Record-breaking $1B contract headed for Utah State University's Space Dynamics Lab

An image from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), which was designed and built at USU's Space Dynamics Laboratory. The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory has awarded a $1 billion contract for space technology development to the Space Dynamics Laboratory in Logan.

An image from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), which was designed and built at USU's Space Dynamics Laboratory. The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory has awarded a $1 billion contract for space technology development to the Space Dynamics Laboratory in Logan. (USU Space Dynamics Laboratory)



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

LOGAN — Utah State University's Space Dynamics Laboratory has been awarded a $1 billion contract for space technology development, the Air Force Research Laboratory announced earlier this week.

The contract, which is the largest ever given out by the Air Force Research Laboratory, will provide funding for research over a 10-year period and provides for the research and development of essential engineering support and capability in the areas of sensor and system development, modeling and simulation, experimentation, data analysis and sensor and system validations on space vehicles, according to the Department of Defense.

Essentially, this contract is about getting new technology into space, particularly satellites with different sensing capabilities.

"It's looking at the environment up there and helping us with weather predictions or communication paths," Lance Fife, director of the strategic and military space division for USU's Space Dynamics Lab said. "On the quantum sensing and photonics sensors, we're working with the Air Force Research Lab to improve the accuracy of timing for systems such as GPS, so that we can get more accurate timing for all systems that rely on GPS."

The USU Space Dynamics Lab is one of 14 nonprofit U.S. Department of Defense-affiliated University Affiliated Research Centers. These centers are designed to provide critical mass in research areas that meet U.S. Army and Department of Defense future needs and anticipated combat requirements.

"We have a historically long relationship with (the Space Dynamics Lab), and they're the most experienced in the space technologies that we need," Lt. Simone Smith, program manager for the contract said. "Just to continue strengthening that relationship with them is perfect for our contract."

"Because this contract is so long and provides so much funding, we don't have to stop our contracts or modify them in order to keep our research going," Smith said.

Fife and Smith both emphasized how much this contract means for the future of both the Air Force Research Lab and the local USU Space Dynamics Lab.

"It gives us this opportunity to have a trusted partner relationship with government entities such as the Air Force Research Lab — we've worked on numerous programs with them for many decades," Fife said. "Over the next 10 years, this is going to provide many exciting opportunities to solve some of the nation's most challenging and difficult problems but we're up for the task and excited for it."

Correction: A previous headline incorrectly said a grant was headed for Utah State University's Space Dynamics Lab instead of a contract.

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