The University of Tennessee

50 Years of Space Innovation

The University of Tennessee has achieved over fifty years of space research, exploration, and outreach. Our impressive list of accomplishments-from the founding of the UT Space Institute in 1964 to the NASA Curiosity Rover mission in 2012 to current innovative materials research involving 3-D printing for space vehicles and other space-related technology-continue to evolve as the US space mission expands.

The University of Tennessee Space Institute

UTSI Campus

UTSI was established in 1964 as part of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. It is a graduate education and research institution located adjacent to the US Air Force Base, Arnold Engineering Development Complex.

UTSI is an internationally recognized institution for graduate study and research in engineering, physics, mathematics, and aviation systems.

UTSI provides water and wind tunnel facilities, a vacuum chamber facility, flight systems testing, and propulsion facilities for educational and research purposes.

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Our Astronauts


The University of Tennessee is honored to be the educational home of ten astronaut graduates! Our graduates include the first American to spend a year in space and a member of the first group of astronauts to include women.

Degree Programs

Students on Computers

The UT Tickle College of Engineering offers bachelors, masters, and PhD Degrees in aerospace engineering. The aerospace engineering program is housed in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering.

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Space Research at the University of Tennessee

Mars Rover

The Integrated Systems Circuits and Systems Laboratory, part of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), developed MSL QOA microchips for the Mars Curiosity Rover mission in 2012. EECS professor Dr. Benjamin Blalock and his team partnered with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a NASA Center of Excellence for robotic space exploration on the design and development of the microchips. The microchip is used in the motor controller electronics on the Curiosity for wheel motors, robotic arm actuator motors, camera positioning motors, and other functions. The QOA microchips are exposed to the ambient environment on the Mars surface, daily subjected to -120°C to +20°C temperature swings.

Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation


The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), headquartered in Tennessee, is enabling advanced materials and manufacturing innovations. IACMI has a focus on high Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 4-7 in areas of reduced cost of carbon fiber composites, lowering embodied energy, and enhanced recycling of advanced composites. Advanced composites and additive manufacturing are of immense benefits for space vehicles and structures. High performance low cost tooling, optimized fiber architectures, fast acting resins, low cost carbon fiber, rapid cycle thermoplastics and thermosets, high fidelity modeling and simulation, and integrated part designs are examples of the types of technologies that are cross-cutting between IACMI and space applications. The work force development and training of IACMI has direct benefits to the space industries as well. Governor's Chair in Advanced Composites Manufacturing and Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering professor Dr. Uday Vadiya leads a research group in the newly established Fibers and Composites Manufacturing Facility and Engineering Annex.

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Aerodynamics and Thermodynamics of High Speed Flow

The HORIZON research group led by Dr. John Schmisseur, the H.H. Arnold Chair at UTSI, specializes in aerothermodynamics research relevant to high-speed flight. This research is critically important for understanding the extreme thermal and aerodynamic loads that must be addressed in the development of systems for efficiently accessing space and safely returning payloads. Current projects in the group include characterization of the dynamics of complex shock interactions and how they result in extreme local loads on aerospace vehicles, as well as exploration of the combined interaction between responsive high-temperature thermal protection materials and the extreme flow conditions in which they are embedded. The HORIZON group also develops diagnostic methods for making time-resolved measurements in these types of challenging flows.

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The UT Aerospace and Defense Business Institute

Andy White

The UT Haslam College of Business, in partnership with the UT Office of Research and Engagement, created a new institute to better organize and build aerospace- and defense-related research, education, and training.

The UT Aerospace and Defense Business Institute coordinates the college's services to students and employers throughout the industry.

The Haslam College of Business regularly provides business education and consultation work to every branch of the United States military, NASA, and major aerospace and defense companies in addition to its work with smaller suppliers and service corporations in the industry. The UT Aerospace and Defense Master of Business Administration program-which is housed under the new institute-has graduated more than 250 top leaders from the military and private companies since its inception in 2004.

The college's connections to aerospace and defense include research, teaching, and support performed in conjunction with government partnerships. The Haslam College of Business has been awarded contracts totaling more than $58 million by the US Air Force for applied research, curriculum development, instruction, and application support. Since winning the contract in 2006, the college's professors have conducted research and delivered courses to improve Air Force business strategies and models with contractors, and defined best practices in aviation and missile maintenance.

Andy White, former director of the Aerospace and Defense MBA program, will serve as director of the institute. Before his work at the Haslam College of Business, he spent twenty years as an officer in the US Air Force. James Cody, a retired Air Force colonel, directs work on the college's Air Force contract and oversees delivery of defense-tailored nondegree programs and supporting research and service efforts.

The Aerospace and Defense Business Institute will support defense systems from beginning to end-from conception of new projects to training and deployment-by providing a full spectrum of research, development, and product support.

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University of Tennessee, Knoxville