Tuskegee University Students to Work on New Spacecraft Development


Tuskegee State University and Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Space Systems division recently signed an agreement giving Tuskegee students and faculty the opportunity to work on the company’s development of a new spacecraft.

Signing photo of johnson and sirangelo

Dr. Johnson, President, Tuskegee University and Mark Sirangelo, Corp. VP, sign Letter of Cooperation.

Both institutions said the relationship was developed with an eye to promoting aerospace engineering education, research and development, scientific exploration, and recruitment and training of a diverse workforce.

Sierra Nevada will support research projects for faculty and students to advance the technical design of its Dream Chaser Orbital Transportation System. The projects will also be a means of creating internships and future job opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields as well as non-STEM disciplines for Tuskegee University students.

Tuskegee President Brian L. Johnson said the relationship offers an opportunity to expand the university’s expansive legacy.

Founded in 1881 by Booker T. Washington, the Alabama-based university is a top-10 producer of African-American engineers, and the top producer of material science and engineering doctorates in the nation. Tuskegee is also the only independent, historically Black university with several engineering programs that are nationally accredited by the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology, including the only accredited aerospace engineering program at an HBCU.

“I have begun my time as president by asking all involved with the university to trust the Tuskegee tradition and trust the Tuskegee trajectory,” Johnson said in a statement. “This new relationship with SNC highlights the long celebrated history of Tuskegee in aerospace while also opening up future possibilities for our students to experience the trajectory of America’s new path to space.”

Tuskegee is the only HBCU among nine universities at which SNC will conduct key primary research and testing as part of the project. Those institutions include the University of Colorado Boulder, University of Maryland-College Park, Rice Space Institute and Utah State University.

The Dream Chaser is intended to be a next-generation reusable spacecraft, which will transport astronauts and cargo to and from low Earth orbit destinations, including the International Space Station.spacecraft

Mark N. Sirangelo, corporate vice president of SNC’s Space Systems, said he is happy Tuskegee’s community will join them in the Dream Chaser project and that SNC will have a chance to help Tuskegee’s students achieve their dreams.

“We are thrilled to begin our relationship with such a prestigious and important aerospace university. Dr. Johnson, through his new, energetic and dynamic leadership, has outlined a plan to create a student-centered environment for the 21st century, which will foster a culture of advancement and development,” Sirangelo said in statement. “We believe that by working together to develop our nation’s future in space we can help make Dr. Johnson’s vision a reality and provide a path for the university’s amazing students to continue Tuskegee’s substantial impact on aerospace.”

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