The Space Physics Research Laboratory (SPRL) mission connects the excellence of the University of Michigan to the development of innovative engineering solutions to explore extreme environments throughout the Solar System and enable transformative research. Through our partnerships with principle investigators across the University and in industry we imagine, design, test, build, and deploy unique hardware and software technologies. We specialize in advancing technologies, hardware components, and instruments through technology readiness levels (TRL) into spaceflight instruments for both earth and space observing NASA mission. We also work to develop autonomous, highly reliable, rugged sensors that can be deployed in harsh environments on Earth such as in the ocean or antarctic. Throughout all of our work, we provide unique experiential educational experiences and mentoring for undergraduate and graduate students that will set them on a rewarding career path unlike any other.
The Space Physics Research Laboratory was established in the early post-war years at a time of tremendous renewed national optimism and energy. Its original mandate — the in-depth experimental and theoretical study of the natural world using state-of-the-art instruments and models — has remained a constant guiding star over the many intervening years. The earliest work at SPRL involved captured World War II V-2 rockets. Using these and other space-borne platforms, SPRL scientists and engineers pioneered measurements in the Earth’s upper atmosphere and ionosphere, helping to write the textbooks on atmospheric science and aeronomy. SPRL subsequently expanded into the fields of planetary atmospheres, solar and heliospheric physics, and oceanography.
During the most recent years, SPRL faculty and engineers have built more than 30 space instruments, instrumented numerous sounding rockets, balloons and aircraft, and developed ground-based instruments.
Over its more than seven decades, the laboratory has maintained a strong reputation as one of a handful of university centers able to conceive, design, construct, test, operate and analyze data from space flight instruments — a truly “end-to-end” operation. It has also established tremendous strengths in theory and modeling, with interest spanning interdisciplinary studies of the earth, planets, and other objects and plasma regions within and beyond the solar system. These combined strengths will serve the Laboratory well in attempting to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
The Past and Present of the Space Physics Research Laboratory are filled with many prominent people and significant achievements. To learn more about SPRL’s rich history, take a tour of its past or take a look at some of the partners we work with regularly.