CU Prof Named Chair Of Trustee Board For Universities Space Research Association

Published: Aug. 6, 2003

Robert Schnabel, associate vice chancellor for academic and campus technology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has been named chair of the board of trustees of the Universities Space Research Association, or USRA.

USRA is a consortium of nearly 100 universities whose mission is to provide a bridge to cooperation among universities; with the U.S. government primarily through NASA; and with several other organizations to improve research and education in the space sciences. Most of the university members are from the United States.

Schnabel, who is director of CU-Boulder's ATLAS Institute on campus, is a professor in the computer science department. ATLAS is the Alliance for Technology, Learning and Society.

CU-Boulder was one of the original members of USRA, which was founded in 1969 with 49 charter members, said Schnabel. Today it is a roughly $70 million non-profit corporation.

CU-Boulder ranks in the top of the nation's universities for NASA grants, garnering $211 million from the space agency and affiliates in the past four fiscal years. The university is currently involved in a large number of space missions, including NASA's Cassini Mission to Saturn and the design and construction of a $50 million second generation Hubble Space Telescope along with Ball Aerospace Sciences Group of Boulder.

One of USRA's biggest space successes has been CU-Boulder's $5 million Student Nitric Oxide Explorer, or SNOE, designed and built primarily by CU-Boulder students and launched by NASA in 1998. The satellite is measuring nitric oxide in the upper atmosphere that affects Earth's ozone layer, the intensity of x-rays from the sun and ultraviolet light from Earth's aurora.

As one of three spacecraft selected by USRA in 1994 as part of NASA's Student Explorer Demonstration Initiative, the craft is the only one successfully launched to date. It is being controlled 24 hours a day by students and faculty from CU's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics Research Park facility under the direction of LASP Professor Emeritus Charles Barth.

"USRA is very important in a wide variety of ways to America's space program," said LASP Director Daniel Baker, who has been active in USRA for several years. "The appointment of Professor Schnabel as chair of the board of trustees was an astute move by USRA, since he is a top-flight computer scientist working independently of space missions, allowing him to take a broad view."

Schnabel previously served on the science council for one of USRA's large institutes, the Research Institute for Advanced Computer Science at NASA Ames in California. From 1995 to 1998 he chaired the association's Science Council.

As a computer scientist, Schnabel has served on the board of trustees at USRA since June 1998 and as vice-chair of the board from June 2001 to June 2003.

"USRA has been working with NASA to get university student payloads flying, and we value Professor Schnabel's involvement with USRA," said Elaine Hanson, director of the Colorado Space Grant Consortium.