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Jae Jun Kim, PhD

Research Associate Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department

Dr. Jae Jun Kim is a Research Assistant Professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) Department and an Associate Director of the Spacecraft Research and Design Center at the Naval Postgraduate School. His research interests include dynamics and control of flexible spacecraft, active and adaptive optics for large aperture telescopes and imaging spacecraft, and high-energy laser beam control. His teaching interests include Mechanical Vibration, Space Systems Laboratory, Dynamics and Control of Flexible Spacecraft, and Acquisition, Tracking and Pointing of Military Spacecraft. Kim received his degree from SUNY - Buffalo in 2004 and joined NPS in 2006.

Can you tell us more about the AI techniques being implemented into the High-Energy Laser Beam Control Research Testbed at NPS? If implemented effectively, how will these AI techniques change high-energy laser beam operations for the military?

High-energy laser system operators perform various tasks such as acquiring and tracking a target, identifying target type/class, selecting aimpoint on a target, engaging and maintaining aimpoint, and providing kill assessment. Decision making is an integral part in performing these tasks. AI techniques can help make timely and accurate decisions by operators. AI techniques are currently used to develop a decision-aid tool by automating some of the tasks traditionally performed by human operators. The High-Energy Laser Beam Control Research Testbed (HBCRT) at NPS provides an experimental platform to develop and evaluate AI techniques for target detection, target classification, aimpoint selection, and aimpoint maintenance.


The HBCRT project involves researchers from across defense, industry and academia. How does shared collaboration on defense-related research drive competitive advantage for the United States? What role is NPS playing, or should be playing, in facilitating that collaboration?

The Department of Defense, industry and academia may have different missions, but we have a common goal of advancing the technology. From the technology concept to the industry product, technology maturation cannot be achieved without direct/indirect collaborations of many relevant research efforts. I think shared collaboration efforts can accelerate the pace of technology maturation, which can lead to competitive advantage. We always learn new things when we work on collaborative research such as the HBCRT project. We share the knowledge gained with our students who are end users of these technologies.

Successful collaboration is often achieved when we are working on research projects that are of interest to both NPS, DOD and industry. Those research problems typically involve emerging technologies that have a potential to meet the need for warfighters. I think NPS is better positioned in understanding the need for warfighters and identifying technologies that can meet the need. NPS plays a role in pursuing technologies that are of interest to NPS, DOD and industry to facilitate productive collaboration.


As we incorporate AI into existing technologies, how can we ensure that those technologies are protected from adversarial attack? What measures are taken to mitigate vulnerabilities?

For many military applications, such as high-energy laser systems, AI technologies are currently used to develop a decision-aid tool, not a decision-making tool. I think we still need to improve the technology until we have enough confidence about the AI models to produce accurate and protected output. Another question is how much confidence is enough.


There are few places where warfighters, engineers, researchers and national security experts can work together to proactively address DOD priorities and emerging threats. How does NPS’ mostly military student body and cross-department collaboration impact the applied solutions emerging from NPS? How does it impact future military operations?   

Military students have good understanding of current capabilities and future needs in their respective areas. I often come across motivated students who have ideas on improving capabilities in their respective fields. Many NPS faculty and staff provide research opportunities in various DOD-relevant problems to stimulate student research interest as well. This provides overall positive impact in applying new technologies and solving relevant DOD problems at NPS. I think there is much room to improve in terms of cross-departmental collaboration and leveraging resources available at NPS. 


The global space economy is nearing $500 billion, as of 2021, and some predict it will be $1 trillion by 2040. With this increased focus and investment in space, what emerging aerospace engineering technology trends, other than AI, should the US focus on? What technologies will have the greatest impact on the defense aerospace industry?

I believe space surveillance is very important for the defense aerospace industry. We have been eyeing technologies that can provide high resolution and persistent surveillance capabilities from space, such as segmented mirror telescopes and sparse aperture imaging. With the successful launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in December 2021, large aperture space imaging platforms became a reality. Cost-effective large aperture imaging from space is one of the technology areas that we can focus on. I am sure there are other important technical areas that can impact the defense aerospace industry as well.

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