Space junk tracking researcher receives named professorship, thanks to $250K CUBRC donation

Release Date: January 14, 2014

John Crassidis.

John Crassidis

“However, even a tiny piece of space junk the size of a golf ball can destroy a multimillion dollar satellite and create yet more space junk in the process. ”
John Crassidis, CUBRC Professor in Space Situational Awareness
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Cheektowaga-based research and development firm CUBRC has pledged $250,000 to support University at Buffalo researcher John L. Crassidis’ efforts to track dangerous space debris.

The gift creates the CUBRC Professor in Space Situational Awareness for a five-year period.

Crassidis, PhD, UB professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, will use the money to support his research. He works with NASA, the Department of Defense and other agencies to monitor space debris, also known as space junk, which threatens satellites and future space missions.

There is no cost-effective way to remove space debris, so researchers like Crassidis are developing ways to better track the thousands of manmade objects that orbit Earth. His latest project is GLADOS, or Glint Analyzing Data Observation Satellite, a U.S. Air Force-funded project that NASA plans to send into space in two years.

“We are increasingly reliant on satellites for a number of important things in our everyday lives, such as weather prediction, navigation and communications. However, even a tiny piece of space junk the size of a golf ball can destroy a multimillion dollar satellite and create yet more space junk in the process,” Crassidis said. “We are working on techniques to track the locations and movements of all the pieces of space junk so that satellite positions can be adjusted to avoid them.”

In addition to teaching and conducting research at UB, Crassidis serves as associate director of the Center for Multisource Information Fusion (CMIF), an organization operated by UB and CUBRC that works to streamline massive amounts of data into useful information for government agencies, business and other partners.

“Although technology provides us with lots more data than ever before, processing it to obtain useful information is becoming increasingly difficult, which is known as the ‘big data’ problem. An example is Crassidis’ effort to track the potential hundreds of thousands of pieces of space junk,” said Moises Sudit, CMIF’s director. “CMIF is the only dedicated data and information fusion center in the country whose main purpose is to solve big data problems.”

Michael Moskal, vice president and chief information officer at CUBRC, said Crassidis’ research is improving the security of the nation’s communication and weather satellites, as well as helping to ensure that future space missions are less threatened by debris.

“CUBRC is proud to support Dr. Crassidis’ research, which promises to make our national assets in space safer and also for us here on Earth by ensuring our weather, communication and other important satellites are not interfered with by orbiting debris,” Moskal said.

Liesl Folks, dean of UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said the named professorship is indicative of the great working relationship that UB has long enjoyed with CUBRC.

“We’d like to thank CUBRC for its continued support of UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. It is partners like CUBRC that help us conduct research that will ultimately make the world a smarter and safer place,” Folks said.

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