Space

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.

Observing

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

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

52%

asteroids

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

20

telescopes

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

1st

mission

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

NASA gives green light for OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to visit another asteroid

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will swing by Earth to deliver a sample from asteroid Bennu on Sept. 24, 2023. But it won’t clock out after that.

NASA has extended the University of Arizona-led mission, which will be renamed OSIRIS-APEX, to study near-Earth asteroid Apophis for 18 months. Apophis will make a close approach to Earth in 2029.

 

Engineers design motorless sailplane for Mars exploration

By Emily Dieckman , College of Engineering

Eight active spacecraft, including three operated by NASA, orbit Mars, gathering imagery of the planet’s surface at a resolution of about 1 foot per pixel. Three rovers traverse the ground, mapping small areas of the planet with greater precision. But what lies in the hundreds of kilometers between the rovers and the orbiters – including atmospheric climate processes and geological features like volcanoes and canyons – is often of most interest to planetary scientists. “You have this really important, critical piece in this planetary boundary layer, like in the first few kilometers above the ground,” said Alexandre Kling, a research scientist in NASA’s Mars Climate Modeling Center. “This is where all the exchanges between the surface and atmosphere happen. This is where the dust is picked up and sent into the atmosphere, where trace gases are mixed, where the modulation of large-scale winds by mountain-valley flows happen. And we just don’t have very much data about it.”

With UArizona camera, Webb Telescope sees its first star – 18 times

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is nearing completion of the first phase of the months-long process of aligning the observatory’s primary mirror using the University of Arizona-designed and led Near Infrared Camera, or NIRCam, instrument. 

The Webb team’s challenge was twofold: Confirm that NIRCam was ready to collect light from celestial objects, and then identify starlight from the same star in each of the 18 primary mirror segments.

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