GRAND FORKS The University of North Dakota became the first university in the nation to officially partner with the U.S. Space Force after university and space leaders on Monday, Aug. 9, signed a memorandum of understanding.

UND President Andrew Armacost and Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, chief of space operations for the Space Force, signed the memorandum on campus.

“The Space Force faces some of the toughest challenges in engineering, science and technology,” Raymond said in a statement. “Space is hard. We need our nation’s brightest minds working to help us tackle these problems. That is why we have established the University Partnership Program to harness the innovation at universities across our country. Today, I’m excited to welcome the University of North Dakota as our first official UPP member, with 10 more schools to follow in the coming months.”

The partnership comes after months of visits and discussion between UND and space leaders.

“We know that UND can make an extraordinary impact on our national security through the efforts of this collaboration,” Armacost said. “We are honored to be the first of 10 schools to sign this memorandum of understanding”

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UND President Armacost, right, speaks during a press conference about the university signing a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Space Force on Monday, Aug. 8. Behind him Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer, right to left, listen. (Sydney Mook/Grand Forks Herald)
UND President Armacost, right, speaks during a press conference about the university signing a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Space Force on Monday, Aug. 8. Behind him Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer, right to left, listen. (Sydney Mook/Grand Forks Herald)

Signing the memorandum of understanding is the first defining step of the long-term partnership, said Bob Kraus, dean of UND's John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences. The partnership goes beyond the aerospace school and will also bring in the College of Engineering and Mines and the College of Arts and Sciences.

Kraus noted the university is not building from zero, already having some infrastructure and expertise in the field on campus.

“We want to do it the right way, because we're looking to build this for the long term,” he said.

Armacost echoed that sentiment, noting the university has committed around $9 million itself to fund new faculty positions in a variety of areas to work on issues related to the Space Force. Additionally, the North Dakota Legislature approved $4 million in funding for Space Force-related work at UND during the latest legislative session.

Next, the Space Force will work with UND and each university that follows to outline specific implementation milestones to meet the program’s goals, which include establishing opportunities for research and workforce development; identifying and pursuing research areas for each campus; establishing scholarship, internship and mentorship opportunities for students; and recruiting and developing officers for the Space Force with a STEM focus.

The 10 additional schools on track to join the partnership are:

  • Georgia Institute of Technology

  • Howard University

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

  • Purdue University

  • University of Colorado System (beginning with Boulder and Colorado Springs)

  • University of Texas System (beginning with Austin and El Paso)

  • University of Southern California

Also on hand for the news conference were U.S. Sens. Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven, R-N.D. Both senators have been vocal proponents for the partnership and the research work done at UND.

“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,” Hoeven said.

Cramer noted this will also be a recruitment opportunity for the university.

“This becomes an attraction for the university to grow, as well as a major contribution in space to our national security.”

Monday’s news follows Space Force-related news from the region. Last month, the Cavalier Air Station in northeast North Dakota officially became part of the USSF.