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University of Leicester strengthens ‘crucial’ space links in the USA

The University of Leicester’s £100 million Space Park Leicester has further strengthened its collaboration with the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) and NASA.

These ties between the university and the USRA were initially established in the 1990s and have now grown even stronger thanks to a new board-level appointment and meeting of leaders.

Executive Director of Space Park Leicester Professor Richard Ambrosi, a distinguished figure in the field, has been elected to the Board of the USRA, cementing the university’s influential role in the partnership.

The President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester had a meeting with the President of the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) in Washington, DC on Monday 22 May at which they reaffirmed their joint commitment to fostering collaborative working relationships on strategic technology programmes, and forged part of a wider visit to advance the University’s international engagements in the USA.

Professor Nishan Canagarajah, the President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester, expressed his enthusiasm for the strengthened partnership, stating: “This collaboration allows us to combine our strengths and tackle the complex challenges of space research and its applications together. We are excited about the opportunities that lie ahead and pleased to strengthen our links with the USRA and the USA during this visit.”

Professor Ambrosi is an expert in space instrumentation and space nuclear power systems with a wealth of experience and expertise in space research. In taking up this post he is following in the footsteps of one of Leicester’s first space scientists, Professor Alan Wells, the founding director of the Space Research Centre, who previously held the post.

Professor Ambrosi said: “This is a tremendous opportunity to work with leading experts from around the world to further advance space-related research and technology. I am honoured to follow in the footsteps of Emeritus Professor Alan Wells, and I look forward to contributing to the USRA’s mission in the years to come.”

The partnership between the University of Leicester, Space Park Leicester, the USRA and NASA builds upon the university’s impressive international track record in space research and exploration. This collaboration enables both institutions to leverage their expertise and resources for even greater advancements in the field.

The USRA is a Washington-based non-profit research corporation that has been dedicated to advancing space-related research and technology since 1969, bringing together leading experts from academia, industry, and government to collaborate on cutting-edge space exploration initiatives.

Founded near the beginning of the Space Age, driven by the vision of two individuals, James Webb (NASA Administrator 1961-1968) and Frederick Seitz (National Academy of Sciences President 1962-1969). They recognised that the technical challenges of the exploration of space would require an ongoing and strong collaboration between NASA and the university research community. Together, they worked to create USRA to strengthen NASA’s knowledge base as new areas of space research and technology were developed, and also to make it easier for university faculty and students to work with NASA to achieve mission objectives.

Professor Alan Wells explained: “Being at the centre of things is invaluable. Richard’s appointment is recognition that Leicester is a significant player on an international scale. It’s about pooling the knowledge and turning it into tangible results.

“It’s a great opportunity to see into very detailed high level space policies as they’re evolving in the US – bringing that back to the University of Leicester is very useful.”

The University of Leicester, Space Park Leicester, the USRA and NASA are actively seeking to explore various domains, including nuclear power, strategic technologies, and opportunities for fellowships and exchanges. While specific details about these projects are not disclosed, the intention is to engage in innovative and impactful initiatives.

Commenting on Professor Ambrosi’s appointment, Dr. Jeffrey A Isaacson, President and CEO of Universities Space Research Association (USRA), said: “As USRA’s Region V Trustee, Professor Ambrosi will participate fully in the governance of USRA, including that associated with its continuing growth of international member universities and expanding partnerships with commercial space enterprise. 

Professor Ambrosi’s long-standing involvement with USRA as a representative to our Council of Institutions, along with his experience in academe and at Space Park Leicester, make him uniquely qualified to fill this important role.  We look forward to his service on the USRA Board of Trustees.”

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