Center for Space Research and Assurance celebrates 10th anniversary

  • Published
  • By Mary Anne Sibley
  • Air Force Institute of Technology

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- The Air Force Institute of Technology’s Center for Space Research and Assurance is celebrating its 10th anniversary this November. Since its founding, CSRA has transcended its expectations by enhancing AFIT's research-based, space-focused graduate education programs for the Department of Defense and intelligence communities.

In this decade, CSRA has had an evolution of leadership. The Center's first director was Dr. Jonathan Black, followed by Col. Matthew Sambora, Col. Dane Fuller and Col. Timothy Albrecht. The current director is Col. Nathan Terry, with Lt. Col. Robert Bettinger as the deputy director.

With great leaders, faculty and staff, the Center has had many accomplishments to celebrate. CSRA's researchers have brought in over $15 million in external funding, maintained more than $12 million in essential equipment and graduated 184 master's and 21 doctoral degree space students.

Since its inception, CSRA has advanced space education at AFIT for students in the astronautical engineering and space systems graduate degree programs. CSRA faculty have also created successful certification programs where students can earn graduate certificates in space systems and space vehicle design. The center has created such a competitive advantage for AFIT in the space domain that the center was presented the prestigious Muir S. Fairchild Educational Achievement Award in 2019.

Some of the notable events that have occurred in CSRA are:

  • Developed five spaceflight experiments:

    • AFIT LEO iMESA CNT Experiment (ALICE)

    • Space Object Self-Tracker (SOS) Payload

    • Skypad Payload

    • Grissom-1 CubeSat

    • Grissom-P CubeSat

  • Launched three spaceflight experiments:

    • ALICE - 2013

    • SOS - 2019

    • Skypad - 2020

Where does CSRA see itself in the next 10 years?

Lt. Col. Robert Bettinger, CSRA's deputy director, said, “I think that we should expand our modeling and simulation capabilities to influence the research push into areas that may be deemed as 'science fiction' at the present. We should be poised to answer the questions that may not be openly asked, such as what future space operations may look like in not only cislunar space, but beyond. We should pivot our curriculum and research to anticipate questions such as this example so that we are proactive to customer needs and impactful on a shorter timeline.”

Dr. Carl Harsfield, program chair of graduate space systems, also weighed in on CSRA’s trajectory for the next decade.

“I think we should strive to be the US Space Force’s primary resource for innovations in space mission analysis and design,” said Hartsfield. “That should include being national thought leaders in near-Earth to cislunar operations and, by that point, looking forward to potential missions in deep space, outside the Earth’s sphere of influence, perhaps to interplanetary applications but definitely in the sense of managing near-Earth asteroids and other significant threats to Earth and United States and United States Space Force assets.”

Col. Nathan Terry, CSRA's director, emphasized the center as a home-base for giving Guardians the specific capabilities they need to further their missions.

“I see CSRA as the premier technology mentor for Space Force Guardians, offering a range of degree and micro-certificate credentialing options to imbue the right Guardians with the right skills at the right time,” said Terry. “CRSA will become the center of visionary thought leadership for space research, supporting all phases of space operations and growing space power.”

As space operations intensify, there will be a need for more advance research and the education of professionals on how to increase the capabilities of the Department of Defense and intelligence communities.

Over the next 10 years, CSRA will continue to evolve its research and graduate education mission by expanding its work with digital engineering, high performance computing and cutting-edge trajectory/mission development in orbital regimes ranging from low Earth orbit to the cislunar domain.

For more information about graduate and post-doctoral degrees in astronautical engineering or space systems, please visit the CSRA web page and click on the “Degree Programs” tab.