Interplanetary Laboratory partners with Howe Industries for Space Force funding proposal

ROAMER microsatellite advances to next round of funding

December 12, 2022

Arizona State University's Interplanetary Laboratory and Howe Industries have thrown their hats into the ring for a funding opportunity sponsored by a U.S. Space Force Orbital Prime Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) contract.

ROAMER is a 3U x 3U x 7U microsatellite that has robotic arms and a multitude of mission statements. One of its missions is transferring objects that have drifted out of orbit back to their intended orbit. This ability also allows it to assist astronauts. If they drop a wrench or other piece of equipment while working outside the space station, ROAMER can retrieve it. It can also remove orbital debris and deploy CubeSats. Illustration of the ROAMER microsatellite. Simulation of ROAMER microsatellite. Download Full Image

The first proposal for ROAMER was submitted earlier in 2022. The project was selected to move on to the next round of consideration. For the next three months, the Interplanetary Laboratory staff and volunteers assembled a large team and prepared a feasibility report to determine how much it would cost and how much time it would take to build. 

In October, that work was submitted for consideration for the next round of funding. If the project is selected to move forward, the partners will then conduct a systems requirement review. They will also enter the beginning phase of writing requirements, preliminary design review and critical design review.

This latest project undertaken by the Interplanetary Laboratory is a result of the connections made between industry professionals and laboratory staff. Howe Industries, which employs ASU graduates, had previously toured the lab and explored its enabling capabilities.

Interplanetary Laboratory student workers utilized the facility’s 3D printers, computer-automated design software and SolidWorks. They also had the benefit of the experience they had from other laboratory projects like Charlotte and ExoCam, in addition to the expertise that the lab’s faculty leaders and professional engineers provide.

The prospect of seeing a project from its initial proposal to implementation is exciting for the laboratory students.

“Most of the things that I’ve done for the lab are things that I’ll be doing in the industry. We’re actually doing things that people who are just starting out wouldn’t be doing for two years into their career,” said Dave Ordaz Perez, head electrical engineer for the EPS Subsystem on the project.

The ROAMER proposal comes at a time when the industry is best poised to benefit from all it offers. Space debris removal is a priority right now, drawing substantial investment, and interest in satellites with robotic arms has also grown. ROAMER combines both those trends.

The intricacies of the project pushed the Interplanetary Laboratory student workers and volunteers in a new way.

“We got more experience with proposal writing and doing calculations on how things will integrate together by working on this project,” said Ben Weber, head guidance and navigation and control engineer on the project.

The Interplanetary Laboratory is a shared resource available to faculty and students at ASU as well as external academic groups and industry partners. To inquire about using the lab’s facilities, please reach out to Joe DuBois at or Danny Jacobs at

Sally Young

Senior Communications Specialist, Interplanetary Initiative

'Incredible' work helping earthquake survivors in Haiti informed this ASU grad's views

December 12, 2022
Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2022 graduates.

Rodrick Johnson’s time in Haiti serving as a technical advisor for the United Nations helped form his decision to pursue a degree in the Doctor of Behavioral Health program (specializing in management) through Arizona State University's College of Health Solutions.

Johnson was already on the island on Jan. 12, 2010, when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked the country, killing more than 200,000 people. Johnson spent days working search-and-rescue missions before being retasked with managing the logistics of both humanitarian medical aid delivery and the transportation of injured people to hospitals and clinics. College of Health Solutions graduate Rodrick Johnson Rodrick Johnson earned a Doctor of Behavioral Health from ASU's College of Health Solutions. Download Full Image

“Working with my colleagues at the UN and the people of Haiti was one of the high points of my life,” Johnson said. “It was a very tough time, and we lost many people. But the work we did together in that tough time was incredible.”

That work helped Johnson determine that he wanted to learn more about the delivery of health care services.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I knew I wanted to learn more about the delivery of health care services when I worked in Haiti just after the earthquake of 2010. I found myself managing the logistics of both humanitarian medical aid delivery and the transportation of injured people to hospitals and clinics.  

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: I learned just how huge and diverse the various academic fields can be. It's mind-blowing to see the depth and breadth of so many disciplines.   

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: ASU is consistently listed as one of the most innovative universities in the United States. It contributes as much original research as Ivy League schools. When it came to choosing a university, ASU was the best choice I could have made.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I credit Dr. Lesley Manson with so much of my growth and development in this process. Her guidance and patience have made so much difference. She has been an incredible mentor.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

We have all at least thought of quitting; it gets hard. But keep going. It will all be worth it in the end.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: I have studied everywhere — airports, airplanes, trains, taxis and between meetings. I make it work wherever I am. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I'll be out there changing the world. Trying to "pay it forward" for every generous and selfless act everyone did to get me to where I am today.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: To solve a planetary problem, I would probably need some Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos money. But with 40 million I could definitely tackle a local or regional problem. I'd really like to train human services providers (non-profits, government agencies, charities) how to work synergistically so that people who need services don't fall through the cracks or run into dead ends when trying to find the right service for their situation.

Weldon B. Johnson

Communications Specialist, College of Health Solutions