The University of Central Florida has hired planetary scientist Alan Stern to serve as director of the Florida Space Institute.

The institute is located at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Stern, currently the principal investigator for NASA’s Pluto-bound New Horizons mission, served as the U.S. space agency’s associate administrator for science from 2007 to 2008. Prior to that, he was executive director of the Southwest Research Institute’s Space Science and Engineering Division in Boulder, Colo.

More recently, Stern has served as chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation’s suborbital applications researchers group.