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U.S. Space Force announces winners of University Consortium Research Opportunity

ARLINGTON, Virginia (AFNS) -- The U.S. Space Force announced the winners of its recently established University Consortium Research Opportunity that aims to provide undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral fellows with authentic research opportunities to stimulate interest within the Space Force and improve retention in STEM-related fields.

Institutions selected for the University Consortium funding opportunity include:
  • University of Central Florida, “Industrial-Aero Optimization for Agile Rocket Cargo Delivery”
  • Texas State University, “Understanding the Effect of Vibration on the Crystallization of ZBLAN” Note: ZBLAN is a fluoride glass optical fiber.
  • University of Michigan, “Safe Learning in Space for Proximity and Rendezvous Operations”
  • University of Akron, “On-Orbit and In-Situ Inspection and Repair of Spacecraft”
  • University of New Mexico, “Designer Nanoparticles for Quantum Sensing of Location and Electric Field”
  • The University of Texas at Austin, “Information Theoretic Detection and Tracking for Rapid In-Orbit Demonstrator (IOD)”
  • The University of Texas at El Paso, "Innovative Analysis of Spectra-Temporal Signatures using Machine Learning for Ground-Based Remote Sensing of Unresolved Resident Space Objects"
The vision of the University Consortium is to connect universities to DoD space research opportunities and transition opportunities to the USSF, communicate problem focus areas to space consortium members, foster collaboration between space consortium universities and between the universities and government and industry. Additionally, the collaboration with government laboratories, industry and international research institutions aims to provide world-class research and infrastructure to accelerate innovation and transition, and foster space workforce development.
This particular research opportunity is the third of three pilot programs for the UC. It is designed to engage institutions of higher education by facilitating research in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory that leads to the continued technological advancement of the USSF.
“Science and technology is a team sport,” said Maj. Gen. Heather Pringle, Air Force Research Laboratory Commander. “Collaboration with top-tier researchers from academia enables diversity of thought from experts with unique perspectives – and is a force multiplier in developing breakthrough capabilities for the Space Force’s superiority.”
The UC funding opportunity research topics include: Topic 1: Leveraging Microgravity for Military and Commercial Applications and Products Topic 2: On-Orbit Servicing, Assembly and Manufacturing Topic 3: Quantum Sensing for Location and Electro-magnetic Field Detection Topic 4: Rapid Initial Orbit Determination Topic 5: Rocket Cargo Technology for Agile Global Statistics Topic 6: Smart Sensing and Machine learning for Ground Based Remote Sensing of Satellites
“Our nation’s universities and laboratories are the best in the world and represent the engine that drives our competitive advantage in space today and into the future,” said Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, Chief of Space Operations. “We need the innovative ideas and entrepreneurial spirit of these young men and women to help of solve the near- and long-term challenges we collectively face in securing a safe and sustainable space domain.”
University Consortium Background
The USSF UC represents an opportunity for universities to contribute to USSF science and technology priorities. The UC is currently the primary focus for establishing collaboration with academic institutions.
The pilot program comprises three opportunities:
  1. Hyperspace Challenge for Universities - Opportunity to accelerate connections to Space Force needs
  2. Space University Research Initiative (SURI) – Three-year efforts on various basic research topics
  3. USSF University Consortium Research Opportunity – Two-year efforts focused on six space-basic and applied research topics.
Its objective is to establish a consortium with top-notch research and leadership development groups to connect, communicate and collaborate on the USSF vision and problem sets to universities, connecting universities to DoD space science and technology funding opportunities and helping navigate the process. This UC research opportunity will promote collaborative partnerships with universities, government labs and industry, all while providing infrastructure to accelerate innovation to foster space workforce development.
“The USSF needs to have access to the best, world class, basic and early applied researchers working in areas that are of interest to the service,” said Dr. Lisa Costa, Chief Technology and Innovation Officer. “Providing innovative, game-changing ideas and technology while avoiding technological surprises.”
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