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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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U.S. Space Force selects A&M to lead $37.6 million in-space operations research project

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Nicholas Gutteridge
An astronaut suit stands in front of Neil Armstrong’s famous quote at an exhibit in the Smithsonians’s National Air and Space Museum on Jan. 12, 2024. (Nicholas Gutteridge/The Battalion)

The United States Space Force tapped Texas A&M to lead its joint-effort Space Strategic Technical Institute for In-Space Operations, or SSTI-IO, researching innovations for in-space operations.

On Jan. 8, the Space Force and Air Force Research Laboratory announced they selected A&M to lead the joint SSTI research effort, along with the University of Cincinnati. Both universities will receive a combined total of $49.9 million in funding, and A&M confirmed on Jan. 10 that it will receive $37.6 million for the five-year project.

A&M System Chancellor John Sharp said the decision was made after Gen. B. Chance Saltzman felt impressed after he visited A&M’s RELLIS campus and witnessed its progress in building the nation’s biggest hypersonic test tunnel.

“Today’s announcement is just more evidence that Texas A&M will make sure that Texas not only maintains but grows its role as a leader in the new space economy,” Sharp said in a Jan. 9 statement. “No university is better equipped for aeronautics and space projects than Texas A&M.”

No university is better equipped for aeronautics and space projects than Texas A&M.”

— John Sharp, Chancellor of the Texas A&M University System

SSTI-ISO is a collaborative effort between academics and industry partners, including researchers and students from the University of Southern California, the University of Texas at Austin, Purdue University, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of New Mexico, the University of Texas at El Paso, Prairie View A&M University and the Southwest Research Institute.

Across all institutions, A&M said more than 50 students and researchers will collaborate on the project.

A&M mechanical engineering chair professor Robert Ambrose, Ph.D., will direct the program. Ambrose serves as the director for Space and Robotics Initiatives for the A&M Engineering Experiment Station and has over 20 years of experience at NASA.

“This is a real dream team for in-space operations,” Ambrose said in a Jan. 10 statement. “These are professors that I have known for decades in some cases, and I’m really excited to bring everyone together to help the Space Force with its important mission in space.”

Ambrose said his team will conduct extensive integrated testing to evaluate and refine their ideas for use by their industry partners. 

According to the press release, the project has received support from space industry leaders, such as Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Intuitive Machines, Blue Origin, Lunar Resources, Novium, Aegis and Axiom Space.

The Space Force said the research effort will focus on procuring technology for spaceflight experimentation and space-related signal, energy and transportation technologies, following the In-Space Servicing, Assembly and Manufacturing National Strategy

“Focus areas for the selected proposals include researching robotic servicing and associated modeling and simulation, developing testbeds, as well as CubeSat berthing and refueling technologies, developing constructive operations, large-scale in-space assembly and debris mitigation,” the Jan. 8 press release reads.

University President Mark A. Welsh III said A&M has a long history of conducting world-class research to further space exploration technology. 

“This announcement not only acknowledges that Texas A&M is at the vanguard of space science and engineering, but it also emphasizes the exceptional quality of our world-class faculty,” Welsh said in a Jan. 10 press release. “We are grateful to the U.S. Space Force for providing us with the opportunity to continue our work in this vital domain.”

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About the Contributors
Ana Renfroe
Ana Renfroe, Head News Editor
Ana Renfroe, Class of 2025, is a journalism junior with a minor in professional writing from Bryan, Texas. Ana has served as The Battalion's head news editor from May 2023 to May 2024. Previously, she was the assistant news editor for the spring 2023 semester. Ana has covered breaking news, politics, and more. She typically covered the Texas A&M System and university administration, Texas and Bryan-College Station politics, student government and more. Ana previously hosted and produced episodes of The Batt Signal, The Battalion's news podcast. Additionally, she was a copyeditor and feature writer for Maroon Life magazine, and helped contribute to the Aggieland Yearbook.
Nicholas Gutteridge
Nicholas Gutteridge joined The Battalion in January 2023 as a news reporter before being promoted to news editor in August 2023. He interned at The Pentagon in Washington D.C. from January-May 2024 with the U.S. Air Force Office of Public Affairs before rejoining The Battalion. He specializes in investigative reporting and will be the managing editor for the 2024-25 academic year.
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