UND President Andrew Armacost hopes to one day see satellites launching from Grand Forks.

It's just a far-off wish for now, but UND’s growing relationship with the new U.S. Space Force could provide extensive learning opportunities for students, Armacost said, while also benefiting the nation and the world.

“I want to launch satellites from Grand Forks,” Armacost said this week during a recent discussion that was broadcast live on the internet. “I'll say that again: I want to launch satellites from Grand Forks meaning, design them and control them.”

Armacost later clarified to say that he views the idea as a “vision” for the university, a vision that would build on UND’s space study program as well as UND’s work on autonomous systems.

He emphasized that the idea is a just a dream, and that it if it ever comes to fruition, it would be with leadership from faculty and staff across the campus.

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“I don't want to get too far ahead of where we are, but I do have some exciting aspirations,” he told the Herald Friday.

The topic of UND’s role in space studies first came up earlier this week during a question-and-answer session broadcast online. Armacost, along with UND First Lady Kathy Armacost, spent time taking questions from donors and other community members during an “Ask the Armacosts” virtual event held on Wednesday, Sept. 30. The event was conducted by the UND Alumni Association & Foundation.

Armacost said he wants to see UND trying to “hitch rides” with companies like SpaceX to put “UND payloads into the sky.” But he envisions UND students one day developing and controlling the drones from Grand Forks, potentially bringing together UND’s engineering and aerospace schools.

“I think there's magic that can happen as a consequence of this,” he said.

Armacost said there are also opportunities for growth for UND’s data science and cybersecurity programs, which could help with national security issues the country may face in the future.

The university has had two visits from U.S. Space Force commanders since the beginning of the year. Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, the first commander of the Space Force and now its chief of space operations, visited UND in January. The second commander, Gen. James Dickinson, visited UND in September.

During the January meeting, Raymond said the research happening at UND will be critical for the Space Force going forward.

“It’s a really critical and exciting time to be in the space business and, as I learned this morning here at the University of North Dakota, there’s a lot of great research going on,” Raymond said at the time. “If we can help future space officers, I think this school has a great opportunity and we have a great opportunity to work closely with those folks and do some research on topics that are of great importance.”