UT Austin, Air Force collaborate to make space research safer

Researchers at UT Austin are collaborating with the U.S. Air Force to make space travel, and space research, safer.

Dr. Renato Zanetti is part of a six-person team at UT Austin working to learn more about cislunar space, the area where the earth and moon's gravitational pulls meet.

"Right now, space is a very fun place to work," Dr. Zanetti said. "In earth orbit, often we have GPS available to us, or we have ground stations on earth that can see the satellites of the vehicles quite often."

That's not common in cislunar space. So, their study focuses on two goals.

"One, we are trying to characterize uncertainty and try to make the best decisions given that uncertainty," Dr. Zanetti said. "The second one is autonomy."


Researchers want to make sure the vehicles they send into the cosmos can make safe decisions without human intervention.

The data collected will help the Air Force on their missions, but entrepreneurs looking to capitalize on the different orbits will also reap the benefits of the data.

"So the Department of Defense's responsibility is to keep cislunar space safe and sustainable," Dr. Zanetti said. "So in that regard, our research is going to help them achieve that. In many ways, it's going to help keep Elon Musk's and Jeff Bezos' Space X and Blue Origin assets safe."

The $4 million grant gives researchers three years to complete their work.