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UNLV joins with Lockheed Martin for work on space exploration projects

Rama Venkat, dean of the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering, is calling UNLV’s latest collaboration — a $5 million, five-year master service agreement with Lockheed Martin — “one of a kind.”

“I’ve been here for 27 years,” Venkat said. “And this is the most exciting thing to happen. The students don’t know what is in it for them yet.”

The university entered into the agreement this week that supports UNLV faculty and student work on NASA’s Orion program and other Lockheed Martin space exploration projects.

“This is going to be a long-term relationship,” Venkat said. “We think this is just the beginning.”

During the course of the five-year collaboration, Lockheed Martin will provide up to $5 million in funding to the college of engineering through a series of task orders commissioning work related to space exploration. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor building the Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle, which is NASA’s first spacecraft designed for long-duration, human-rated deep space exploration.

“Imagine being a student and being able to get your hands dirty and apply what you’re learning in class to the real world — that’s exciting,” said Zachary Miles, associate vice president for Economic Development and the executive director for the UNLV Research Foundation. “Employers are seeking that real-world experience.”

Lockheed Martin’s interest in partnering with UNLV stems from the university’s successful collaborations with Arcata Associates, Inc.; Teledyne Brown Engineering, LLC; and NASA on NASA’s Mentor-Protégé Program, which enabled UNLV students to work on space program training development.

Building a space shuttle is a comprehensive project that involves all aspects of engineering, Venkat said, including chemical, aeronautical and mechanical engineering.

In addition to the possibility for student internships and employment opportunities, university officials see the agreement as a chance to diversify the economy.

“My interest is if Lockheed Martin finally sets up an operation in Las Vegas,” Venkat said. “It could happen if we show them that UNLV can work with them and provide the needed workforce. The impact on economic diversification … would be amazing.”

Contact Natalie Bruzda at nbruzda@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3897. Follow @NatalieBruzda on Twitter.

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