Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan


SPRL looks ahead with new plans and instruments

Posted: June 9, 2015

SPRL looks ahead with new plans and instruments

Two new instruments - a Bemco thermal vacuum chamber and a large vibration table – were unveiled at the Space Physics Research Laboratory (SPRL) ribbon cutting ceremony on June 9, 2015.

In addition to the new equipment, the event served as an opportunity to describe the future of SPRL, which has been part of the University of Michigan for more than 65 years.

The earliest work at SPRL involved captured World War II V-2 rockets. Using these and other space-borne platforms, SPRL scientists and engineers pioneered measurements in the Earth's upper atmosphere and ionosphere, helping to write the textbooks on atmospheric science and aeronomy.

In recent years, SPRL faculty and engineers have built more than 30 space instruments, instrumented numerous sounding rockets, balloons and aircraft, and developed ground-based instruments. SPRL has demonstrated excellence in engineering and it looks forward to taking new steps in research and teaching as it becomes known by a new name – SPRL+.

College of Engineering Associate Dean Alec Gallimore said, “By combining top-flight engineering practice and development with basic research, SPRL+ will serve as the support group to help our faculty advance their technology in fields of utmost strategic importance to the College such as space systems, robotics, advanced automotive systems, MEMS and NEMS based sensors and systems, and detection technology for homeland security. But R&D is just one element.”

“Many of us are equally excited about the role the new SPRL will play on the educational front by advising student teams, serving on review panels for capstone design courses, and having students work side-by-side in the lab and in the Wilson Center with engineers who are the top practitioners in their fields.”

In addition to Dr. Gallimore’s presentation on SPRL’s future, AOSS Chair James Slavin, AOSS Professor and SPRL Director Christopher Ruf and SPRL Lead Engineer Jonathan Van Noord spoke at the event.

One of the missions that SPRL is currently working on is NASA’s CYGNSS (Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System).

Scheduled to launch in October 2016, CYGNSS is a constellation of eight small satellites that will be carried to low-Earth orbit on a single launch vehicle. Each satellite is capable of capturing 32 wind measurements per second across the globe. The complete constellation will provide gap-free Earth coverage.

CYGNSS team members include AOSS Professors Christopher Ruf (PI), Derek Posselt and Aaron Ridley, as well as SPRL staff members Damen Provost, Bruce Block, Linda Chadwick, Steve Musko, Jonathan Van Noord and Timothy Butler.

To learn more about CYGNSS, please visit

To learn more about SPRL, please visit

(Photo: From Left: Professor Slavin, Professor Ruf, Dean of Engineering David C. Munson, Jr., Associate Dean Alec Gallimore.)

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