Space Object Intelligence focuses on studying the movement of objects in space and managing space traffic. The University of Arizona’s desert environment boasts uniquely clear views of the sky, from the Sonoran Desert to the many mountain ranges that run through Tucson, making it one of the best locations for observing and researching space. UArizona possesses a diverse faculty and myriad of laboratories and observation centers that are central to the innovation of the space frontier. With nine departments involved in the Space Object Behavioral Sciences initiative, UArizona takes a leading role in the protection and exploration of space capabilities.

Our Space Competencies

Space Situational Awareness (SSA)

The goal of Space Situational Awareness is to warn, protect, or interrupt space capabilities and activities that could have detrimental effects on the earth’s surface. SSA provides leaders with intelligence to make decisions regarding the blossoming space environment. The Remote Sensing Group at the College of Optical Sciences has led to participation in round-robin laboratory calibrations with national laboratories and sensor manufacturers. The work also includes strong interactions with NASA and space agencies from other countries.

Remote Sensing

University of Arizona’s Earth Dynamics Observatory (EDO) combines strengths in space exploration, instrumentation, and earth sciences in order to learn more about our planet. EDO specializes in collecting information about Earth from space in order to provide new information about how Earth systems work, how they are changing, and how humans might anticipate and respond to changes.


The University of Arizona was the first university to head science operations for a NASA planetary mission–the Phoenix Mars Lander–and leads the billion-dollar OSIRIS-REx mission to sample an asteroid. In addition, The Space and Terrestrial Robotic Exploration (SpaceTREx) Laboratory at University of Arizona’s Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Department develop systems engineering design and control solutions for space, planetary and asteroid exploration, using small spacecraft, robots and sensor network devices. Research is focused on developing enabling technologies for extreme environment exploration, interplanetary CubeSat explorers and on-orbit servicing spanning spacecraft constellations, propulsion, power and communications.

Deep Space 1 

Originally designed to test a dozen new technologies including the use of an ion engine for spacecraft propulsion, Deep Space 1 far outstripped its primary mission goals by also successfully flying by the asteroid 9969 Braille and comet Borrelly. The flybys produced what are still considered some of the best images and data ever collected from an up-close encounter with an asteroid or comet.

Space Object Intelligence Facts

Space Object Intelligence research helps us understand the impact of all objects in space. Because this is becoming a common practice among military, civil, and commercial industries, research is an integral part in understanding the effects that objects like satellites have in space.



4,987 satellites revolved around the Earth’s orbit in 2019 according to UNOOSA



52% of all known near-earth asteroids & comets were discovered by the University of Arizona



UArizona leads or partners in running over 20 unique telescopes around the world



Phoenix Mars Mission was the first mission in NASA’s Scout Program

Space Laboratories and Research Centers

With our world-renowned observatories and telescopes, and pre-eminent departments and centers carrying out research in astronomy, planetary and space sciences, UArizona is perfectly positioned to take a leading role in protecting space capabilities and services from loss, interruption and degradation.

Awards in Space Sciences

Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) investments enhance the research, academic and technology capabilities of MSIs through multiyear grants. Awards assist faculty and students in research and provide authentic STEM engagement related to NASA missions.

Space News

Event Horizon Telescope Pinpoints Heart of the Nearest Radio Galaxy

The Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration, which is known for capturing the first image of a black hole in 2019 and includes researchers from the University of Arizona, has now imaged the heart of another galaxy – Centaurus A – in unprecedented detail.

Taking advantage of the collaboration’s global array of telescopes, the international team’s observations reveal an enormous glowing jet of gas and dust being flung from the supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s center. Centaurus A is located over 13 million light-years away and glows brightly at the longest wavelengths of light – radio wavelengths.

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Probing Alien Worlds: NASA's Pandora Mission Builds on UArizona Research

In the quest for habitable planets beyond our own, NASA is studying a mission concept called Pandora, which could eventually help decode the atmospheric mysteries of distant worlds in our galaxy. One of four low-cost astrophysics missions selected for further concept development under NASA’s new Pioneers program, Pandora would study approximately 20 stars and exoplanets – planets outside of our solar system – to provide precise measurements of exoplanetary atmospheres.

OSIRIS-REx successfully stows ample of Asteroid Bennu

NASA’s University of Arizona-led OSIRIS-REx mission has successfully stowed the spacecraft’s Sample Return Capsule and its abundant sample of asteroid Bennu. On Oct. 28, the mission team sent commands to the spacecraft, instructing it to close the capsule – marking the end of one of the most challenging phases of the mission.

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