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NASA Awards UTEP $5 Million to Develop Center for Space Exploration Technology Research

Ahsan R. Choudhuri
Ahsan R. Choudhuri
The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) has been awarded a five-year, $5 million grant by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to create a Center for Space Exploration Technology Research.

The award comes via the NASA Group 5 University Research Center program, which fosters new aerospace science and technology concepts with a goal of increasing the number of underrepresented minorities who receive degrees in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

UTEP was one of six universities selected from 35 applicants to the award program.

The UTEP center will work closely with other NASA research facilities, including Johnson Space Center in Houston and the White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, N.M., on advanced capabilities in environmentally friendly propulsion technologies and the use of natural resources on other planets as well as the Moon to create spacecraft fuel and other materials. UTEP faculty from the College of Engineering and the Department of Geological Sciences will collaborate on the research.

The center will be directed by Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Ahsan Choudhuri, Ph.D., the primary investigator for the project. Choudhuri, an expert on aerospace propulsion and space system design, said UTEP is “at the right place with the right focus at the right time” for the development of the new center.

“With the additional growth of the aerospace industry in southwestern Texas, as well as in southeastern New Mexico, UTEP’s research capacity is expanding to meet the needs of this region,” he said.

The award will provide 35 positions for graduate students to conduct research on the future of rocket engines, propulsion systems and propellants. In addition, the University will develop a master’s of science degree in mechanical engineering with a concentration in aerospace engineering.

- Arleene Barrios