Research Institute celebrates 50 years; UAHuntsville opens newest research lab

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (Nov. 9, 2011) - The University of Alabama in Huntsville today celebrated the 50th anniversary of its Research Institute and opened its newest lab, The Reliability and Failure Analysis Laboratory (RFAL).


RFAL is designed to enable research to reduce the cost of ownership of defense and aerospace systems, according to Rhoades. University officials held a ceremony to mark the official opening of the lab.

The UAH Research Institute was created as a result of Dr. Wernher von Braun's impassioned plea to the Alabama Legislature to fund a research institute on the campus of The University of Alabama in Huntsville. The Alabama Legislature responded with a $3 million investment.

"It was the strong encouragement from our federal partners that motivated the Alabama Legislature to provide seed money to create the UAH Research Institute," said Dick Rhoades, director of the research institute. "We have chosen to celebrate that creation today, in the building built with those state funds, while also officially opening the institute's newest laboratory."

The genesis of the institute was more about hiring faculty to teach graduate level courses and less about conducting actual research. In the early 1960s, Von Braun, NASA and the U.S. Army had a pressing need to provide advanced courses to Redstone Arsenal employees. Offering courses at the master's and doctorate level was crucial to meeting the nation's challenge of space exploration.

At that time, there was a very real threat from Washington, D.C. to transfer the development of America's space program to California or Massachusetts rather than invest necessary dollars in Alabama.

That was the motivation behind Von Braun's remark during his address to the Alabama Legislature: "To make Huntsville more attractive to technical and scientific people across the country - and to further develop the people we have now - the academic and research environment of Huntsville and Alabama must be improved and improved immediately."

Today, the Research Institute has become an integral part of the campus, providing cutting-edge research in addition to contributing to the academic mission of the university, particularly at the graduate level.

UAHuntsville annually produces approximately 40 Ph.D. and 350 master's degrees. Also, earlier this year, the university was classified by the Carnegie Foundation as a very high research institution, which places the university as one of only 73 public universities in the nation with that distinction.

The success that Huntsville, Alabama, and UAH enjoy today is a result of our response to those early challenges and the vision of Wernher von Braun.

What UAH Research Institute does:

Applied research and engineering programs, principally to meet the needs of Department of Defense customers, but with significant related work for NASA and private industry.

The institute staff has expertise in technologies related to system development, acquisition, supply chain management, and system sustainability. These disciplines include systems engineering and project management, technical risk assessment, supply chain modeling, reliability centered maintenance, and conditioned based maintenance.

In addition, the Research Institute staff has expertise in the development and management of international projects to include supply chain optimization, organizational design, and management of technical professionals. Members of the staff currently serve as committee chair for the SAE reliability committee and the executive director for the MIT Supply Chain Forum.

The Institute operates a lab for studying the interactions of a vehicle with its environment at high velocity and has the capability to measure high-velocity impact phenomena.

The UAH Research Institute's newest capability is its Reliability and Failure Analysis Laboratory. This facility is the cornerstone of research in the area of physics of failure and serves the Redstone community as a test bed for investigations into component reliability.

For more information, 
contact Chrystal Morgan