Reaching New Horizons in Space Exploration Studies
Space exploration impacts our daily life — from technology advancement to medical research to scientific discoveries. Two of the astronauts who launched into space are UCF alumni: Fernando “Frank” Caldeiro ’95MS and Nicole Stott ’92MS. For over 50 years, the university has played a big role in educating future engineers, administrators and space explorers — something we will continue over the next 50 years and more.
At the Forefront of Space Exploration
Central Florida’s Impact
Kennedy Space Center, the country’s gateway to the universe, is only 35 miles away from UCF’s main campus — giving students an opportunity to go above and beyond in their space studies. After the Space Shuttle program’s last mission in 2011, space exploration entered a new era that expanded its scope of work. Today, the university’s curriculum covers a wide range of space work, from observational astronomy with ground- and space-based telescopes to spaceflight hardware development. As students look to the stars and see endless possibilities, they’re reminded how the discoveries made today and tomorrow impact future generations to come.
Taking Space Research Above and Beyond
Founded in 1963 with the mission to provide talent for Central Florida and the growing U.S. space program, UCF has been making an impact on our state, our nation — and outer space — ever since. The Florida Space Institute, based at UCF, is made up of researchers and educators from UCF in partnership with those at other State University System of Florida institutions. Many of these researchers are tied to major space missions exploring Pluto, Saturn, the Kuiper Belt, Mars, the moon, comets, asteroids, Jupiter and exoplanets.
UCF faculty are part of several NASA missions, including OSIRIS-REx and New Horizons. But our faculty aren’t the only ones doing research in space. UCF alumni have also gone on to take giant leaps in the space industry with companies such as NASA, Boeing, Lockheed, SpaceX and Blue Origin.
Experiments sent to space in 2019 aboard rockets operated by Blue Origin, SpaceX and Virgin Galactic
as of Feb. 16, 2021
NASA funding since 1991
Kennedy Space Center employees are UCF alumni
UCF faculty have asteroids named after them in recognition of their work.
The planet UCF researchers discovered and named in 2012
(Photo by Bill Stafford)
Alumni Spotlight: Nicole Stott ’92
Two space shuttle missions. A three-month stay on the International Space Station. The 10th woman to perform a spacewalk. Nicole Stott ’92 broke barriers during her time as an astronaut. From her start as an operations engineer at Kennedy Space Center, she held different positions before achieving what once seemed like a far-fetched idea: becoming an astronaut. After her last mission, Stott led several groups at NASA before stepping aside to try something new: Inspiring students to blend art with science. While sharing her love of both subjects, she spreads a motivational message that “this is our planet, and we need to take care of it.”
UCF’s relationship with NASA is really providing a reservoir of scientific talent that enables the goals of our space program. That kind of talent is not found in most universities in the country.”
Reputation for Excellence
UCF’s reputation opens the doors to unique instruments such as the Hubble and Spitizer space telescopes. Hubble and Spitizer give us unprecedented views into the galaxy and some of our faculty already have guaranteed time on the James Webb space telescope when it launches later this year. UCF also manages the National Science Foundation Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Even though the main dish collapsed in 2020, scientists are conducting research with the extensive data already collected. Other parts of the observatory are operating, and UCF is working with stakeholders to ensure the facility’s scientific legacy continues.
Key Space Facts From a Planetary Scientist
From the start of studying space to the items left on the moon and the future of space exploration, a UCF faculty member and Florida Space Institute planetary scientist shares his knowledge and expertise. Learn about the impact that space research has made here on planet Earth and discover what’s still to come.
UCF Space News
UCF Scientist to Complete 100+ Hours of Research on James Webb Space Telescope
Noemi Pinilla-Alonso is the lead investigator on one project and a co-investigator on two others which will explore trans-Neptunian objects, Pluto and Uranus moons.
Interstellar Comet is One of the Most Unusual Objects to Visit Our Solar System
A new study in Nature Communications describes a comet from another solar system as one of the most pristine objects ever observed.
Reach for the Stars Honorees Pushing the Boundaries of Earth and Space
Five faculty members are recognized for their outstanding research and creative activity, which has had national and international impact.
As new space programs continue to take off from the Central Florida region and beyond, students have an opportunity to break into this exciting industry with a number of space degrees offered at UCF.
Best bachelor’s degrees for a career in space exploration and research
Top master’s and doctoral degrees for advancement in the space industry
Leading business degrees that can be applied to the space field
Rankings and Accreditations
Top 20 Most Innovative University in the Nation
For the fifth time, U.S. News & World Report ranks UCF as one of the most innovative in its annual list of best colleges.
Top 15 Best Atomic/Molecular Physics Schools
U.S. News & World Report ranked UCF as one of the best Atomic/Molecular Physics schools in the nation.
Best Undergraduate Engineering Program
University of Central Florida is ranked No. 79 in Best Undergraduate Engineering Program in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
The Bachelor of Science programs in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanical Engineering are accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET.
Creating Stellar Connections
Throughout Florida and the nation, UCF has built a number of relationships with partners who share similar values — striving toward excellence in any endeavor they may undertake. NASA is an example of one such partnership. The university is participating in several major NASA planetary missions and has the Center for Lunar and Asteroid Surface Science. Having established programs in space and planetary sciences, UCF has significant input into the nation’s space program. The partnership allows leading researchers at both NASA and UCF to ensure that robotic and human missions are done safely and efficiently.
Nearby Central Florida Research Park is also home to over 120 companies and serves as a hub for the nation’s military simulation and training programs. With its close proximity to UCF’s main campus, researchers and students have an opportunity to collaborate with industry leaders — working together on projects in the sciences, engineering, photonics and optics, and modeling and simulation.
Space Companies Employing UCF Graduates
- Blue Origin
- Virgin Atlantic
- L3Harris Technologies
- Lockheed Martin
- Northrop Grumman
- Made in Space
Institutes, Associations and Affiliations
- Florida Space Institute
- Unmanned Aerial Systems Research
- Florida High Tech Corridor
- Institute for Simulation and Training
- Federal Aviation Administration
- FIEA (Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy)
- Townes Laser Institute
- Advanced Materials Processing and Analysis Center (AMPAC)