Voyager Space, an American science program based in Denver, has selected Ohio State to be the Earthside location of the inaugural science park devoted to space research.
John Horack, Neil Armstrong chair in aerospace policy at Ohio State, said in about one year, construction will begin at the Ohio State University Airport on a terrestrial analog — a ground replica — of the George Washington Carver Science Park, which currently operates on the International Space Station.
“There are other science parks that do space research but aren’t dedicated solely to space research,” Horack said. “The George Washington Carver Science Park, which is the name chosen by Nanoracks and Voyager, is the first space research park, and it will also be therefore the first that has a component in space and on the Earth.”
Horack said Voyager Space — which was founded in 2019 specializes in space infrastructure and technology — is funding the building. Although a final design of the project does not yet exist, he said he estimates the facility will be around 20,000 square feet.
Voyager selected Team Ohio’s proposal — a collaboration of Ohio State, JobsOhio, One Columbus and the state of Ohio — because of Ohio’s history with aviation and many engineering students and professionals, according to a Sept. 19 Voyager press release.
“Ohio is the birthplace of aviation and has a deep-rooted history in aerospace and defense innovation,” Dylan Taylor, Chairman and CEO of Voyager Space, said. “Company researchers, operators, visionaries, and space change makers in Ohio will have the ability to influence and inspire organizations pursuing aerospace research and development and we are thrilled to be partnering with Team Ohio on this exciting project.”
Spencer Christian, a master’s student in aerospace engineering, said the ground replica and laboratory will allow students and faculty at Ohio State to conduct tests within the station.
Horack said these ground experiments are vital to conducting research in space.
“Before you ever fly anything in space, there is a tremendous amount that gets done on the ground, and you try to do that work in the highest-fidelity environment you can, so that you don’t have very many things that are different when you get to space,” Horack said.
Horack said research in the facility will include astrophysics, biotechnology, agriculture and psychology.
“These are all things that go on today in space, and that’s the beauty of space research,” Horack said. “Space is actually a really unique laboratory in which you can do many, many different kinds of research.”
Horack said this science park will give people from the Midwest the opportunity to stay close to home while working in space research.
“The opportunity to work in space-based research right on campus without having to take a flight to California or some place like that is important,” Horack said. “Many students that we educate, they then have to move away to pursue their dream.”
Horack said the facility at the airport is expected to be ready in 2025, but until then, the project will be based out of the College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences building.
Christian said the science park is a great opportunity because it will give him the chance to help with experiments, get exposed to potential projects and work with various companies and industry professionals.
“It definitely sways me to stay here longer at Ohio State and possibly pursue another degree, just because there’s so many opportunities to get involved and pursue further research with the science park,” Christian said.
Horack said housing this project at Ohio State will bring new opportunities to the area.
“The world is moving in a direction where investments in this part of the country at places like Ohio State make a lot of sense,” Horack said. “I think it’s going to create new jobs, new companies, new industries, new technologies, new products, all of the above. That’s what innovation does.”