UTEP, El Paso to Become Hub of Commercial Space Exploration

The University of Texas at El Paso signed a cooperative and international affiliation agreement with Japan’s Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech) on Monday, July 29 to form a new academic and research partnership. The partnership allows for faculty and student exchange, as well as collaborative research on advancing aerospace technologies.

KyuTech has been historically funded by JAXA, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, and plans to collaborate with the NASA University Research Center (URC), and Center for Space Exploration Technology Research (cSETR) at UTEP.This miniature model represents the type of vehicle UTEP will help build in partnership with Japan’s Kyushu Institute of Technology to take customers into space.This miniature model represents the type of vehicle UTEP will help build in partnership with Japan’s Kyushu Institute of Technology to take customers into space.

“This is more than just a signing ceremony,” said Ahsan Choudhuri, Ph.D., chair and professor of mechanical engineering. “This is a long-term strategy to build this region into a commercial aerospace hub.”

He added, “There is already an interest to utilize this region for aerospace purposes, so we are going to capitalize on this dawn of commercial space exploration by placing ourselves as the strategic lead of capabilities in the area.”

The University plans to work with two nearby entities: Spaceport America and Blue Origin. With a launch and test facility in Van Horn, Texas, Blue Origin, LLC is an aerospace company that plans to develop technology to enable private human access to space. Located in Sierra, N.M., Spaceport America is a launch site dedicated solely to commercial space flight to take customers into space.

Expanding off a winged rocket platform developed by Kyutech, the UTEP collaboration will result in a reusable, suborbital vehicle to validate emerging space technologies. UTEP will provide the propulsion systems and assembly of the vehicle that will utilize avionics and structural components from the Japanese. 

“Our goal is to show that our capability goes beyond the lab and training students for aerospace careers,” Choudhuri said.

Richard Schoephoerster, Ph.D., dean of the College of Engineering, said, “This ceremony is an indicator of the capacity building UTEP aims for in creating unique opportunities for our region while making international impacts. It also stands as an example of the many exceptional ways we find to educate, train and prepare a more advanced workforce.”