Supported by a donation by alumni Amit and Kim Puri, the Center for Space Science and Engineering Research (Space@VT) will create the Puri Satellite Ground Network, enabling the center to take a major step forward in satellite command, communication, and control.

The network will add capabilities allowing for ground-satellite communication with research-related, commercial, and government-owned space assets. These capabilities will open up new research opportunities for the center and add new opportunities for students to get hands-on experience in a rapidly expanding field. The vision behind the Puri Satellite Ground Network is for Space@VT to participate in several different types of satellite missions so that students gain valuable experience in a range of applications.

“We are truly humbled to be in a position to partner with Space@VT to realize our dreams of creating a satellite ground network at Virginia Tech, where it all started for us,” said Amit Puri. “This capability will provide an invaluable experience for the engineering students at Virginia Tech, with a hands-on flavor to it.”

Amit and Kim Puri both graduated from the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering with bachelor's ('99 and '00, respectively) and master's degrees in electrical engineering (both in 2002). Their donation will primarily support development of a broader array of antennae that enable communication with satellites using expanded frequencies and higher data rates. This capability will allow Space@VT to participate in a much larger range of missions.

“Being able to receive high speed telemetry and command satellites through the Puri Satellite Ground Network will allow us to be part of several important satellite missions worldwide and give our students an exceptional real-life experience operating satellites,” said Scott Bailey, director of Space@VT.

“This gift is critical to supporting the three complementary missions of the ground station — education, research, and mission operations,” said Jonathan Black, a professor of aerospace and ocean engineering and co-director of Space@VT. “It allows for the expansion of dynamic resource utilization and combined ground and space networking research, and simultaneous direct operational support for spaceflight missions that in turn brings additional external investment and direct student involvement. It is truly a long-term investment in Space@VT that will support us for years to come.” 

Throughout their careers, the Puris have made a significant impact on the space communications industry in developing and deploying innovative space-to-ground technologies all around the globe. 

At the U.S. Department of State, Kim has led the revolutionary design and implementation of satellite communications networks for the transfer of diplomatic communications between Washington, D.C., and U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide. Amit founded Ingenicomm Inc., a pioneer in developing the fastest space-to-ground link extension for data processing and transport capability. This technology supports telemetry and commanding for numerous spacecrafts and space agencies around the world with products that are deployed on every continent, processing data from complicated networks in remote locations, from Alaska to Antarctica. The products are particularly vital for unpredictable networks, such as those supporting communications with the International Space Station, as well as other deep space networks.

“The naming of the Puri Satellite Ground Network creates a lifelong legacy for Amit and Kim for the many contributions they have made to the space industry and the university,” said Mehul Sanghani, the CEO of defense company Octo, a member of the Board of Visitors at Virginia Tech, and an alumnus to whom the Puris looked as a source of inspiration for giving. 

Both Kim and Amit are passionate about supporting and growing their alma mater, not only financially, but also through industry knowledge transfer. “We feel incredibly blessed to have reached a partnership with Space@VT allowing us to marry our passion of the space industry and giving back to our alma mater,” said Amit Puri. “We look forward to working with Scott Bailey and his team to realize the full potential of the satellite ground network while enhancing the education of the engineering students at Virginia Tech.”

Space@VT intends to draw from the Puris’ wealth of knowledge to further the center’s capabilities and bring in new and challenging opportunities. “Operating satellites requires understanding all of their subsystems,” said Bailey. “There is no better way to teach a student about space missions than to have them participate in their operations. We are very grateful to the Puris for giving us this capability, so that we can be important partners to many satellite missions and be a world-class institution for training students.”

— Written by Greg Atkins