(Above) UTSI’s campus is located on Woods Reservoir near Tullahoma. The dining facility, appropriately dubbed “The View,” and student residences overlook the water.
Day 4: UT Space Institute
Established in 1964
Programs: Industrial and Systems Engineering/Engineering Management; Engineering Science/Flight Test Engineering; Mechanical, Aerospace & Biomedical Engineering; Physics; Distance Education
Did you know? Twelve astronauts have attended UTSI, with nine earning master’s degrees.
A common question we heard while traveling around the state was, “What do they do at UTSI?” The secluded locale in Middle Tennessee next to a lake and the secret and proprietary nature of some of the research added to the mystery. UTSI, which is located next to the U.S. Air Force Arnold Engineering Development Complex in the Tullahoma area, is a research campus with only master’s and doctoral programs that are awarded to graduates through UT Knoxville.
Indeed, there is space-related research. The large vacuum chamber facility simulates the deep space environment and tests sensors and other equipment to be used in space. In terms of size and capability, UTSI’s facility ranks in the top 10 in the country. The propulsion research facility is for testing jet engines for the Department of Defense and contractors.
UTSI has flight simulators used to test how pilots react to certain situations such as sudden icing on the aircraft tail. With the conclusion of NASA’s shuttle program, some graduates of the flight test engineering program (formerly aviation systems) have gotten jobs with Space X and Virgin Galactic, private space travel companies.
What you might not expect to find at UTSI is biomedical research and a startup company, GCaDD LLC, developing super-thin glass components for dental and medical imaging. There’s also a 3-D printer that uses metal powders to make materials and one of the fastest lasers ever built that can drill 100 holes at the end of a human hair.
Photos by Synthia Clark