and a research observatory that enable cadets and faculty to work alongside Department of Defense and national-level organizations. This research develops real-world solutions to enhance the capabilities of the Air Force and DoD. The knowledge and experience our graduates gain from the research they perform greatly prepares them for their future roles as Air Force officers. Information on the six research centers can be found in the Research Centers section below, or at the Research Centers homepage.

Physics Faculty & Staff

**Those interested in applying to the Visiting Faculty Program should review the following flyer for questions on the application process.

STEM Outreach

Our department is actively engaged in STEM outreach. The following cadet-run clubs provide a unique opportunity for USAFA to engage the local community. Cadets and faculty motivate K-12 students to partake in STEM by assisting in local science fairs and running demonstrations at nearby schools and museums.

Physics is Phun
Contact Capt Zachary Condon at (719) 333-3615

Girls in the Middle
Contact Dr. Kimberly de La Harpe at (719) 333-3411

Physics and Astronomy
Contact Dr. Devin Della-Rose at (719) 333-3266

Interested community members from schools and other non-profit organizations should visit the STEM Outreach webpage. For cadets interested in starting the Meteorology club, contact the Department of Physics.

Majors & Minors

For further information on the majors and minors offered through the Department of Physics, please visit the links below.


Nuclear Weapons & Strategy

Co-Administered Programs


Department News News From Around The Department

October 12, 2017

This is Why the Air Force Academy Is Leading the Way in Space

By Mark Kuykendall / Oct. 12, 2017 U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, COLO – The United States Air Force Academy is developing leaders who will operate at the cutting edge of warfare technology, and who are prepared for a modern battlefield where space is a critical warfighting domain. Here are five numbers that show how the Academy is leading the way in space, and into an increasingly complex future of innovation and discovery: 2: Number of USAFA cadets named Rhodes Scholars after completing the FalconSAT senior capstone engineering program. “The FalconSAT experience is invaluable to the development of future Air Force leaders,”...

Continue Reading This is Why the Air Force Academy Is Leading the Way in Space

February 24, 2017

Academy physics experiment goes to International Space station

By John Van Winkle, U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs.   A cadet and faculty space physics experiment is in the hands of astronauts aboard the International Space station, more than 250 miles above the Earth. The latest Air Force Academy academic product in space is the Space Test Program-Houston 5 Automated Plume Sentry or “APS.” The sentry was delivered by Space-X Corporation’s CRS-10 mission, resupplying cargo and experiments to the station. Dr. Geoff McHarg, director of the Academy’s Space Physics and Atmospheric Research Center, said space might be a vacuum but it’s far from empty. “It contains countless micrometeoroids...

Continue Reading Academy physics experiment goes to International Space station

February 24, 2017

Update: Cadets selected to compete in round 2 of NASA space-habitat design competition

By John Van Winkle, U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs.   National Institute of Aerospace officials invited cadets to compete in the next round of the RASC-AL Space Habitat Competition's in March. If the team makes it through the next cut, they'll compete in the competition's final round, May 31-June 2 in Florida. The cadets are designing a habitat module to use in low-Earth orbit after the International Space Station is no longer available. To complete in round 1, cadet researchers submitted the required 5-page abstract and two-minute video. Teams making it through the first round submit a mid-project review in...

Continue Reading Update: Cadets selected to compete in round 2 of NASA space-habitat design competition

See All News

The Center for Space Situational Awareness Research (CSSAR) provides cadets and faculty at the Academy with an education and research program in space situational awareness (SSA) using world-class facilities and capabilities.

CSSAR Director: Dr. Francis Chun, 333-2601

Learn More


The Center for Physics Education Research (CPER) engages in pedagogical innovation and the thoughtful application of technology to the learning experience by developing and evaluating effective teaching strategies using research-based approaches.

CPER Director: Major Jessica Dwyer, 333-3596

Learn More


The Laser and Optics Research Center (LORC) performs research in laser development, laser applications and large optics for space with cadets, faculty and contractors using a well-equipped laboratory. Lasers and large optics are increasingly used by the military for directed energy weapons, precision munitions, communications and surveillance.

LORC Director: Dr. Randy Knize, 333-4165

Learn More


The Astronomical Research Group and Observatory (ARGO) houses 61- and 41-cm telescopes, and supports the worldwide Falcon Telescope Network (FTN). ARGO conducts near-Earth research including resolved and non-resolved space object tracking, and deep-space research including asteroid tracking, astronomical spectroscopy and photometry and exoplanet studies. ARGO also supports the other Department of Physics research centers and grant work and hosts STEM outreach activities at the observatory for Scout groups, school groups and teachers.

ARGO Director: Dr. Devin Della-Rose, 333-3266

Learn More

Nuclear Enterprise Research Center

The Nuclear Enterprise Research Center (NERC) focuses on the engineering, science and policy issues that face the United States Air Force and the Department of Defense. NERC works closely with DIA, AFTAC, DTRA, AFNWC, and NNSA to respond to evolving threats and difficulties that face this nation and the world. NERC provides a unique opportunity to familiarize cadets with classified material before their active duty careers.

NERC Director: Dr. Ryan Cress, 333-3272

Learn More

2354 Fairchild Drive
United States Air Force Academy, CO 80840
(719) 333-3510 | DSN 333-3510