USC established a partnership with the U.S. Space Force that will foster STEM research and leadership development, as well as scholarships and mentorship opportunities for USC students, faculty and Air Force cadets.
The smallest and newest military branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, the U.S. Space Force was founded in 2019 to protect American communication and satellites and to deter conflict in space.
President Carol Folt signed a memorandum of understanding in a ceremony celebrating the partnership in late February. USC joined 13 other Space Force university partners, including the Georgia Institute of Technology, Howard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. USC was selected for its strong ROTC programs, diversity, commitment to military veterans and families, STEM-degree programs and space-related research.
Several USC institutions, such as the Institute for Creative Technologies and the Information Sciences Institute, conduct research relevant to the space field. The Space Engineering Research Center, a joint venture between the Information Sciences Institute and the USC Department of Astronautical Engineering, works on several projects including hands-on build, test and flight demonstrations of spacecraft and satellites.
“This first step in the university partnership with the Space Force will help to advance STEM research that supports national security objectives,” the University wrote in a statement to the Daily Trojan. “The partnership augments the work of numerous USC research teams that have already made meaningful discoveries in the realm of aerospace research. Our Space Force collaboration will also help to forge a diverse group of leaders from our student body and faculty.”
USC’s history of support for military veterans and families stretches back to World War I, when the University served as a naval preparatory flight cadet school. The University started developing officers for the U.S. Space and Air Forces in 2020. Detachment 060, an Air Force ROTC program situated on the USC campus, trains 93 students, drawing from colleges and universities across California, including Biola University and Pasadena City College. The cohort is almost balanced between female and male students, and a majority identify as part of underrepresented groups.
Through this agreement and others with universities in the University Partnership program, Space Force hopes to recruit and educate a diverse, high-quality workforce with the technical and problem-solving skills to help advance space-related research and the U.S. space system in preparation for a “congested and contested” future in the space domain.
“UPP will open opportunities for collaboration with our nation’s brightest minds to take on the engineering, science and technology challenges facing the Space Force,” U.S. Space Force spokesperson Lynn Kirby wrote in a statement to the Daily Trojan.
The agreement opens up more opportunities and pathways for USC students to participate in military and civil service, and contributes to the understanding and protection of space through leadership and research.
“It will provide a consistent pipeline of STEM talent to the U.S. Space Force via scholarship, internship and mentorship opportunities for ROTC cadets, university students and faculty,” Kirby said.
Long Tran, an ROTC student and a senior studying electrical and computer engineering, said he believes the partnership will strengthen students’ awareness of the U.S. Space Force and evolving threats and technologies.
“The Space Force actually provides a lot of different opportunities of getting work experience through internships, as well as understanding the changing environment around the world, in terms of new weapon capabilities as well as entering a new age of warfare,” Tran said.