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Virginia Invests in Aerospace Industry / Universities to Stimulate Economic Growth

The Virginia SmallSat Data Consortium, a research center co-led by Virginia Tech and Old Dominion University, has been awarded a $1.5 million grant by the Virginia Research Investment Fund, an initiative to position Virginia as a leader in satellite and data collection and stimulate economic growth in the aerospace sector.

The two-year grant will launch the consortium, which also includes industry partners, the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, and NASA Langley Research Center. The project has secured $1.8 million in additional funding as a condition of the grant award.

“Virginia Tech researchers and students, along with our partners, will help lead Virginia into new, diverse technology areas, specifically the intersection of data fusion, analytics, and small satellites,” said Jonathan Black, professor in the Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering and director of the Aerospace and Ocean Systems Laboratory at the Hume Center for National Security and Technology.“Through expansion of our existing ground station, students will have the opportunity to build the enabling ground infrastructure, work in space operations, and collaborate with our partners to support space missions across the state.”

One year ago, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, on behalf of the Virginia Research Investment Committee, launched a comprehensive study to assess the commonwealth’s research assets, including those at its public and private universities, federal research facilities, and private sector companies. Strategic opportunity areas in the study included small satellites, autonomous systems, big data, cybersecurity, and life sciences, each having the potential to draw companies small and large to locate their operations and increase economic opportunities in Virginia.

The translational research center has a dual purpose: seeking new university technologies areas with the potential to be commercialized and have long-term growth; and developing a repository of state space research assets to build an infrastructure for universities, industries, and startups to leverage for competitive advantage in the field of space and smallsats.

The research center will integrate operations into the existing Virginia Institute for Spaceflight and Autonomy and the Virginia Modeling, Analysis & Simulation Center at Old Dominion University, and at the ground control station at Virginia Tech. The ground station at Virginia Tech is a joint effort between the Center for Space Science and Engineering Research, known as Space@VT; the Hume Center for National Security and Technology; the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science; and the departments of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering.

-Jama Green

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