UND becomes part of the new U.S. Space Force program

By University of North Dakota | August 10, 2021

ARLINGTON, VA. (AFNS) – The U.S. Space Force announced its University Partnership Program at the University of North Dakota during a Memorandum of Understanding signing event Aug. 9.

Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond joined UND President Andy Armacost on campus to sign the MOU.

High resolution images of the signing event can be downloaded using this link.

“The Space Force faces some of the toughest challenges in engineering, science, and technology,” said Raymond. “Space is hard.  We need our nation’s brightest minds working to help us tackle these problems. That is why we have established the University Partnership Program to harness the innovation at universities across our country. Today, I’m excited to welcome the University of North Dakota as our first official UPP member, with ten more schools to follow in the coming months.”

The other universities on track to join the partnership in fiscal year ’21 are:

  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Howard University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
  • Purdue University
  • University of Colorado System (beginning with Boulder and Colorado Springs)
  • University of Texas System (beginning with Austin and El Paso)
  • University of Southern California

“We are excited for this incredible opportunity to partner with the Space Force in developing students and Guardians into high-tech problem-solvers,” said Armacost. “Students and faculty will apply their expertise to projects vital to the Space Force mission to deliver impactful solutions for increasing efficiency, resiliency and sustainability for space capabilities.”

Universities were selected based on four criteria: the quality of STEM degree offerings and space-related research laboratories and initiatives; a robust ROTC program; a diverse student population; and degrees and programming designed to support military, veterans and their families in pursing higher education.

Signing an MOU is only the first step in defining the partnership. Next, the Space Force will work with UND and each university that follows to outline specific implementation milestones to meet the program’s four main goals.

  1. Establish opportunities for world-class research, advanced academic degrees, and workforce and leadership development for USSF Guardians
  2. Identify and pursue research areas of mutual interest with member universities, individually and collectively
  3. Establish scholarship, internship and mentorship opportunities for university students and ROTC cadets
  4. Recruit and develop diverse officer, enlisted, and civilian Guardians with a particular focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

The Space Force designed the UPP to identify, develop and retain a diverse STEM-capable workforce, but also recognizes there are secondary benefits of the program.

“Students who participate in the research or development opportunities created through the UPP do not need to become military or civilian Guardians,” said Raymond. “Our nation is depending on the next generations of scientists and engineers to help us solve the most challenging problems across a variety of industries. Any knowledge gained from the Space Force partnership is ultimately for the benefit of our society.”

Text of Memorandum of Understanding follows:




  1. Purpose
  • This is a Memorandum of Understanding (“Agreement”) between the University of North Dakota (UND), located at 264 Centennial Drive, Stop 7306, Grand Forks, North Dakota, 58202, and the United States Space Force (USSF), located at SF/S1D, Pentagon, Washington, D.C., 20360, referred to collectively as the “Parties.” In accordance with this MOU, the Parties intend to explore potential additional agreements to develop the University Partnership Program (UPP). As appropriate, the Parties may develop supplemental guidance in furtherance of this relationship and such additional agreements.
  1. Background
    • Space is universally recognized as a vital domain for national defense, and the USSF is charged with developing a cadre of elite Guardians (officer, enlisted, and civilian employees) to secure the space domain for our Nation and its allies. As an integral part of USSF’s Human Capital Strategy, the aim is to establish and sustain USSF partnership agreements with UPP schools to help advance space and technological challenges and meet the Chief of Space Operations priority, to develop joint warfighters in world class teams.
    • The USSF requires highly educated Guardians who possess the technical expertise to operate and develop the world’s most advanced space systems. To this end, USSF is establishing the UPP to recruit, educate, develop, and retain a competent, diverse, and inclusive workforce.  The USSF wants to provide a consistent pipeline of talent through workforce development, internship, mentorship, scholarship, fellowship, and research opportunities for university students (including US Air Force Academy (USAFA) and AFROTC Detachment 610 cadets) and select USSF uniformed members and Department of the Air Force (DAF) civilian employees (hereinafter “USSF personnel”).
    • UND is the State of North Dakota’s oldest and largest university, and seeks to build on its record of developing future leaders.  UND has earned national recognition for its academic programs. The university currently offers more than 250 undergraduate and graduate degrees.  These include degrees in Space Studies and related/complementary disciplines such as aerospace, engineering, computing, cybersecurity, physics, mathematics, chemistry, and other applied and social sciences, which have direct applicability to national security and space research.
    • UND is recognized for its research excellence in its Space Studies program and in other key research areas critical for the USSF mission including: space engineering, life support systems, space policy, autonomous systems, remote sensing, signal detection, counter autonomy, cybersecurity, machine vision, augmented reality, human-machine teaming, human factors, energy systems, and related areas.  These UND capacities, and the surrounding autonomous systems ecosystem, including the Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft System Test Site, comprise an education and research infrastructure that seeks to contribute to the Department of Defense and other government agencies.
    • The Parties enter into this Agreement for the purpose of encouraging and enhancing study in STEM fields, and pursuing joint or collaborative research projects in furtherance of national security objectives involving the space domain.
  2. Authorities

