Moriba Jah is joining the University of Arizona to lead efforts in space object behavioral sciences. Moriba Jah Credit: UA

Space situational awareness expert Moriba Jah is joining the University of Arizona to direct a new space object behavioral sciences initiative encompassing satellite tracking and space traffic management.

“What MIT was for the Apollo space program, I’d like the UA to be for space domain awareness, leveraging world-class expertise in space object behavioral science,” Jah said in a Jan. 11 statement announcing his appointment.

Jah was a spacecraft navigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, charting courses for several Mars orbiters and landers before joining the Air Force Research Laboratory in 2007 to lead research programs in space object behavior assessment and prediction.

For the past two years, he headed the space situational awareness program at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Before that, he directed the Air Force’s Advanced Sciences and Technology Research Institute for Astronautics in Hawaii.

“People work in different domains — land, maritime, airspace, cyberspace,” Jah said in the statement. “Outer space is another domain that requires surveillance, traffic control and protection. We are creating a new harmonized field comprised of both new and old disciplines that need to be integrated in order to meet global needs. Space object behavioral sciences is this field. We shall become experts and thought leaders on how to gather a body of evidence on the behaviors of objects in outer space, identify threats or hazards, and present quantifiable findings to decision makers.”

The University of Arizona said the space object behavioral sciences initiative Jah will be leading will be part of the university’s Defense and Security Research Institute.

“My goal for the UA initiative is to lead a multidisciplinary team to grow and develop space object behavioral sciences, which is founded upon a rigorous marriage of engineering and physics with data science, analytics, and brings in space law and policy,” he said. “I want the UA to be the go-to place for research, education and innovation in this area.”