The United States Space Force, in collaboration with Columbia-based Universities Space Research Association and the Air Force Research Laboratory, will award a combined total of $6.4 milion through the University Consortium Research Opportunity to help solve leading science and technology challenges in Beyond Geostationary Orbit and Space Domain Awareness. Funding will go to Regents of University of Colorado (University of Colorado Boulder) and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University – a Minority Serving Institution – along with their consortium partners.

Administered by USRA, UCRO connects institutions of higher education with AFRL and USSF through the advancement of meaningful scientific research that addresses risks and other areas of scientific interest to secure long-term partnerships and provision authentic research opportunities for undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral fellows. Institutions of special interest include Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and other designated Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). Approximately 50 percent of proposals received during this cycle of UCRO represented MSIs.

“UCRO fills a critical need to address pertinent S&T research on behalf of both AFRL and USSF while engaging institutions of higher education,” said Bernie Seery, USRA vice president for Science and Technology. “The research yielded will align with the broader joint force missions while contributing to global space operations. USRA is delighted with the opportunity to support such a tremendous effort that will have profound implications on xGEO operations and space domain awareness research.”

The second cycle of UCRO is focused on technologies needed to ensure continued and enhanced capability across all space areas – including moons and planets – for the U.S. military and civil operations through a network of partners. Universities with expertise in xGEO and SDA were encouraged to collaborate with each other and industry to address space research, development, and demonstration needs.

“UCRO 2.0 will also provide experiential research opportunities for students and postdoctoral fellows to increase exposure to workforce development opportunities of the future,” said Dr. Amanda Smith-Hackler, USRA Director of Education and Principal Investigator (PI) for UCRO.

The initial award is for two years (24 months) with one to three additional optional years for a total of 60 months, contingent upon performance and the availability of funds.