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Center for Space Science and Engineering Research

Space@VT students, researchers use the Cube for computer vision and drone flight testing


Cislunar Enterprise

Space@VT faculty members Scott Bailey, Jon Black, and Afroze Mohammed have joined Aerospace Corporation as well as VT's Innovation Campus, Purdue University, and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in taking a leadership role in community planning for the rapidly expanding utilization of orbits out to the moon, the Cislunar Enterprise. So far this group has produced two white papers and held three Technology Exchange Meetings. They address technology challenges, the needed evolution in workforce training, and policy implications.  The white papers can be found at:  Enabling a Robust Ecosystem in Cislunar Space Leveraging Commerical Solutions , Enabling the Future Cislunar Space Enterprise Cislunar.


Virginia Tech Alumni in space featured by LINK+LICENSE+LAUNCH. See the next frontier of space priemer site for more videos from Virginia Tech alumni working in the space industry.


Researchers at Space@VT study the geospace environment...

...including the effects of space-weather events on the structure and dynamics of the Earth’s atmosphere and ionosphere.

Using ground-based radar probes, sounding rockets, high-altitude balloons, and satellites, we investigate phenomena like the 2017 solar eclipse; effects of short and long duration solar variability on the Earth’s upper atmosphere; upper atmospheric dynamics, chemistry and radiation; coupling phenomena between the solar wind and the Earth’s magnetosphere; and polar mesospheric clouds.


ECE Team Installs Space Weather Instrument
An ECE team installs space weather instrument station for the 40-degree magnetic meridian chain in the Antarctic.

Geospace upper-atmosphere investigations

ECE researchers operate six autonomous, adaptive remote data collection platforms on the East Antarctic plateau. The platforms support fluxgate and induction magnetometers, dual frequency GPS receivers, and a high-frequency radio experiment to investigate high latitude space weather phenomena. Recent research has focused on magnetohydrodynamic wave events initiated by solar wind pressure pulses and seasonal interhemispheric differences in conductivity.


Exploring the upper atmosphere in the long polar night

A sounding rocket program is underway to explore the upper atmosphere of the Earth’s polar night. This region is difficult to access and is relatively unobserved. We are particularly interested in the concentration of aurora-produced nitric oxide—which is a catalytic destroyer of ozone. The long polar winter nights are expected to contain large levels of nitric oxide, but with few observations, this is not well understood. 

Sounding Rocket
To unlock mysteries of the geospace environment, ECE researchers send experiments up on sounding rockets and develop payloads for satellites.

Aeronomy of ice

ECE researchers are engaged in further studies of middle atmosphere gravity waves in NASA’s Aeronomy of Ice (AIM) mission. New algorithms to determine stratospheric gravity wave morphology will be applied to more than 10 years of AIM observations to form a unique dataset for studying the coupling of the Earth’s upper and lower atmosphere.


Impacts of space-weather events on the ionosphere

ECE researchers will be conducting atmospheric gravity wave studies via in-situ measurements of wave perturbations in the ionosphere and remote sensing of the middle atmosphere. These measurements can then be correlated with weather maps of the lower atmosphere, allowing for atmospheric coupling studies over a wide altitude range.


Radiative impacts of pollutants

ECE researchers are developing new instrumentation to observe the radiative impacts of pollutants. The new instruments are compact, robust, and suitable for implementation on constellations of satellites.


Virginia Tech SuperDARN HF radar facility
The Virginia Tech SuperDARN HF radar facility located in western Kansas.

Mapping geospace phenomena

The Virginia Tech Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN) operates five high-frequency (HF) radars. We are investigating cause-and-effect influences in the solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere system using a variety of ground- and space-based datasets. Recent research examined the north-south inter-hemispheric symmetry of the Sub-Auroral Polarization Stream (SAPS).


Mapping polar ionospheric field-aligned currents

An ECE investigation examined how the currents flowing in and out of the ionosphere respond to the interplanetary electric field, the product of the solar wind velocity and Earth’s magnetic field. We found that the magnetic field-aligned currents have a linear response to the level of solar wind driving, which was surprising since the electric fields in the ionosphere have been known to level off, or saturate, as the interplanetary electric increases.


News Highlights

Space@VT at the Virginia Air & Space Center's 2022 STEM Event

Space@VT researchers Dr. Bob Clauer and Dr. Zhonghua Xu talked with high school students at the Virginia Air & Space Center's STEM event.


Dr. Daniel Weimer's work in modelling Earth's atmosphere for satellite drag applications is featured by Scientia.  


NASA has announced 2 of 15 finalist teams for the agency's Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts – Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) competition are from Virginia Tech.  Congratulations to the teams for Mission Khione: Martian Autonomous Propellant Harvesting Station and Project Raikou advised by Dr. Kevin Shinpaugh and other Space@VT faculty!  Read more on these teams...


Dr. Mark Psiaki is the 2021 winner of the Johannes Kepler Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Institute of Navigation's Satellite Division.  Dr. Psiaki received this award at the ION GNSS+ 2021 Conference in St. Louis, Missouri.  More on this award and Dr. Psiaki's contributions to the area of satellite navigation.


The Virginia Tech RockSat-X team accomplished their mission of extending solar panels off of a sounding rocket body!  The results of the flight were featured on a VTx story.  Congratulations to the RockSat-X team!

Photo courtesy of Nicholas Jones

Dr. Scott Bailey's work and proposal for six smallsats to explore the upper troposphere/lower stratosphere is featured on VTx.


Dr. Wayne Scales has been selected as the Region III Trustee to the Universities Space Research Association's Board of Trustees.  Congratulations to Dr. Scales!  Read more.


Dr. Scott Bailey's recent study in the Journal Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics featured on the NASA AIM website.


Dr. Scott England is featured on one of NASA's blogs, the Sun Spot, to discuss TIDs and TADs.


Congratulations to Dr. Bhuvana Srinivasan on being named Crofton Faculty Fellow.  Read the VT News article for more info.


An article by Space@VT researchers Dr. Scott Bailey and Dr. Brentha Thurairajah was recently featured in a story in the Academic Times.  This story was then featured on reddit's science community. Congratulations to Drs. Bailey and Turairajah!


Space@VT is excited to start working on the Puri Satellite Ground Network which has been enabled by a donation from Amit and Kim Puri (VT alumni, '99, '00 & '02).  Read the VT News article for more information about this donation and what it means for Space@VT


The Hume Center, with Space@VT affliated faculty and students, has been working on getting some more eyes on the skies around Blacksburg. Read the VT News article for more info about the milestone that has been achieved so far on this project!


Congratulations to Dr. Scott Bailey, Space@VT director, on being named a Bradley Senior Fellow Faculty by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors! More information can be found in this VT News article.


Student Assembly of ThickSat
Photo by Gustavo Gargioni.

Congrats to the ThickSat team as their satellite passed vibration testing and has been integrated into the capsule ready for launch on NG-15 from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility.  Read the VT News article for more information on this satellite built by students.  Launch is currently scheduled for Feb. 20th, 2021, but follow the Space@VT LinkedIn for more updates.