UT partners with Space Force


Kaushiki Roy

Editor’s Note: This first appeared in the September 17 flipbook issue. 

UT researchers are working on aerospace technology to make space missions more efficient  and prevent the possibility of space warfare after signing a partnership with the United States Space Force on Aug. 26. 

UT, along with several other universities, established a collaboration with the military for future Space Force projects. The partnership will combine UT’s research and development program with the military training and mentorship program to conduct future space missions such as satellite protection, electromagnetic warfare and commercial satellite security, said Seth Wilk, director of defense research advancement at UT. 

Wilk said the University will also provide ROTC military training and a mentorship program that will train students to conduct missions in space. Wilk said he does not know when the mentorship programs will begin. 

“The idea is how we work with our existing ROTC programs in the Air Force and Space Force to expand some of the work they’re doing and take opportunities in research and education to offer those more visibly,” Wilk said.

Currently, one of Space Force’s tasks is to prevent space warfare, aerospace engineering senior Nick Delurgio, who worked as part of a research team that analyzed Space Force technology last year, said.

“There’s the satellite aspect where countries can hack and disable adversary satellites,” Delurgio said. “There’s kinematic warfare where you shoot a satellite down, and that method generally scatters debris everywhere. There is electromagnetic warfare where you damage the electrical and power hardware or satellite to prevent it from completing its mission.”

While none of those types of wars have occurred yet, Delurgio said the U.S. Military is starting to take precautions because a war in space could happen at any moment. 

Delurgio said he believes the new partnership will be beneficial to both the military and UT. 

“(The partnership is) a great way for undergraduates, graduate students and professors to participate in researching for something as important as the Space Force,” Delurgio said. “It will also look great for the University to take part in the research.”

However, some students are skeptical of the partnership and are concerned the military may misuse the technology.

Roshan Khan, a member of the UT organization Women for Weapons Trade Transparency, said she worries about the potential repercussions of this agreement because the military could use the technology to threaten other countries. 

“As a technology, this research is cool and very useful,” Khan said. “But in the hands of the military, you have to be concerned about what harmful consequences that might have on human life.”

Khan, a senior quintuple major in Plan II, economics, government, international relations and global studies, and Asian cultures and Chinese, said the partnership is indicative of UT’s priorities. She said UT should give other issues more attention, such as Title IX procedures, which have received years of student criticism that sparked an independent review of the University’s Title IX processes in 2020, according to previous Daily Texan reporting. 

“The leadership is clearly signaling which side they view themselves on by making more and more partnerships with the military,” Khan said. “It’s definitely kind of choosing a certain worldview which they try to frame as good for UT students.”