The University of Arizona's new Space4 Center works at the crossroads of "space safety, security and sustainability." It also reflects the strategic areas of the four original university partners that came together to form the center: the College of Engineering, College of Science, BIO5 Institute and the Office of Research, Innovation & Impact.
The center is led by director Vishnu Reddy; deputy director of engineering SIE professor Roberto Furfaro; deputy director of data science Nirav Merchant, who also leads the university's Data Science Institute and the National Science Foundation-funded CyVerse platform; and deputy director of community engagement Walt Harris.
"The University of Arizona has a moonshot culture; that is, we have permission to think big, take risks, and courageously address the world's most complex problems," said Elizabeth "Betsy" Cantwell, UA's senior vice president for research and innovation. "Challenges related to national security and sustainability in space are certainly a moonshot, and they will not be solved by any single unit or college. Space4 is laying the groundwork to do ambitious, groundbreaking things in a rapidly changing field."
This new Center furthers UA's focus on space science. Earlier this year, Reddy, a professor of planetary sciences, and Furfaro received $7.5 million from the Air Force Research Lab to develop ways to detect, characterize and track objects in cislunar space, or the space between Earth and the moon. The university also operates a Space Domain Awareness Observatory complex, located near Biosphere 2.
"The algorithms we develop using machine learning and artificial intelligence will be a game changer in tackling the space domain awareness problem. We have the perfect combination of hardware that is collecting exquisite data and cyberinfrastructure to harness the power of AI at the university," Furfaro said.