ECE: Electrical & Computer Engineering
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Advisory Board Forms Space Science Partnership

Photograph of Dan Sable and Dean Richard Benson holding a check, with Wayne Scales, Scott Bailey, and Jim Thorp

Dan Sable (right), president of VPT, and Dean Richard Benson (left) display the first check to Virginia Tech's new Industry/University Partnership for Space Science. Standing behind the check (from left) are space science faculty Wayne Scales and Scott Bailey, with Jim Thorp, ECE department head.

VPT, Inc. of Blacksburg, Virginia is the first firm to contribute funds to the new Virginia Tech Industry/University Partnership for Space Science (IUPSS). The partnership, spearheaded by the ECE Advisory Board, was formed to fund faculty members in space science.

Thanks to the partnership’s support, ECE has been able to hire three new faculty members specializing in space science: Scott Bailey, Bob Clauer, and Brent Ledvina. They join Wayne Scales and aerospace engineers Joseph Wang and Chris Hall to comprise Virginia Tech’s Space Science Research Group.

The new research group and associated laboratory were initially created with a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The Advisory Board recognized an opportunity to support the group to grow to a critical mass, according to department head, Jim Thorp. “We had an opportunity to hire three very talented faculty members whose combined expertise perfectly complement each other and the base established by Wayne Scales and Joseph Wang,” he said. “The Advisory Board formed the IUPSS to provide funding for our expanded space science initiative.”

Supporting a strong space science initiative at Virginia Tech makes perfect sense, according to Thorp. “Many of us became electrical engineers because we were intrigued by space exploration and wanted to play a role.”

VPT’s interest in seeing the space science initiative succeed goes beyond philanthropy to the university, according to Dan Sable, president of VPT and Advisory Board chair. VPT designs power converters specifically for space environments. He noted that VPT converters were certified to Class K – the highest level possible for critical space applications, and that VPT converter products are currently flying on NASA’s Messenger mission to Mercury and New Horizons mission to Pluto. Other current uses include the European Space Agency Venus Express mission and multiple U.S. Air Force GPS satellites.

Organizations wishing to donate to the IUPSS are asked to contact Kathy Atkins at (540) 231-4136, or atkins@vt.edu.