3.1.      DoDI 4000.19, Support Agreements, 16 December 2020

3.2.      10 U.S.C. §§ 9081-9084

  1. Roles and Responsibilities
    • The Parties intend to explore the negotiation of future agreements in order to conduct academic and research collaboration in the space domain under the USSF UPP, which is being established to support the development of a high-caliber, specialized workforce and technology-savvy military service.
    • USSF will:
      • Negotiate in good faith with UND to plan for future potential agreements that will detail joint educational and research activities in the space domain.
      • Coordinate space technology transition efforts with existing USSF program management organizations.
      • Negotiate in good faith with UND to establish appropriate funding and scholarship opportunities for USSF personnel and cadets to attend undergraduate and graduate degree programs at UND.
    • UND will:
      • Negotiate in good faith to establish and potentially execute mutually acceptable agreements supporting a joint partnership for research and educational activities in the space domain.
      • Coordinate with USSF for potential fellowship, scholarship, internship and mentorship opportunities for faculty, students and cadets.
      • Provide academic and career advice and assistance to students (including USSF personnel attending its programs).
      • Explore with USSF and other UPP members regarding joint research or collaborative research projects in furtherance of national security and space research objectives.
      • Identify and explore the pursuit of research areas of mutual interest with USSF and other UPP members (bi-laterally and collectively).
  1. Law, Regulation, and Policy
    • The Parties will ensure that all laws, regulations, and policies applicable to USSF and UND will apply to both the planning and management of the UPP and the conduct of future research programs.
  2. Liability and Limitations
    • No real or tangible property or equipment may be furnished by USSF to UND unless specifically provided under a separate agreement approved by both parties.
  3. Funding
    • This MOU neither documents nor provides for the exchange of funds or manpower between the Parties, nor does it make any commitment of funds or resources. No provision in this MOU will be interpreted to require the obligation or payment of funds.
  4. Personnel
    • For purposes of the discussions and negotiations contemplated under this MOU, each Party is responsible for all costs of its personnel, including pay and benefits, support, and travel. Each Party is responsible for supervision and management of its personnel.
  5. Points of Contact and Notice
    • The following points of contact will be used by the Parties to communicate in the implementation of this MOU, and to provide all notice related to this MOU. Each party may change its point of contact upon reasonable notice to the other Party.
      • USSF: William Nolte, Deputy Director Force Development, SF/S1D, Pentagon, Washington D.C., (757) 813-1835, [email protected]
      • UND: Michael Sadler, Director RSPD, 4201 James Ray Drive, Suite 2050, Grand Forks, North Dakota, 701-777-4152, [email protected]
  1. Term


  • Effective Date: This MOU takes effect on the date the last Party signs.
  • Expiration Date: This MOU shall expire five years from the Effective Date, unless otherwise terminated pursuant to this Agreement.
  • Termination: This MOU may be terminated by either Party by giving at least 180 days written notice to the other Party.  The MOU may also be terminated at any time upon the mutual consent of the Parties.  This MOU may be superseded by the execution of any cooperative or other agreement in the establishment and operation of the UPP.
  • No Third-Party Beneficiaries: Nothing in this MOU, express or implied, is intended to give to, or will be construed to confer upon, any person not a party any remedy or claim under or by reason of this MOU.  This MOU will be for the sole and exclusive benefit of the Parties.
  1. General Terms and Provisions
    • Publicity/Non-Endorsement. Any public announcement of this Agreement or its terms must be coordinated between UND, USSF and the public affairs office supporting USSF.  By entering into this Agreement, neither USSF nor the Government directly or indirectly endorses any product or service provided, or to be provided, by UND, its successors, assignees, or licensees.  UND may not in any way imply that this Agreement is an endorsement of any such product or service.
    • The illegality or invalidity of any provision of this Agreement will not impair, affect, or invalidate the other provisions of this Agreement.
    • Neither this Agreement nor any rights or obligations of either party hereunder may be assigned or otherwise transferred by either party without the prior written consent of the other party.
  2. Disputes
    • Any dispute arising from or relating to this MOU will, subject to any applicable Federal statute or regulation, be resolved by good faith discussions between the Parties.
  3. Waiver
    • Neither party will waive the provisions of this guidance unless such waiver is given in writing.
  4. Entire Agreement
    • It is expressly understood and agreed that this MOU embodies the entire understanding between the Parties regarding the subject matter of this MOU.
  5. Agreed
    • The Parties identified below agree to the provisions and terms of this MOU.



For UND                                                               For USSF

_______________________________                ________________________________

ANDREW ARMACOST, Ph.D.                              JOHN W. RAYMOND

President, University of North Dakota                General, USSF

                                                                    Chief of Space Operations

Date:  9 August 2021                                      Date:  9 August 2021




For more information, contact:

David L. Dodds
Director of Communications
Division of Marketing & Communications
University of North Dakota
[email protected]
O: 701.777.5529
C: 701.740.4834