UTRGV students can now be involved with all aspects of a space mission now that the university’s newest facility, STARGATE, officially opened during a ribbon-cutting ceremony March 18.

STARGATE, an acronym for Spacecraft Tracking and Astronomical Research into Gigahertz Astrophysical Transient Emission, is a state-of-the-art complex that will work as part of a collaboration between UTRGV’s Center for Advanced Radio Astronomy (CARA) and community partners.

UTRGV President Guy Bailey said the university now is in an exciting and unique position to be involved in cutting-edge space exploration.

“If you go around the United States, you’ll find very few universities that have a facility like this, very few universities that have a physics department like our physics department, an astrophysics program like we do,” Bailey told the group of community leaders, which included Congressman Filemón Vela, Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez and Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell, among others.

The 15,000-square-foot facility is located along Highway 4, adjacent to Boca Chica Beach about 25 miles east of Brownsville.

The $2.1 million facility is located adjacent to the SpaceX Commercial Launch Facility. Funded in part by a U.S. Economic Development Administration grant, STARGATE will allow for research and collaboration on a variety of projects and serves as a base for radio frequency laboratories, classrooms, business incubator offices and flexible lab and research space.

“We were just the right group of people – faculty, staff, students, our university – to approach SpaceX and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got something that we can work together and move forward on, and we can really do,” said Dr. Fredrick A. Jenet, UTRGV associate professor of Electromagnetic Theory, Quantum Mechanics and Thermodynamics, the person responsible for the concept of the complex and who helped launch the initiative.

STARGATE will enable UTRGV students to learn about spacecraft design, as well as the testing, launching and all orbital operations involved with space missions. The complex also includes a focused business incubator for electronics and RF technology companies.

Bailey said years of hard work went into making STARGATE a reality.

“This is a tremendous day in the history of UTRGV,” he said, “but this facility that we are opening today has been a long time coming. The whole project goes back to the establishment of a world-class physics department at the University of Texas Brownsville.”