spaceAs Congress contemplates a new direction for the U.S. space program, UCF is reorganizing its space-related research institute to focus more resources on basic research as well as on projects that will benefit the Florida space industry.

The Florida Space Institute, which for the past five years has operated out of the College of Engineering and Computer Science, will now focus more on interdisciplinary research and will become part of the Office of Research and Commercialization.

“By consolidating our many faceted space-related activities, such as spacecraft design, remote sensing, planetary science, human factors, and other disciplines, we can more effectively develop projects to support the space industry in the state and the nation,” said M.J. Soileau, vice president for research and commercialization.

A national search is being conducted for a new director to lead the center and coordinate industry, research and administrative efforts in space science, engineering and education for UCF.

UCF currently has more than $14 million in active space-related research projects, sponsored by agencies such as NASA and the National Science Foundation and also by a host of industry partners including Raytheon, the Boeing Company, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Applied Sensor Research & Development Corporation and others.

UCF has long and unique history with the space program, having been formed in 1963 as Florida Technological University in part to train workers for the Apollo program.

Reconfiguring the Florida Space Institute will allow it to meet the changing needs of the program and, by giving the director access to faculty from the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the College of Optics and Photonics, the College of Sciences and others, could lead to advances not possible under a single disciplinary approach, Soileau said.

The changes will also better position UCF to take advantage of the increased focus and funding on science in the NASA budget, and a new focus on technology development at the Kennedy Space Center.

UCF is committed to becoming a premier institution in space science, engineering, and education and is seeking a dynamic individual to implement that vision, Soileau said.