Univ. of Florida to establish Space Mission Institute, allocate $2.5 million

by | Dec 20, 2023

  • The University of Florida (UF) is dedicating $2.5 million from a larger $10.2 million funding package to establish the UF Space Mission Institute. 
  • The institute aims to be a collaborative hub for UF experts to address issues in space exploration, development, and commercialization.
  • UF’s future facility will build upon its previous contributions to space research, such as developing laser communications for small spacecraft and a critical component for NASA’s LISA mission.

The University of Florida (UF) is allocating $2.5 million from a $10.2 million funding package to establish the UF Space Mission Institute.

According to the university, the institute will serve as a hub in which experts across UF’s colleges can work together to “answer questions related to space exploration, development, and commercialization.”

“The Space Mission Institute will cultivate an entirely new generation of researchers who study terrestrial analogs of important space problems,” Interim dean of the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering Forrest J. Masters said. “It will create new pathways for these researchers to advance spaceflight, planetary and space exploration, and the search for answers to the most fundamental questions known to humankind.”

The Institute will continue the university’s efforts to contribute and participate in aerospace-related research projects. In 2016, NASA selected UF, among other universities, to collaborate on developing new technologies for small spacecraft. UF specifically researched advancements in laser communications, contributing to a broader objective of enhancing the capabilities of small spacecraft

In 2020, NASA awarded a $12 million contract to UF for the development of a critical component for the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) mission.

“This new venture into space science is an exhilarating addition to our college portfolio,” Richardson said. “We are excited to contribute our expertise in planetary science, astronomy instruments, and more, further enriching the institute’s capabilities.”

The funding allocation comes at a time in which the state is hosting more space launches than ever before. Last month, Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez stated during a press conference that Florida’s aerospace industry is expecting to play host to more than 100 launches in 2024, a record number.

Many of this year’s launches can be attributed to SpaceX, which has blasted more than 40 vessels into orbit and conducts a launch every five days on average. Nearly 75 percent of the company’s launches were held at Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 40, according to USA Today

Elon Musk and SpaceX is set to face competition in Florida, however, as Amazon announced earlier this year that it is constructing a $120 million processing facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for its Kuiper internet satellite project. The facility, expected to be completed by late 2024, will be the final stop for Amazon’s Kuiper satellites before they are launched into space.

Early construction plans call for a 100,000 square feet facility that features a 100-foot tall high bay clean room, which will accommodate the payload fairing of heavy-lift rockets like Blue Origin’s New Glenn and ULA’s Vulcan Centaur. The new facility is also estimated to bring approximately 50 specialty jobs to the area.


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