Science & Technology

Utah State Second in Nation for Space Research Funding

Utah State University is the number two university in the United States when it comes to funding for space research, joining the ranks among other prestigious research institutions that include Johns Hopkins University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
With more than $51.8 million in research and development expenditures in 2008, USU ranks second among all universities in the nation in money spent on aerospace research and development, according to the most recent National Science Foundation statistics. The majority of the funding comes from grants, contracts and appropriations.
The top 10 universities in aeronautical research are, in order of their ranking, Johns Hopkins University, Utah State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Wichita State University, U.S. Air Force Academy, Texas A&M University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Maryland-College Park, University of Colorado and Mississippi State University.
USU is home to Space Dynamics Laboratory, a unit of the USU Research Foundation. The USU Research Foundation is a non-profit research corporation owned by the university. SDL’s expertise in the development of sensors and calibration, small satellites and real-time intelligence has made it an internationally known organization in the space arena.
Founded in 1982, SDL engineers and scientists have worked closely with USU students to design and develop many research experiments flown on the space shuttle. SDL works in close collaboration with USU’s College of Engineering to identify and secure funding for research projects and also provides thousands of USU students with hands-on experience in engineering and many other disciplines.
“The Space Dynamics Laboratory, one of the laboratories of the USU Research Foundation, and USU have teamed together for many years to create one of the most important applied research organizations in the nation,” said USU Research Foundation President Douglas K. Lemon.  “Within the labs of the USU Research Foundation, the innovative research conducted every day at USU is transformed into applied research, hardware and processes that have become known for excellence, quality and benefit to science, our customers and society.”

The USU colleges of Engineering and Science are both heavily involved in space research, with extensive expertise in the subject.
The College of Engineering houses the Rocky Mountain NASA Space Grant Consortium and the Center for Space Engineering, a multi-disciplinary group of engineering faculty who are principal investigators of programs with strong ties to the Space Dynamics Laboratory. All departments in the College of Engineering, including mechanical and aerospace engineering, electrical and computer engineering, biological and irrigation engineering, civil and environmental engineering and engineering and technology education are involved in space research.
The College of Science is home to the Center for Atmospheric and Space Sciences that involves many areas of physics, in addition to such disciplines as engineering, chemistry and meteorology. The center works closely with instrument development and data analysis related to rocket, satellite and space shuttle projects and projects in experimental design and data analysis related to incoherent-scatter and coherent radars, ground-based magnetometer and ground-based optical instruments, including a LIDAR system.

“With the synergy of the Space Dynamics Laboratory and top-notch science and engineering programs, USU has long been a leader in aerospace research,” said Brent Miller, vice president for research at USU. “Other USU research programs are growing to national prominence as well. USU’s Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services, for example, is ranked third in the nation in external research funding. USU is also rapidly accelerating the transfer of university technology to the public by spinning out 10 companies within the past two years.”

Related links:
Writers: Maren Cartwright ( and Anna McEntire (
Contact: Brent Miller (, USU vice president for research, 435-797-1180
NASA rocket launch

A United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket with NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite launched Dec. 2009 from Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex-2. Photo by Bill Hartenstein, United Launch Alliance

Rosette Nebula

An innovative NASA telescope constructed at USU's Space Dynamics captured this image of the Rosette Nebula. Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/WISE Team.


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