UND is among a contingent of universities seeking to bring the U.S. Space Command to the Midwest.

UND -- with work from the North Dakota University System -- the University of Nebraska, Kansas State and Purdue have joined forces to form a space-oriented academic and research alliance designed to entice the U.S. Space Command headquarters to potentially be at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Neb.

UND President Andrew Armacost said this is an arrangement that was being worked on by NDUS Chancellor Mark Hagerott. Armacost said UND is strongly interested in supporting the Space Force and U.S. Space Command in any way it can on campus.

“Regardless of any decisions about locations of U.S. Space Command, UND remains firmly committed to supporting the research and workforce development needs of anything our nation does in space,” he told the Herald.

Offutt is one of six finalists for the U.S. Space Command headquarters. Other finalists include Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, Redstone Army Airfield in Alabama and the former Kelly Air Force Base in Texas.

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UND has had a number of space-related visits to campus in the past 18 months.

Since September 2019, four space officials have visited campus, including NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, U.S. Space Command Commander Gen. James Dickinson and Gen. John "Jay" Raymond, chief of space operations for the U.S. Space Force.

The latest visit was from the Space Development Agency Director Derek Tournear in October.

“The visits are about relationship building, but it's really an opportunity for us to showcase what we have to offer in this new area of space research, and also workforce development,” UND Armacost said in October.

North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott, along with University of Nebraska system President Retired Vice Adm. Ted Carter, Purdue President Mitch Daniels and Kansas State President Richard Myers, published a column in the Annapolis Capital-Gazette over the weekend about the partnership, noting they have “numerous existing strengths on which to build this alliance.”

“In our view, the Heartland is the right home for U.S. Space Command,” they wrote.

The leaders said their institutions are “primed to form a Higher Education Space Research and Workforce Alliance, a first-of-its-kind, multi-state, multi-university partnership dedicated to supporting U.S. Space Command as it works to navigate, protect and defend our nation’s vital space assets.”

Through the new academic alliance the leaders say they will work with Space Command to look at current and future workforce needs while also jointly developing degree programs and courses between the universities that “will allow us to be nimble in addressing those needs.”

Additionally, the leaders want to form a working group of “our technology transfer leads to create a 'one-stop shop' for U.S. Space Command to quickly bring the research innovations of our faculty to market.” They also want to “create a database of researchers in space-related fields to enhance collaboration and allow U.S. Space Command to quickly assess our combined capabilities.”

The institutions have a combined 163,000 students, including top-ranked engineering, space law, aerospace studies, cybersecurity and information technology programs that are “well-suited to the U.S. Space Command mission.”