Srinivas Bettadpur Named Director of Center for Space Research

Srinivas Bettadpur, an associate professor of the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at The University of Texas at Austin, has been named director of the Center for Space Research (CSR) in the Cockrell School of Engineering.

Head shot of Srinivas BettadpurSince its establishment in 1981 with aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics professor Byron Tapley at the helm, the Center for Space Research has been at the forefront of important scientific space missions. Using satellites, CSR researchers, including Bettadpur, have been involved with modeling dynamics of the Earth including its shape, orientation, and changes in global topography, land water, depleted aquifers, glacial ice mass, ocean currents and sea level. CSR also provided emergency relief during the Hurricane Harvey disaster through MAGIC (Mid-America Geospatial Information Center), when CSR functioned as a base of operations for researchers, and provided real-time space-based data, coordinating the efforts of institutions such as NASA, NOAA and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Bettadpur’s research expertise lies in the dynamics of the Earth’s system using satellite gravity data, orbit determination and global space geodesy, and regional applications of global methods. Most recently, he has been recognized for his leadership role on the high-profile GRACE and GRACE-FO satellite missions.

The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) offered a paradigm-shift in measuring the planet’s variations with its twin co-orbiting satellites, which allowed for continuous, highly precise measurements of variations in the Earth’s gravitational field. These satellites provided important data on the rate of melting ice, rising ocean levels, depleted aquifers and more. Recently retired, the twin satellites will soon be replaced with twin satellites that will take even more accurate measurements of Earth in the GRACE Follow-on mission.

Just this past year, Bettadpur was instrumental in the establishing a UT-NASA partnership for a next-generation geodetic observatory at UT’s McDonald Observatory in West Texas. Through their research in mm-precision positioning techniques, Bettadpur and colleagues will enable a generational shift in the metrology and characterization for natural hazards.

“We are very excited to have Srinivas take over the directorship of one of UT’s most visible and impactful research centers,” aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics department chair Noel Clemens said. “He has the demonstrated expertise and leadership skills needed to lead CSR into the 21st Century, strengthening its position as a prominent research center for space research and geodesy.”

Bettadpur received his Ph.D. in aerospace engineering at UT Austin in 1993. He was a research professor at CSR and the department, and in 2015 he was promoted to associate professor.

He is a Fellow of the International Association of Geodesy and an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Astronautics. In 2016 Bettadpur received the Vening-Meinesz Medal of the European Geosciences Union in recognition of his outstanding contributions to precise orbit determination and ocean-tide modeling, and his pioneering developments in the field of time-variable gravity field determination from satellite-to-satellite tracking data.”

“As the director, my purpose is to grow the center’s preeminent position in space geodesy, remote sensing and space applications. We shall be agile and innovative in response to the rapidly changing scientific landscape,” Bettadpur said. “And above all, we intend to be ever recognized for excellence in science, scholarship and service to society.”