U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer to host Space Development Agency director at UND on Wednesday

Head of Space Development Agency added to long list of high-level space research visitors to UND over the past 13 months

UND and U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer (center) will welcome Space Development Agency Director Derek Tournear to campus on Wednesday, Oct. 14. Tournear joins a long list of high-level space research visitors to UND over the past 13 months, including NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine (right of Sen. Cramer above), U.S. Space Command commander Gen. James Dickinson and Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, chief of space operations for the U.S. Space Force and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.Photo by Patrick C. Miller/UND Today.

U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., a Senate Armed Services Committee member, will host the Director of the Space Development Agency, Derek Tournear, at UND on Wednesday for a visit to the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences and a conversation with UND’s president and other top University officials

Derek Tournear, Assistant Director, Under Secretary of Defense (Research and Engineering for Space), poses for his official portrait in the Army portrait studio at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., May 20, 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Monica King)

The event is another in a series of visits from the high-level federal officials who are charged with carrying out America’s space program. It reflects UND’s expanding Space Studies efforts and the growing importance of those efforts on the national scene.

Visitors to UND over the past 13 months have included NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, U.S. Space Command commander Gen. James Dickinson and Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, chief of space operations for the U.S. Space Force and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Space Development Agency is an independent federal agency that operates under the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering. Established in March 2019, “the Pentagon’s new space agency is working to develop a network of satellites in low Earth orbit to serve as the eyes and ears of military forces in the field,” Space News described earlier this year.

“While typically it would take the Defense Department a decade to field such systems, the Space Development Agency plans to have satellites in orbit within two years.”

As the agency’s own website declares, “SDA will develop and field new military space capabilities to ensure the United States’ technological and military advantage in space.” The Space Development Agency is scheduled to officially become part of the Space Force in 2022.

Tournear, SDA’s Director, has a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University and a B.S. from Purdue University. Prior to his selection as the Space Development Agency’s leader, Tournear served as the assistant director for space under the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering.

He previously had served as the senior scientist for space activities and space technologies in the Office of Smart Collection at the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Details of Tournear’s visit to UND are as follows:

Tournear and Sen. Cramer will begin their visit at a working breakfast and briefing at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 14, in Room 404 of Robin Hall, an Aerospace School building. Space in Room 404 permitting, the meeting will be open to the media.

Tournear and Sen. Cramer will be joined at the breakfast-and-briefing by UND President Andy Armacost; John Mihelich, Vice President for Research & Economic Development at UND; Paul Lindseth, Dean of the Odegard School; Pablo de León, Chair of UND’s Department of Space Studies; Brian Tande, Dean of the UND College of Engineering & Mines; Mark Askelson, Executive Director of UND’s Research Institute for Autonomous Systems; and others from UND and Sen. Cramer’s staff.

At 9 a.m., Tournear will be given a tour of the UND Aerospace facilities. He’s scheduled to depart the campus at 9:30 a.m.