SIE Professor, Other Researchers Seek to Clean up Space with DARPA, Lockheed Martin Funding

A satellite floats in orbit above the earth as the sun peeks over the curve of the planet. Roberto Furfaro, director of Space Situational Awareness-Arizona -- or SSA-Arizona -- and systems and industrial engineering associate professor, wants to make space a safer place for our nation's satellites. With a total of $6.65 million in new funding and the help of other researchers in the field, he's ready to make that happen.

The new awards -- a $3.3 million cooperative agreement with the Air Force Research Laboratory, a $350,000 award from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, and a $3 million sub-award from Lockheed Martin -- collectively represent the first major return on the UA's investment in SSA.

Since the Soviet Union flung Sputnik I into low-Earth orbit in 1957, dozens of other countries have sent Earth-orbiting satellites into space with no way to retrieve them when they eventually, inevitably break down.

The project is aimed at creating ways to detect a satellite on its way out before it has actually died, so those who own the satellite have time to direct it to a graveyard orbit -- one that is away from common operational orbits such as geosynchronous earth orbit, or GEO -- before it's too late.

University of Arizona College of Engineering