U.S. Space Force representatives visited UCF’s Propulsion and Energy Research Lab. Undergraduate student Rachel Hytovick demonstrated some of the hypersonic work being developed in Engineering Professor Kareem Ahmed’s lab for Lisa Costa, chief technology and innovation officer, Joel Mozer, director of the Science, Technology, and Research Directorate, and Nackieb Kamin manager of the Science, Technology, and Research Directorate.

UCF Signs Educational Partnership Agreement with U.S. Space Force

By: Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala on

UCF, the nation’s Space University, has now entered an agreement with the U.S. Space Force to help develop technology and an agile workforce ready for space.

The two organizations recently signed an Educational Partnership Agreement (EPA) after several Space Force officials visited UCF in March.

Three members — also known as Guardians — of the Space Force spent a day at UCF learning about some of our space-relevant research and hands-on courses and met with some of UCF’s ROTC cadets. They were Lisa Costa, chief technology and innovation officer, Joel Mozer, director of the Science, Technology, and Research Directorate, and Nackieb Kamin manager of  the Science, Technology, and Research Directorate

“We have a lot of strengths in areas that are of interest to Space Force such as modeling and simulation, engineering and interdisciplinary research,” says Grace Bochenek ’98PhD, director of UCF’s School for Modeling, Simulation and Training who led efforts to broker the agreement. “The EPA allows us a lot of flexibility so we can work together and help drive the kind of innovation that the Space Force is looking for while also developing an agile workforce that’s got the right stuff and is ready to go.”

The agreement focuses on six areas Science, Technology, and Research priorities. They are:

  • Improving freedom of action in, from, and to the space domain
  • Improving the survivability and resilience of space systems and architectures
  • Digital engineering and model-based system engineering
  • Increasing responsible artificial intelligence, machine learning, and autonomy
  • Improving space access, mobility, and logistics
  • Enhancement and integration of existing services from and through an expanded space domain

The agreement also states there may be opportunities for faculty exchanges, collaborative research projects, and for student internship opportunities.

Congress created the Space Force through the National Defense Authorization Act in 2019 as a distinct branch of the armed services under the U.S. Air Force.

From left to right: Lisa Costa, chief technology and innovation officer, Elizabeth Klonoff, VP of Research and Dean of the College of Graduate Studies, Joel Mozer, director of the Science, Technology, Grace Bochenek, Director UCF’s SMST and Research Directorate, and Nackieb Kamin manager of the Science, Technology, and Research Directorate.

“Our students will certainly benefit from this new collaboration,” says Elizabeth Klonoff, vice president for Research and dean of the College of Graduate Studies. “A lot of our graduate students already work in high tech industries and many of them are working on tech that is space-bound.”

One of UCF’s areas of strength is as noted in Unleashing Potential, the recently approved strategic plan is space technologies and systems — a field the university has been committed to advancing since its founding. UCF has received more than $193 million worth of NASA awards, helping to advance science and society through innovative research. UCF faculty are involved in more than 674 NASA projects and 17 researchers have asteroids named after them in recognition of their contributions. Faculty are currently working on projects with NASA (Artemis, Viper) and commercial partners. Some UCF engineers are working on technology to get spacecraft into space more efficiently and much faster, or on unique vehicles to help explore other planets once we get there. UCF is also home to the Exolith Lab, known for creating simulated space dirt that researchers around the world use to test equipment and ideas for space travel and habitation. In 2021 the lab delivered more than 37 metric tons to customers including Kennedy Space Center.

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