Metropolitan State University of Denver's Department of Aviation and Aerospace Science plans to create a Laboratory for Enhanced Space Data Analytics under a contract the U.S. Air Force awarded to MSU Denver and York Space Systems. Pictured is the Laboratory for Enhanced Space Data Analytics. Credit: MSU Denver

SAN FRANCISCO – York Space Systems and Metropolitan State University of Denver won a U.S. Air Force contract to investigate ways to reduce the cost and speed delivery of high-quality satellite imagery.

Under an Air Force Small Business Technology Transfer study announced June 23, York will pair its commercial spacecraft and open-standard payload interfaces with MSU Denver’s commercial software and tools to optimize space imagery applications.

The contract also supports a plan by MSU Denver’s Department of Aviation and Aerospace Science to create a Laboratory for Enhanced Space Data Analytics to house automated test software and initial analytics for imagery products. Within the laboratory, MSU Denver students will investigate promising approaches to commercial image enhancement, according to a June 23 news release.

“Now that space-based resources are being commercialized, it is more important than ever to have skilled graduates that understand principles of operating space systems,” Jeffrey Forrest, MSU Denver professor and chair of the school’s Aviation and Aerospace Science Department, told SpaceNews. “Data and information related to these concerns require professionals to interpret the meaning of retrieved data and visualize or represent that information in ways that” provide valuable information to the end user.

Denver-based York announced plans in 2017 to establish a manufacturing facility for S-Class satellites and a mission operations center on the MSU Denver campus.

“The educational experience MSU Denver aerospace students receive is unlike any other since they graduate with the hands-on skills to meaningfully contribute to any space company on day one,” Melanie Preisser, York vice president of national systems, told SpaceNews. “We have worked with the university to develop an applied curriculum that ensures new graduates already have the essential skills to build, deploy and operate spacecraft.”

MSU Denver is preparing students to contribute to government and commercial space programs, including the growing number of entrepreneurial space endeavors backed by private capital, Forrest said by email. “These new commercial entities need folks that can think in many non-traditional ways and make sense of the [satellite] data,” he added.

“We are fortunate to have this unique opportunity to partner with York Space Systems, to build and operate a space data laboratory for the U.S. Air Force,” Janine Davidson, president of MSU Denver and former deputy assistant secretary of defense for plans, said in a statement. “These innovative partnerships are the best way to ensure our education system is developing the industry leaders the nation needs.”

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...