KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is reaching past state borders in its bid to reach for the stars. The university cut the ribbon Thursday on the UT Space Institute Huntsville Research Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

The new research center will connect federal agencies and industry leaders with UT faculty and students to work on aerospace and defense challenges.

“Our faculty are doing fundamental research in laboratories, but the research doesn’t just stay there,” said UT Chancellor Donde Plowman. “Our faculty are taking what they’ve learned, discoveries they’ve made in their labs where they solve problems, and they’re really working hard at making lives better here in Alabama, Tennessee, and around the world.

“UT is thrilled and honored to be part of that community. The talent, the ingenuity, the leadership right here in Madison County is really inspiring. I know we’re going to do big things together.”

The center is the first research facility for the university outside the state of Tennessee. The UT Space Institute Huntsville Research Center will work alongside the UT Space Institute in Tullahoma, Tennessee, just 60 miles north of Huntsville.

Huntsville is home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and a hub for the nation’s aerospace and defense sectors. UT’s new research center is housed in Huntsville’s Cummings Research Park.

“UT has a history of developing projects with members of the aviation and defense community who have a major presence here, including NASA, Boeing, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Lockheed Martin, and branches of the military,” said Matthew Mench, dean of the Tickle College of Engineering. “We seek to leverage this and other unique advantages and opportunities in Tullahoma and Huntsville with the best of Knoxville.

“Together we will take on our nation’s critical mission of driving growth in the aerospace and defense sectors through increased workforce development, via cutting-edge research, and by reaffirming and expanding our partnerships.”