The Florida State University will play a key role in a world-class consortium assembled by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that joins academia, industry and government to address the present and future challenges of commercial space transportation.

Florida State will contribute to the new Air Transportation Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation through its leadership of the Florida Center for Advanced Aero-Propulsion (FCAAP), which has been selected as one of the FAA center’s core members.

“The bringing together of university and other experts in the field of aerospace from around the United States will result in the type of partnerships that can move the field forward,” said Kirby Kemper, vice president for Research at Florida State. “The fact that Florida institutions are major players in this area is affirmed by FCAAP being named as one of the leaders of this FAA Center of Excellence.”

In announcing the new Center of Excellence, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said the Obama administration is committed to making sure the United States remains the world leader in space development and exploration.

“This new center underscores that commitment, and will ensure that the commercial space community can meet our current and future space transportation needs,” LaHood said.

The Obama administration recently released its new National Space Policy, which outlines opportunities and advancements in commercial space transportation and describes specific ways to use commercial capabilities.

“Commercial space flight is ready to play a greater role in the nation’s space program,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “Universities working with industry partners will fuel the research necessary to help keep us in the forefront of both technology and safety in space.”

Established in 2008 with its headquarters at Florida State, FCAAP seeks to bridge the gap between academia and industry and give university-produced innovations for aviation and aerospace a push toward commercial viability. The collaboration brings together scientists, engineers and students from Florida State, particularly those from the Florida A&M University-Florida State University College of Engineering, with those from the other FCAAP partner institutions. In addition to Florida State, the FCAAP partners on the FAA’s Air Transportation Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation are the University of Central Florida and the University of Florida.

In what will be a major boost to FCAAP’s research capabilities, some of its main facilities, along with its headquarters, will soon move into a state-of-the-art Aero-Propulsion, Mechatronics and Energy Building currently under construction in Tallahassee’s Innovation Park, adjacent to the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering and the FSU-affiliated National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.

Farrukh Alvi, a professor of mechanical engineering at the College of Engineering and executive director of FCAAP, will lead FCAAP’s commercial space-flight research.

“Our success in being a core member of this winning team underscores the fact that the collective strength of FCAAP is much greater than the sum of the individual members,” Alvi said. “As the FCAAP team, we plan to play a major role in this FAA Center of Excellence and are confident that this will have a significant, positive effect on the state and the nation’s leadership in space, as well as a positive economic impact.”

The Air Transportation Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation is expected to begin operations this month, according to the FAA. New Mexico State University will lead the initiative, whose research and development efforts will focus on four major areas: space launch operations and traffic management; launch vehicle systems, payloads, technologies and operations; commercial human space flight; and space commerce (including space law, space insurance, space policy and space regulation).

In addition to the Florida State University-led FCAAP, the core members of the new FAA center are the Florida Institute of Technology; Stanford University; the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology; the University of Colorado-Boulder; and the University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston. Other participants include Space Florida; NASA’s Kennedy Space Center; NASA’s Glenn Research Center; Virgin Galactic; SpaceX; Qinetiq North America/Analex; Florida Turbine Technologies; the International Space University; and Starfighters Inc.

One of the industry partners, Space Florida, has also announced that it will commit up to $2 million over three years as a match investment to members of the Air Transportation Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation partners that assist with securing space-related business in Florida.

More information on the FAA Centers of Excellence program is available here.

Visit and to learn more about the FCAAP and the state-of-the-art research under way there.