CLaSP History: Space Science and Engineering

Space Science and Engineering History

Space science activities began at the University of Michigan in 1946 within the College of Engineering Department of Electrical Engineering and were soon complemented by work in the Department of Aeronautical Engineering. The activities evolved into the formation of two large research laboratories in these two departments, the Space Physics Research Laboratory (SPRL) and the High Altitude Laboratory, respectively.The SPRL and the High Altitude Laboratory developed outstanding reputations as units doing research in the forefront of space sciences (e.g., falling sphere experiments, IR remote sensing, langmuir probes, mass spectrometers).

Over the years, numerous PhDs were awarded by the Electrical and Aeronautical Engineering Departments in the field of space sciences. Around the mid 1960s, a joint graduate program, leading to a Ph.D. in Aeronomy, was established by the Electrical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering and Meteorology & Oceanography departments. At the end of the 1960’s, after the retirement of the Director of the High Altitude Laboratory, members of the High Altitude Laboratory were integrated into the Space Physics Research Laboratory.

SPRL remained housed in the College of Engineering when it and the aeronomy program were integrated into the Department of Meteorology and Oceanography, which consequently changed its name to the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences.

Members of the department have built and flown more than 35 instruments on NASA spacecraft, including the Voyager mission to the outer planets, the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, the GALILEO mission to Jupiter , the CASSINI-Huygens mission to Saturn and Titan and the TIDI -TIMED Doppler Interferometer TIMED Instrument. AOSS also participates in field campaigns, designing and integrating instruments on balloons, aircraft and sounding rockets to study the dynamics and composition of the atmosphere and the near space environment of the Earth.