UNH teams up with Texas nonprofit on new space science research unit

The University of New Hampshire has signed a deal to collaborate on space science research with the Southwest Research Institute of San Antonio, Texas, a nonprofit that the school has previously teamed up with on multiple NASA projects.The five-year agreement, which went into effect Monday, calls for SwRI to open a new department at UNH’s Durham campus, to be called SwRI Earth, Oceans and Space Department, according to a press release.The collaboration will allow the two organizations to combine their expertise in astrophysics, earth and ocean science and space science missions, and will increase research opportunities for UNH graduate and undergraduate students, officials said.It will also allow UNH and SwRI to team up on proposals to federal agencies — like NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and the National Science Foundation — which will help UNH to better compete for major grants at a time when federal research dollars are being scaled back, said Jan Nisbet, senior vice provost for research at UNH.In addition, she said, UNH and SwRI plan on jointly pursuing expanded research and commercial opportunities with New England aerospace companies.The new department will be located at Morse Hall — home of UNH’s Earth, Oceans and Space Institute and the Space Science Center — and will be headed up by Roy Torbert, a physics professor and director of the Space Science Center. In addition to Torbert, nine UNH engineering and accounting staff members and one scientist from SwRI will join the new department. Torbert said the collaboration “will allow UNH to expand our involvement into larger and more complex space missions, and SwRI will be able to tap into UNH’s expertise to diversify its program into Earth and ocean science.” According to its website, SwRI has developed avionics systems that have flown in more than 50 government and commercial space missions without any on-orbit failures. It has served as the principal investigator institution for multiple NASA missions, the release said.”The collaboration benefits both institutions because it allows SwRI access to a much wider range of science disciplines and allows UNH to benefit from SwRI’s extensive science mission management expertise,” said Jim Burch, president of SwRI’s Space Science and Engineering Division, who will oversee the collaboration at SwRI.SwRI and UNH have teamed up before on multiple NASA programs. Under Torbert’s direction, the space center at UNH is currently building the FIELDS instrument suite for NASA’s four-spacecraft Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, which will examine the little-understood phenomenon of magnetic reconnection. – KATHLEEN CALLAHAN/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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