University of Arizona Launches Mission Integration Lab at new UA Tech Park at The Bridges | Tech Parks Arizona
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University of Arizona Launches Mission Integration Lab at new UA Tech Park at The Bridges


On December 12, 2022 The University of Arizona Office of Research, Innovation and Impact launched its new research building in the UA Tech Park at The Bridges. The Mission Integration Lab expands research capacity to tackle grand space-based challenges and positions the UArizona as one of only a handful of institutions that can run top-dollar missions. 


The Mission Integration Lab accommodates balloon-borne astronomy, which fills an important niche between ground-based observatories and space telescopes, providing an ideal way to deploy telescopes and other instruments to altitudes where they experience less interference from the Earth's atmosphere. Modern balloon-borne observatories offer space-like views of the universe in missions that require a fraction of the time and cost of a full space mission. These missions are also a platform to test cutting-edge technologies that will define future orbital missions.

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The world-class research enterprise at UArizona is ranked among the top 20 public universities nationwide with more than $800 million in annual research activity. This innovative facility makes the UArizona even more competitive for top-dollar research missions. The New Economy Initiative Funding enabled the building of this cutting-edge facility that will focus on research initiatives to help the University’s $1B research goal and are also consistent with both land-grant mission and purpose as one of the nation’s top research universities.

“Not only will this new facility enable the UA to remain at the forefront of Research I institutions for astronomy, but it will enable us to run the kind of space-based research and mission operations that are significant when working with NASA, as well as key industry players like SpaceX, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and others. said Elizabeth “Betsy” Cantwell, UArizona’s senior vice president of research and innovation.


The Mission Integration Lab, a tall, hangar-like “high bay,” serves as a test bed for new technology enabling researcher to be able to prepare and test stratospheric balloon payloads and other space payloads as they near flight and seed new testing and evaluation protocols for improved efficiency. Here researchers and students can work on instruments, telescopes and high-altitude balloon technology to build and test hardware for experiments and missions designed to fly at extremely high altitudes sometimes referred to as the "edge of space," a fuzzy, ill-defined transition zone between Earth's atmosphere and space. The new building will allow for additional space to grow research programs and partnerships for students and faculty, federal agencies and corporations to advance balloon-based astronomy frontiers. 

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Carol Stewart, Associate Vice President, Tech Parks Arizona, University of Arizona pointed out, “The UA Tech Park was designed to develop purpose-built environments for university, industry, and government entities to come together to advance leading-edge technologies.  This is the first research-specific building up at the UA Tech Park at The Bridges.”

“Concord was pleased to be a part of the successful Mission Integration Lab project at the UA Tech Park at the Bridges.  This project was a team effort by the University of Arizona, Swaim Architects, and Concord to produce a unique lab space that supports the research mission of the UA scientific community.  Creative work to overcome supply chain challenges and deliver the project on time highlighted the close cooperation and effective communication of the entire project team.” shared Grenee Martacho, CEO, Concord General Contracting.

The grand opening event was attended by over a hundred business leaders, government officials, community members, innovators, and University of Arizona leaders. The ceremony included ribbon-cutting led Robert C. Robbins, President, University of Arizona; and included Elizabeth "Betsy" Cantwell, Senior Vice President, Research & Innovation, University of Arizona; Carol Stewart, Vice President, Tech Parks Arizona, University of Arizona; Jeff Kingsley, Associate Director, Steward Observatory, Department of Astronomy, University of Arizona; Dan Marrone, Professor, Steward Observatory, Department of Astronomy, University of Arizona and Kevin Illige, Project Manager, Concord General Contracting.

The event included balloon-borne mission equipment on display:

  • The Terahertz intensity mapper, or TIM, a NASA-funded balloon mission designed to create a giant map of galaxies over 5 billion years of cosmic history which relies on an imaging spectrometer capable of detecting extremely faint galaxies in the “cosmic afternoon,” the time when star formation in the universe was slowing down from its peak 10 billion years ago.
  • GUSTO, short for Galactic/Extragalactic ULDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory, a NASA-funded mission to carry an infrared telescope to study the lifecycle of stars in the interstellar medium, from their birth out of condensing molecular clouds in stellar nurseries to their evolution and death, reseeding the interstellar medium with the ingredients that will form new stars.

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As well as the unveiling of the “Seeds of Wonder” mural which was commissioned by the University of Arizona SXSW Wonder House project, and painted by University of Arizona Alum Jessica Gonzales. This canvas and acrylic mural exemplify people’s yearning to look to the skies for inspiration and is about harnessing passions and following dreams. The color palette represents stunning Arizona sunsets and celebrates the beauty of the desert as well as the stargazing-friendly night skies.

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About Tech Parks Arizona 

Tech Parks Arizona creates the “Interactive Ground” that generates, attracts and retains technology companies and talent in alignment with the research, mission and goals of the University of Arizona. Tech Parks Arizona directs the UA Tech Park, the UA Tech Park at The Bridges and the University of Arizona Center for Innovation incubator, placing the highest priority on recruiting companies desiring connectivity to the University of Arizona.  

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