The MRO 2.4-Meter Telescope will receive funding from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in early 2016 to monitor the launch and re-entry of commercial space vehicles from Spaceport America, a facility north of Las Cruces, New Mexico. MRO investigators will record and monitor suborbital space vehicles, stratospheric balloons, and other assets. The Principle Investigator and Co-Principle Investigator of the grant, Drs. Eileen and William Ryan, have extensive experience with tracking fast-moving natural and man-made objects in orbit.
An undergraduate student from New Mexico Tech’s Mechanical Engineering Department will assist with software development for closed-loop tracking of fast terrestrial targets with the MRO 2.4-Meter Telescope. As observations are acquired, the student will analyze performance data to supplement or validate safety data collected from other sources.
Operational funding for the MRO 2.4-Meter Telescope is dependent on outside grants and contracts. The monies from the FAA will help keep the Observatory financially viable. Currently, 80% of operations funding comes from NASA grants to study Near-Earth asteroids and comets, national security work involving the Air Force, and internal New Mexico Tech research projects. Over 100 students per year utilize the 2.4-meter observatory to supplement their coursework and acquire hands-on experience in exciting ongoing initiatives.