Spacecraft Tracking and Astronomical Research into Giga-hertz Astrophysical Transient Emission (STARGATE)

Conceived by Dr. Fredrick Jenet, the Spacecraft Tracking and Astronomical Research into Giga-hertz Astrophysical Transient Emission (STARGATE) complex will be a public-private partnership between the Center for Advanced Radio Astronomy (CARA) at UTRGV and SpaceX.

As a research center adjacent to SpaceX's future command and control center, STARGATE will developing new radio frequency based (RF) technologies for a wide range of academic and commercial applications. STARGATE will enable our students to be directly involved in all aspects of a space mission, including the design of the spacecraft, testing, launch, and orbital operations. In addition, STARGATE will include a focused business incubator for electronics and RF technology companies. This combination in proximity to a commercial space port will create unique opportunities for collaboration and research, introduce the south Texas region into the aerospace industry, and significantly boosts UTB's technical and educational resources.

New opportunities

The development of STARGATE has prompted the UT system to designate CARA the first research unit of the new UT Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV).

STARGATE will develop new radio frequency based technologies. STARGATE has already identified specific, innovative devices and improved algorithms that will soon allow for the next generation of orbital communication systems. This new technology will be the first wave of inventions commercialized at STARGATE.

STARGATE would allow our students to be directly involved in all aspects of a space mission, from the initial design phase to its final deployment and operation in orbit. Such experiences will give our students real world, hands-on training that will make them extremely valuable to employers both in an academic and commercial setting. 

A specific portion of STARGATE's resources will be devoted to commercializing the new technologies that are already being developed, and to promote invention and commercialization within the region's academic researchers.

CARA has already established UTRGV as an important research center in astrophysics, but STARGATE will, almost overnight, give worldwide recognition to the new UT university as a leading research institution.

STARGATE gives UT researchers a competitive edge for state and federal funding. Once the new technologies are ready for commercial production, the markets they can serve are huge (over $60B/year).


A proven team

The team behind STARGATE has proven experience in winning competitive research grants, invention, and commercialization. Now, thanks to the STARGATE proposal, they have also garnered international interest for new collaborations from industry, government, and scientific partners.

UTRGV's CARA has developed tools used by researchers around the world for processing signals from radio pulsars. That prior effort gives STARGATE a competitive advantage in the development of the tools needed for the next generation of orbital RF communication.

STARGATE has already established collaboration with manufacturing companies with experience in electronics, radio, and aerospace components. Their specific expertise will ensure STARGATE's designs are commercially viable and help speed prototyping and development.

STARGATE has cultivated support from the community and is seeking funding from various sources to ensure sustainability for the program. Possible contributors include the Brownsville Economic Development Council and the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation, the State of Texas Emerging Technology Fund, UT System, and the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

For its Technical Advisory Committee, STARGATE has initial commitments from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Naval Research Labs, the Arecibo Radio Observatory and Cornell University Department of Space Science.

Resources

  • Incubator space for companies
  • Electronics lab for prototyping (See Equipment list)
  • Fast access to the Texas Advanced Computing Center at UT Austin
  • Elevated launch priority for CubeSats

Equipment List

The STARGATE facility will serve as a space technology "Maker Space" allowing students, faculty, and community members access to high-tech prototyping equipment. Interested students and researchers may propose projects to use the equipment. Proposals will be reviewed by CARA faculty and staff. Please contact the STARGATE director for more information. The following equipment will be available in the near future.

PCB Fabrication equipment from LPKF:
  • ProtoLaser U3
  • MiniContac-RS
  • MultiPress-S Auto
  • ProtoPrint S
  • ProtoPlace S
  • InspectionCam
  • Motorized Turntable
  • Feeder Carrier
  • ProtoFlow S
  • ProtoMask
 
Network Analyzers and Signal Generators for Agilent and Tektronix:
  • N9928A FieldFox Handheld VNA, 26.5 GHz
  • N5173B EXG X-Series Sig Gen 20 GHz
  • DSO7104B Oscilloscope: 1 GHz, 4 analog channels
  • N5172B EXG X-Series RF Vector Signal Generator 6 GHz
  • N5171B EXG X-Series RF Analog Signal Generator 6 GHz
  • RSA5000 Analyzer 1 Hz - 26.5 GHz
  • MSO/DPO5000B Mixed Signal 2 GHz

Education

The South Texas region has unique demographic challenges in the United States. Improving the technical workforce pipeline is one of them. UTRGV's Arecibo Remote Command Center (ARCC) program has already boosted the numbers of physics graduates with Masters or PhDs in the region. STARGATE will als​o be integrated into that pipeline to further expand the number of opportunities, and the demand for graduates with advanced mathematics, physics, and engineering degrees in South Texas. In its first decade, ARCC has already obtained some dramatic results, and STARGATE is expected to multiply them.

Technologies being developed.

Future Plans

STARGATE will do more than just the core research functions. Within 5 years of being built and operational, STARGATE intends to:
  • Establish an industry mentoring program for students
  • Publish listings of the available equipment for researchers, businesses, and incubator members
  • Host a business plan competition
  • Host a entrepreneurship/angel investing forum
  • Publish reports on commercialization successes and host showcase events for the public

Current Status

Technologies being developed.

Yearly commercialization reports - coming soon.