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U.S. military to improve communication using USF technology

Engineering students contracted to create satellite payloads for U.S. Special Operations Command

Engineering students at the University of South Florida will soon play an integral role in helping boost communication capabilities of the U.S. military.

USF just signed a contract with SOFWERX to support the development and integration of secondary payloads for the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Cube Satellite mission. The partnership was announced May 16 at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) at the Tampa Convention Center.

These payloads will be shot into low Earth orbit from the Kennedy Space Station within the next 12 to 18 months. They’ll help solve battlefield problems by providing real-time communication through cameras and sensors.

“If satellites are becoming more capable and yet smaller, cheaper, require less power, more technology packed into small areas, that really is the future. It’s a future of communications, future of weather, it’s the future for remote sensing. So for us to be at that the leading edge, it’s going to be a good thing for the state of Florida and for Tampa Bay and really for the nation,” said Robert H. Bishop, PhD, PE, dean of the USF College of Engineering.

"For the challenges of the future, we think it's important to team with top tier academic institutions to enable the innovation and the rapid decision making, idea generation, and capability development we need. USF, by nature of being close to SOCOM as well as their diverse and accomplished academic capabilities, is the perfect partner for us. We think low-cost space vehicles are a key capability for the future, and we're very proud to work with USF on this important project," said James "Hondo" Geurts, SOCOM acquisition executive.


Peter Jorgensen, USF electrical engineering graduate research assistant.

SOFWERX is a new, unclassified facility in Ybor City that conducts research and development for SOCOM, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. SOCOM is part of the Department of Defense overseeing various special operations of the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force. The proximity between SOFWERX and SOCOM is a great opportunity for USF.

“I’ve been enthralled by space ever since I was a little kid, so being able to do meaningful research work now it’s just been a dream. I’m literally living my dream, it’s hard not to love it,” says Peter Jorgensen, graduate research assistant, Department of Electrical Engineering in the USF College of Engineering.

Jorgensen is the first student to be involved in the Cube Satellite project with a post doctorate fellow to soon join him.

James "Hondo" Geurts of  U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), announces USF's new partnership with SOFWERX  May 16 at a Special Forces Industry Conference attended by 12,000 at the downtown Tampa Convention Center.

USF already has an existing partnership with SOFWERX, overseeing a robust year-round undergraduate intern program. The program offers students the opportunity to solve the most difficult problems facing Special Operation Forces.

Story by Tina Meketa, and photos and video by Sandra C. Roa, USF Communications and Marketing
Photo of James Geurts by Ryan Noone, USF Communications and Marketing

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