UND is set to become the first university to partner with the U.S. Space Force, through the agency’s University Partnership Program.
UND administrators and Space Force officials will sign a memorandum of understanding on Monday, Aug. 9, that will mark the beginning of an official relationship, according to a news release. The partnership is meant to harness educational and research capabilities of top universities, and address workforce development skills for those working in, or wishing to work in, the space sector.
“The University of North Dakota has a great track record in terms of supporting research and education in space related fields,” said UND President Andrew Armacost. “The opportunity over the last year to develop a relationship with the U.S. Space Force has been truly gratifying.”
To mark the occasion, UND will hold a news conference at 1 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 9, in the atrium of Robin Hall. Armacost and Robert Kraus, dean of UND Aerospace, will be in attendance, and members of North Dakota’s congressional delegation have been invited to attend. Further details about the partnership will be released at that time.
The memorandum is the culmination of months of work in bringing UND and the Space Force together. In May, UND was selected as one of 10 universities to partner with the nation’s newest branch of the U.S. military, to conduct research for the agency and develop the talent pipeline for workers.
“We are excited to be part of this, the work that has gone in by our UND team has been significant,” Armacost said.
Since 2019, top U.S. space leaders have visited UND, 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. In October 2020, Armacost characterized those visits as “relationship building” and an opportunity for UND to showcase its strengths in space studies, engineering and autonomous systems.
SDA Director Derek Tournear and Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., stopped in Grand Forks in May to announce a low-earth satellite mission headed by General Atomics. The company is an anchor tenant at the Grand Sky research park, located near Grand Forks Air Force Base. Tournear said UND could play a role in developing algorithms needed to control satellites. Tournear previously visited UND in October last year with Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., to discuss research opportunities.
Armacost said UND has received tremendous support from agencies, including the Space Force, SDA and the U.S. Space Command, as well as from local, state and federal leaders. Signing a partnership agreement, he said, is a natural step for the university to take.
The partnership with the Space Force is expected to bring research opportunities beyond aerospace sciences. The College of Engineering and Mines, space studies, the College of Arts and Sciences will also be involved in the partnership program.