Space research takes off at Tech Parks Arizona

10 January 2023
First image:
The University of Arizona team cutting the ribbon

The University of Arizona Office of Research, Innovation and Impact recently launched a new research building in the UA Tech Park (Tech Parks Arizona, USA) at The Bridges. The Mission Integration Lab expands research capacity to tackle space-based challenges and positions the UArizona as one of only a handful of institutions that can run such high-level missions. 

The Mission Integration Lab, a tall, hangar-like “high bay,” serves as a test bed for new technology, enabling researchers to prepare and test stratospheric balloon payloads and other space payloads as they near flight, and seed new testing and evaluation protocols for improved efficiency. Researchers and students can work on instruments, telescopes and high-altitude balloon technology to build and test hardware for experiments and missions designed to fly at extremely high altitudes sometimes referred to as the "edge of space," an ill-defined transition zone between Earth's atmosphere and space. 

Modern balloon-borne observatories offer space-like views of the universe for a fraction of the time and cost of a full space mission. They are also a platform to test cutting-edge technologies that will define future orbital missions, and the new building offers additional space to grow research programs and partnerships for students and faculty, federal agencies and corporations to advance balloon-based astronomy frontiers

“Not only will this new facility enable the UA to remain at the forefront of Research I institutions for astronomy, but it will enable us to run the kind of space-based research and mission operations that are significant when working with NASA, as well as key industry players like SpaceX, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and others, said Elizabeth “Betsy” Cantwell, UArizona’s senior vice president of research and innovation.

Carol Stewart, Associate Vice President of Tech Parks Arizona pointed out, “The UA Tech Park was designed to develop purpose-built environments for university, industry, and government entities to come together to advance leading-edge technologies. This is the first research-specific building up at the UA Tech Park at The Bridges.”

The grand opening ceremony was attended by over a hundred business leaders, government officials, community members, innovators, and University of Arizona leaders, and showcased some cutting-edge balloon-borne mission equipment, including GUSTO, a NASA-funded mission that will carry an infrared telescope to study the lifecycle of stars from their birth out of condensing molecular clouds in stellar nurseries to their evolution and death, reseeding the interstellar medium with the ingredients that will form new stars. Attendees also got a look at the Terahertz intensity mapper, another NASA-funded balloon mission designed to create a giant map of galaxies over 5 billion years of cosmic history. It relies on an imaging spectrometer capable of detecting extremely faint galaxies in the “cosmic afternoon,” the time when star formation in the universe was slowing down from its peak 10 billion years ago.

Find out more about Tech Parks Arizona at https://techparks.arizona.edu/.

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