This week at the SOFIC (Special Operations Forces Industry Conference) gathering in Tampa there was more interesting items to see, touch and experience to see in one viewing. After making the rounds thru the marketplace in the upper echelons of the Convention Center numerous times, there was still items to catch the eye.

And one of the biggest developments may be inside one of the smallest pieces of equipment. USSOCOM is collaborating with the University of South Florida for tiny cube satellites. The satellite isn’t much larger than a tissue box and is relatively inexpensive. The tiny satellite runs on a solid iodine fuel cell that produces electricity and creates thrust. But the intriguing part is the military pairing direct with a university to do so.

This is an area that the military hasn’t explored enough, instead of going with companies from the military/industrial complex who recruit some of the best and brightest to come aboard. But by going directly to the source (universities), USSOCOM is making a very smart move. The Russians and Chinese tap into their potential by using universities in their respective countries but their schools are basically extensions of the state.

More than 12,000 people are attending the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference at the Tampa Convention Center.

Part of the event is a trade show with products for the battlefield from everywhere. But there’s a Tampa connection that’s brand new.

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It’s a partnership between U.S. Special Operations Command and the University of South Florida on cube satellites. They’re small; not much bigger than a tissue box.

“Just think of a cell phone 20 years ago and how big it was. Now, think of your cell phone now, ” says James Geurts of SOCOM.

They’re so small that one rocket can carry many of them into earth’s orbit. On the battlefield below, troops can connect with the satellites for vital data.

In the new partnership, USF engineering students will work on secondary payloads. The satellites can carry cameras and all kinds of sensors. The work has already begun at USF.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s really interesting stuff. I want to do it for a living, so I consider it a real industry experience,” says Peter Jorgensen, a USF graduate research assistant.

They plan to launch the satellites in 12-18 months.

The other amazing thing about the USF cube satellite team is there isn’t an aerospace engineer on board. The team is involved in a NASA-sponsored contest to find the best technological cube satellites to be put on the Orion spacecraft. The winner would win $5 million.

But the team has already collaborated with USSOCOM in a win-win for both parties. This is a development that the command should expand. There is an untapped potential that they’re losing out on by not doing more of this. Hopefully, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

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Photo courtesy of Tampa Fox 13