The partnership program began last year and aims to recruit and educate the potential workforce for the nation's youngest armed forces branch, while also providing opportunities for research collaboration.
"The Space Force needs highly educated Guardians with STEM expertise to operate and develop advanced space systems," Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. Raymond said in a statement. "We need partners like the University of Puerto Rico because: space is hard! We need the best minds in the nation to help us solve problems, build solutions, and operate some of the most sophisticated platforms, systems, and networks anywhere on Earth."
The University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez's college of engineering already conducts research in satellite photography and tracking Earth phenomena, the Space Force said. Raymond added that partnerships like this will help the United States keep its "advantage in space and ensure space remains open for science and discovery."
The other 13 universities included in the program are the University of Southern California, the University of North Dakota, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology, The University of Texas System, including Austin and El Paso, Howard University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Purdue University, the University of Colorado System, including Boulder and Colorado Springs, Arizona State University and Clemson University.
Partner universities were chosen based on factors such as STEM degree offerings, space-related research, established ROTC programs, diversity of student body populations and the programs available to support both current and veteran military populations in pursuing higher education.