New plans have been revealed for a $2 billion research center run by UC Berkeley at the NASA Ames Center in Mountain View, Santa Clara County. The Berkeley Space Center, as it will be called, will reshape 36 acres on the sprawling Ames Research Center, providing a hub for future companies to collaborate with the school and NASA scientists & engineers to improve technology for aviation, space exploration, and how people live and work in space.
“This expansion of Berkeley’s physical footprint and academic reach represents a fantastic and unprecedented opportunity for our students, faculty, and the public we serve,” said UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ in the announcement. “Enabling our world-class research enterprise to explore potential collaborations with NASA and the private sector will speed the translation of discoveries across a wide range of disciplines into the inventions, technologies, and services that will advance the greater good.”
In a press release from NASA, Ames Center director. Eugene Tu said, “The diverse portfolios of NASA Ames and Berkeley open potential future collaborations in a variety of areas, including interplanetary exploration, air transportation capabilities, the search for life beyond our planet, and environmental studies for the benefit of all.” The development will cover a triangular lot with a view of the landmark Hangar One, which is currently being renovated for Google’s Planetary Ventures unit and expects to finish exterior recoating by next year.
San Francisco-based SKS Partners is the developer. The project is expected to create 1.4 million square feet of gross floor area for research, housing, parking, and some retail across 11 structures. The master plan has been designed by HOK and Field Operations. Future students will have access to classrooms, state-of-the-art research centers, and proximity to several of the Ames’ major facilities. CBRE will be assisting with the project team.
Further elaborating NASA’s vision in the project, Tu explained that “we would like the potential of having proximity to more students at the undergraduate and graduate level. We would also like the possibility of developing potential partnerships with faculty in the future. The NASA mission is twofold: inspiring the next generation of explorers, and dissemination of our technologies and our research for public benefit. Collaboration between NASA and university researchers fits within that mission.” Those facilities include a supercomputer, the world’s largest wind tunnel, and NASA’s only plasma wind tunnel for testing entry systems and thermal protection systems.
Looking forward, UC Berkeley has looked towards technology innovations for drones, artificial intelligence, machine learning, 3D printing on Mars, air mobility, and even laws governing the business of space exploration and resource extraction.
Alexandre Bayen, a UC Berkeley professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences and associate provost for Moffett Field program development, hypothesized that future students could “have a semester rotation program, where UC Berkeley students spend one semester at Berkeley Space Center, take three classes taught there, do their research there, are temporarily housed there for a semester, just like they would do a semester abroad in Paris.”
The school’s press release shared that, “in return for its investment and partnership, UC Berkeley will receive a portion of the revenues that the real estate development is projected to generate. While market-based returns are always subject to change, the joint venture conservatively estimates that the research hub will receive revenues more than sufficient to ensure that Berkeley Space Center is self-sustaining, as well as provide new financial support to the core campus, its departments and colleges, and faculty and students.”
Construction is expected to start as early as 2026, with move-ins to the first structure by 2027. The project will be subject to review for CEQA and NEPA.