Press Release

Space Dynamics Laboratory Celebrates 25 Years as a Government Research Center?

By SpaceRef Editor
June 21, 2021
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This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Laboratory formally becoming a significant part of the Department of Defense’s efforts to maintain essential engineering, research, and development capabilities through long-term, strategic relationships with university laboratories across the nation.

In May 1996, SDL and five other university research centers were designated as DOD University Affiliated Research Centers, or UARCs, established to operate in the public interest rather than in the interest of corporate shareholders. UARCs have become crucial partners in the development of advanced defense technology, while sustaining critical national engineering and scientific expertise.

As a UARC and a nonprofit organization affiliated with a university, SDL’s core competencies span a variety of technical areas.  SDL has benefitted from a long-term strategic relationship, for over 25 years, with the Missile Defense Agency, who acts as SDL’s DOD UARC sponsor. From researching and developing small satellite systems and subsystems to sensor technologies and cyber capabilities, SDL has played a vital role in defending the U.S. and protecting our military servicemembers.  As a UARC, SDL rapidly develops and deploys mission-driven capabilities to support an array of DOD user needs.

Research institutions such as Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Laboratory have long been catalysts for innovative breakthroughs, and the UARC designation enables the DOD and other government organizations to advance a variety of game-changing technologies within the defense and space industry,” said H. Scott Hinton, president of SDL. “For example, SDL developed the sensor for the Midcourse Space Experiment that resulted in the first-ever demonstration of a space-based sensor for ballistic missile defense mid-course surveillance, tracking, and discrimination.  Today, SDL is an integrated member of the MDA team leading the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor program, where SDL provides decades of experience and expertise in space-based infrared sensing phenomenology and sensor systems design, test, and calibration.”

Each UARC provides core capabilities to the DOD Research and Engineering community—including the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Space Force, Defense Agencies and Combatant Commands. UARCs receive funding from multiple government organizations, by virtue of their strategic relationship with the DOD.  The Government leverages UARC expertise in their core competency areas to quickly develop government-owned solutions for problems of national security importance.  

SDL and other UARCs serve as trusted government agents, providing objective, unbiased expertise. UARCs develop and maintain capabilities designated as essential, while preserving independence from for-profit stakeholders and freedom from conflicts of interest.

SDL has been solving the technical challenges faced by the military, science community, and industry for over six decades and supports NASA’s mission to drive advances in science, technology, aeronautics, and space exploration to enhance knowledge, education, innovation, economic vitality, and stewardship of Earth. As one of 14 DOD UARCs, SDL serves as a subject matter expert in its core research areas to the U.S. Government, ensuring that essential engineering and technology capabilities are maintained. SDL is a research laboratory headquartered in North Logan, UT, and has offices in Albuquerque, NM; Bedford, MA; Colorado Springs, CO; Dayton, OH; Huntsville, AL; Houston, TX; Los Angeles, CA; Stafford, VA; and Washington, DC. For more information, visit

SpaceRef staff editor.