Hoeven: UND Selected as First University in Partnership Program with Space Force, Positions North Dakota as Key Space Research & Education Hub

Senator Made Case for Partnership between USSF & UND, Highlights Importance of University’s Space Studies Program & North Dakota’s UAS Ecosystem

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven, a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, today said that the University of North Dakota’s (UND) selection as the first participant in the U.S. Space Force’s (USSF) University Partnership Program (UPP) will position North Dakota to train the next generation of scientists, while also leading in cutting-edge research projects and serving as a hub of space technology development for years to come. Hoeven, along with Senator Kevin Cramer, joined General John Raymond, Chief of Space Operations, and UND President Andrew Armacost for the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two organizations today.

Through the UPP, the Space Force will work with UND and its other partners to recruit, educate, develop and retain a highly-skilled, technically-competent workforce. The program provides the opportunity for joint educational and research activities for the university and its students. 

Hoeven stressed that UND is the ideal partner in these efforts, highlighting the university’s world-class Space Studies, aerospace and engineering programs, as well as the region’s unique unmanned aerial systems (UAS) ecosystem. Hoeven has worked to grow the university and North Dakota’s role in U.S. space operations as the nation works to stand up the Space Force. In particular, Hoeven made the case for a greater partnership between federal space agencies and UND to General Raymond and Dr. Derek Tournear, Director of the Space Development Agency. 

“This is an exciting opportunity for North Dakota and our nation, as UND’s students will not only have access to better research, education and career opportunities, but our state will be helping in another critical way to secure our country’s interests in space,” said Senator Hoeven. “We’ve worked to build a premiere aerospace and UAS industry in North Dakota, and time and again, we’ve been able to leverage that expertise at UND, our test site and Grand Sky to further grow our technology sector while expanding our state’s role in the nation’s defense.”

“The University of North Dakota has enjoyed a close working relationship with Senator Hoeven on exploring opportunities for space-related research and workforce development,” said UND President Andrew Armacost. “He understands how UND’s broad spectrum of research and education capabilities make the University uniquely suited to fulfilling the needs of the U.S. Space Force while helping to maintain our nation’s vital national security interests.”

The MOU signed today builds on Hoeven’s work to ensure a larger role for North Dakota in U.S. space operations. His efforts include: 

  • Establishing a new space networking center in Grand Forks and linking it with unmanned aircraft operations in the Red River Valley, including the 319th RW in Grand Forks.
    • Hoeven recently hosted Space Development Agency (SDA) Director Dr. Derek Tournear in North Dakota to review these efforts.
    • The senator is working as a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee to secure funding for the new center.
  • Securing a $6 million award from the SDA to General Atomics to demonstrate satellite to MQ-9 Reaper laser communications.
    • Utilizing high frequency lasers, rather than radio frequencies, enables transmissions between satellites and unmanned aircraft to use less power and be more secure against detection and interference.
    • These capabilities could be used to enhance the MQ-9 mission flown by the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Wing in Fargo.

Additionally, Hoeven recently joined SDA Director Tournear to review launch operations at Cape Canaveral, where the SDA launched five satellites central to the space networking center and the General Atomics project. The satellites will fly in low-Earth orbit (LEO) and be used to demonstrate the capabilities of a planned, broad network of satellites, which will serve as the backbone for all U.S. military communications across the globe. Of these, the two Laser Interconnect and Networking Communication System (LINCS) satellites will demonstrate laser communications between satellites and MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial systems (UAS).