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UCF has always served the space industry and it will continue to do so — at least if Professor Seetha Raghavan can help it.

The coordinator of the aerospace engineering program hosted a NASA-sponsored workshop earlier this month to foster further collaborations between UCF faculty and the space industry. Associate Professor Subith Vasu and research engineer Anthony Terracciano co-hosted the virtual event, which was attended by nearly 50 professionals and academics.

“UCF has the scientific talent to respond to rapidly growing needs and opportunities in space technology and building partnerships is a key part of this response,” Raghavan said.

The workshop featured a stellar lineup of panelists, including Steven Squyres, the chief scientist for Blue Origin; Dan Britt, the director of the Center for Lunar and Asteroid Surface Science; and Josh Colwell, a professor in the UCF physics department. Some familiar faces were also on the panel, including Timothy Kotnour, the director of the ELI2 program in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, and Kevin DiMarzio, the vice president of business development for Made in Space. DiMarzio is also an alumnus of the aerospace engineering undergraduate program.

The panelists talked about their respective organizations and their current collaborations as well as potential partnership opportunities in the future. They also answered questions from the participants, including what UCF’s future in the space industry looks like.

“If you want to set your sights high, there are a handful of universities in the U.S. that have the capability to develop substantial flight hardware — huge spacecraft — step-by-step, ferociously,” Squyres said. “Targeting the capability to build [spacecraft], on campus, and operate it, on campus — that would be a wonderful thing to strive for.”

Aside from the industry panel, the workshop also included a panel on collaborations between NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and nearby space consortia. The panel included Jose Nunez, the chief of KSC, as well as representatives from the space grant consortia in Florida, South Carolina and Puerto Rico.

This workshop was the second of its kind to be hosted by Raghavan. The first workshop was internal and focused on ways that researchers across UCF could collaborate on space-related research. These events are the result of a recent NASA planning grant titled “Mapping a Trajectory for STEM Readiness in Space Technology” that was recently awarded to UCF.

“The grant for minority-serving institutions is aimed at charting out planning activities to bring about new collaborations and a focused strategy for research and education that will yield new technologies for the Artemis Program and beyond all while reflecting the diversity of our nation,” Raghavan said.