September 25-26, 2003

 

ITEM 120-1002-R0903                Authorization to Establish The Northern Rockies Center for Space Privatization; The University of Montana - Missoula

 

THAT:                                       The Board of Regents of Higher Education authorizes the establishment of The Northern Rockies Center for Space Privatization: The University of Montana - Missoula

 

EXPLANATION:                        The Northern Rockies Center for Space Privatization (NRCSP) will coordinate activities exploring science and commercial applications of spaceflight technologies, joint research and development projects and related educational activities.  Parties in this effort include, The University of Montana, the Inland Northwest Space Alliance, the Girvan Institute and The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Ames Research Center.  A number of collaborative R & D activities or projects will be performed under the coordination of NRCSP.  These include a 1) feasibility analysis of a “Distributed Wireless Network for Medical and Environmental Monitoring”, 2)  “Fixed and Mobile Laboratories for Extremophile Research”, and 3) “Nanotechnology Modeling and Simulation Activities.”   The goals of # 1) are to establish a distributed wireless network in the northern Rockies area to advance medical and environmental monitoring technologies.  The collaboration will build on NASA’s experience in telemedicine and wireless monitoring technologies.  Project # 2) would enable their parties to leverage each other’s resources to collaboratively search for the upper temperature limits of life by studying extremophiles in Yellowstone and other areas.  Project # 3) will address the fundamental constraint in the realization of the potential of nanoscience and nanotechnology by investigating the extraordinary difficulty of economically manipulating matter on the nano-length scale. 

 

One of the major outcomes of this research will be a comprehensive understanding of these three areas of investigation and how they can be commercially exploited. The NRCSP will also have a strong educational component that will incorporate undergraduate and graduate student training, postdoctoral training, a visiting scholars program, and a seminar series.  It is expected that establishment of the NRCSP will serve as a scholarly and industrial research center for a variety of studies and will “spin off” entrepreneurial companies in Montana.

 

Except for some administrative expenses for the NRCSP, each collaborating entity will provide its own funding for the research and development.  Sources of funds will come from federal grants and private industry sources.  It is anticipated that The University of Montana’s contributions will be supported by grants from NASA and sub-contracts from other sources.  Creation of the NRCSP will allow University faculty and students to engage in a long-term research program and for The University of Montana to participate in the establishment of a world class research center, which focuses on using space as a commercial laboratory.

 

NRCSP will be managed by a Director, named by The University of Montana.  This Director will represent the University in interactions with the other collaborating entities.  The Director will negotiate participation in the Center’s activities individually with interested faculty and units.  The anticipated funding will be used to stimulate new research initiatives and to create a multidisciplinary research environment for space-related research.  It is anticipated that faculty and students participating in the NRCSP will meet frequently to present updates on their projects and plans for future research.

 

Educational/research opportunities for undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows will be integral components of the NRCSP.  However, no new courses or programs are anticipated.  Existing seminars and courses should handle all educational needs.   It is planned that the NRCSP will attract students and visiting engineers and scientists on each of the projects.  We believe that the opportunity for graduate and undergraduate students to directly interact and intimately discuss issues with these world‑class scientists will prove to be a very enriching and growth‑promoting experience. 

 

Creation of NRCSP will allow The University of Montana to take advantage of the enormous scientific and commercial potential resulting from commercialization of space.  It will bring the University into the forefront and into a leadership position is space research.  In all probability, the NRCSP and its affiliated entities will foster the creation of a cluster of new companies, which will exploit the results of the research efforts.  These companies will be primary industries, bringing new dollars into the State and will generate high paying technical jobs for our citizens and students.   Further, the NRCSP plans to host workshops to support NASA’s educational efforts and heighten awareness of NASA curricula available to teachers throughout Montana and the Inland Northwest.