News Archives

National Science Foundation site visit for Space Valley proposal Oct. 16-18

October 13, 2023 - by Kim Delker

Researchers from The University of New Mexico are part of one of 16 finalist teams for the first-ever National Science Foundation Regional Innovation Engines (NSF Engines) competition, spanning a range of key technology areas and societal and economic challenges highlighted in the CHIPS and Science Act.

UNM is part of the New Mexico Trade Alliance-led proposal called “Space for Earth, Space for All: Space Valley’s Role in Securing America’s Economic and Political Future.” Officials from the NSF will be making a site visit to Albuquerque Oct. 16-18 to meet with various stakeholders and team members, including governmental and economic development leaders in New Mexico. A site visit is one of the final steps in the evaluation process before an agency makes a funding determination.

The following researchers from UNM part of the initial Space Valley proposal are:

  • Space power beaming; space cybersecurity; resilient positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) – UNM’s COSMIAC, led by Christos Christodoulou, center director and distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering
  • On-orbit servicing of satellites — led by Rafael Fiero, professor of electrical and computer engineering
  • Economic development — led by Robert Del Campo of the Anderson School of Management
  • Evaluation of progress and impact by the coalition — led by Melissa Binder, associate professor and chair of the Department of Economics.

The team is expected to expand and include more researchers at UNM after the first two years. Over an up to 10-year period, an NSF Engine is expected to progress through three phases: nascent, emergent and growth. When successful, an NSF Engine will lead to its region becoming a nationally renowned, self-sustaining, technology- and innovation-driven hub of economic activity for the topic in which it specializes.

The Space Valley proposal seeks to leverage New Mexico and Colorado's existing space assets to build a world-leading regional space innovation hub. The New Mexico Trade Alliance (led by Randy Trask, New Mexico Trade Alliance president and proposal principal investigator), is the lead on the proposal on behalf of the Space Valley Coalition, which is comprised of government, industry, and academia from throughout the Rio Grande Valley, a region critical to the nation's space strategy and research, development, and testing infrastructure.

In addition to UNM, a variety of other New Mexico institutions are on the proposal, including Central New Mexico Community College, Navajo Technical University, New Mexico State University and New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.

The NSF Engines program is anticipated to be transformational for the nation, ensuring the U.S. remains globally competitive in key technology areas for decades to come. Each awardee team would initially receive about $15 million for the first two years. Each NSF Engine could receive up to $160 million over 10 years; actual amounts will be subject to a given NSF Engine's status and overall progress, as assessed annually.

Winners are expected to be announced by the end of the year.