The National Aeronautics and Space Administration awarded the University of Maryland a $5 million grant yesterday to develop a "brain bank" at the College Park campus to help industry develop new commercial applications for satellite communications.
Anthony Ephremides, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Maryland and co-director of the center, said that the new center will have input from professors at the Johns Hopkins University, University of Colorado at Boulder and West Virginia University.
It also has the financial backing of about a dozen industrial partners, including Martin Marietta Corp., Westinghouse Electric Corp., COMSAT Laboratories, TRW Inc. and Lockheed Missiles and Space Co.
John Baras, another professor of electrical engineering at UM and the other co-director, said the primary focus of the center is to find technologies that will make satellite communications commercially viable.
As an example of future applications, the officials cited voice, computer data and image transmissions via satellite that a person could receive at home, in the office or while driving if the recipient had a portable unit the size of a small television.
The center is expected to have only a few full-time employees.
Noting that NASA is contributing $1 million annually over the next five years, Dr. Ephremides said the center is looking to industry to match the government's funding and perhaps contribute even more.
After five years, the facility is to be funded entirely from industry contributions.