Photo: Prof. Don Flournoy, Competition Chair, stands with team Pathway to Power on stage at ISDC Puerto Rico

Ohio University Named Center of Excellence in Space Technology

Posted on:

< < Back to

Ohio University has been named a “Center of Excellence in Space Solar Power and Power Beaming.” This honor, announced by the National Space Society (NSS), was awarded on May 21 at the organization’s annual International Space Development Conference held in Puerto Rico.

Space solar power is an alternative energy source captured outside of the Earth’s atmosphere by a new type of satellite, called a Solar Power Satellite or SunSat. Power beaming is the means by which that energy is delivered to Earth, to be used as a source of clean and renewable electric power.

Ohio University was singled out by the NSS when celebrating and awarding achievements for its past and future role in Enterprise in Space. This honor recognizes the work of the Online Journal of Space Communication, a scholarly journal that has – since 2010 – focused its attention on the solicitation and publication of global space solar power research and development.

The Space Journal was founded in 2002 by Scripps College of Communication professor Don Flournoy and his Ph.D. student Randy Johnson under sponsorship of the Society of Satellite Professionals International (SSPI), the professional development association of the space and satellite industry. Since its inception, the Journal has been managed by faculty and student editors from the Game Research in Immersive Design (GRID) Lab, the Scripps College and the Ohio University Center For International Studies. In recent years, the Journal has also established a close working relationship with the NSS, whose complementary goal is to “use the vast resources of space for the dramatic betterment of humanity.”

The honor also recognized the importance of the Ohio University-initiated and managed International SunSat Design Competition, a contest open to students and professionals worldwide. Since 2013, some $60,000 in prize money has been awarded for creative visualizations and technical and economic briefs that have been peer-reviewed by a distinguished panel of space scientists, engineers, and professionals. Finalist designs are published in the open-access Space Journal. Space Canada has agreed to sponsor prizes for the next two years.

On campus, the School of Media Arts and Studies enabled sustained student involvement via the cross-listed undergraduate and graduate course MDIA 5901/4901: Creative Visualization of Science and Technology, in which at least a dozen “creative visualizations of Space Solar Power” have been produced. At the most recent ISDC, Ohio University students previewed a mobile site entitled SOL INVICTUS: The Unconquered Sun, part of an initiative to modernize and diversify the Space Journal.

An Ohio University R&D proposal entitled “Clean Up with Clean Energy” – a student and faculty-developed project focused on the re-industrialization of the former gaseous diffusion plant in Piketon, Ohio – was also a consideration in the Center Of Excellence designation. The idea is to repurpose this so-called brownfield site – a site whose cleanup is complicated by the presence of hazardous material – into a utility-scale renewable energy production facility using a combination of space and terrestrial solar.

The National Space Society, as well as the US Department of Energy and the US State Department, are looking to Ohio University for educational leadership in the advancement of space solar power as an alternative form of energy. For more information on these initiatives, visit the Competition website,, or contact Competition Manager Kyle Perkins at

Don Flournoy is author of the book SOLAR POWER SATELLITES (Springer Science and Business, 2012) written as a syllabus for the teaching of the basic concepts of SSP for faculty and students of the International Space University, that held its Summer Studies Institute at Ohio University in Summer 2015.

– Ohio University School of Media Arts and Sciences