Space Update, Inc. and its partner company MTPE, Inc. are award-winning woman-owned educational technology companies, headed by Professor Patricia Reiff of Rice University. Space Update, Inc., founded in 2000, has distributed more than 300,000 copies of its educational software for museums and schools (mostly the Space Weather and Space Update discs - see the software section). MTPE, also founded in 2000, is now the second-largest seller of portable planetarium equipment in the world. Our systems are modular, perfect for the user who wants to design their own system - mirror or fisheye, mac or pc, prewarped or warp on the fly. Our 200+ users span the globe, on every continent except Antarctica!

Thanks to a sequence of NASA grants and Cooperative Agreements, we have created educational software and planetarium shows to share our excitement about earth and space science. The most recent development was the 2013 transfer of all of our intellectual property from Rice University to our company, MTPE, Inc., to allow the "widest possible distribution" as envisioned by the NASA Space Act of 1958. See the history section for more details of our history.

Our Team

MTPE and Space Update, Inc. is led by Patricia Reiff, PhD, a Professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department at Rice university, the founding Director of the Rice Space Institute, and Director of the Master of Science Teaching program. She has more than 25 years of experience in funded outreach programs. Her research is in the area of space weather and auroras. She is shown center in the photo taken at ASTC in Albuquerque this year, with the Discovery Dome's "Cupola" dome cover.

Business Manager is Michael Hutchinson (at right at the ASTC booth photo)
Sales Manager is Gary Paczosa (at left in the photo)
Software Designer is Colin Law, PhD (who has authored more than 30 software titles)
New England Sales Associate is Tom Pham
Data Technician is Judy Dye
We have sales offices in England, MENA, and India.
In addition, we have sales associates in a number of countries, include Korea, Russia, Indonesia, and Argentina.

In addition, we work closely with the Houston Museum of Natural Science, principally with Carolyn Sumners, Ed.D., the Vice President for Astronomy and Physical Science (shown at right). Carolyn has authored more than 30 planetarium shows and written several books. In her 40 years of planetarium experience she has taught more than a million students in person in a planetarium! Naturally, she is the expert on what students want, what teachers want, and what the public wants. (Unfortunately not all the same things!) Her amazing animation team includes Tony Butterfield and Adam Barnes, whose work can be seen on all the Rice and HMNS planetarium shows. All of our museum kiosk software is thoroughly tested by the 4 million annual visitors to HMNS. Carolyn is shown here with one of the projection systems for their four Discovery Dome systems, which collectively reached 70,000 students a year in portables alone. The kit is easy to roll out and set up, and fits in a small car with the dome and blower.

Awards and Recognitions

All of our software and the NASA-supported shows have been submitted to NASA product review. The products can be found linked in the "NASA Wavelength" suite of educational products. Space Update was also favorably reviewed in the 2003 edition of Sky and Telescope.

In 2013, MTPE was recognized by Diversity Business, Inc., as one of the "Top 100 Woman-Owned Businesses in Texas" and one of the "Top 500 Emerging Businesses in the US". We are the only woman or minority-owned planetarium company in the US.

In addition, we have received the following awards and recognitions:

  • Woman on the Move: In 1990 the Houston Post and Texas Executive Women named Patricia Reiff as one of the ten "Women on the Move". Carolyn Sumners received the same honor in 2001.

  • AGU Fellow: Patricia Reiff was named Fellow of the American Geophysical Union in 1997 in recognition of both her science and outreach efforts.

  • Aerospace Educator Award: Professor Reiff received the "Aerospace Educator Award" from the Society of Women in Aerospace, 1999

  • Group Achievement Awards: Reiff received NASA Group Achievement Awards in 1998 for the GGS mission and in 2002 for the IMAGE mission.

  • Sloan Foundation: Reiff received a Letter of Appreciation in 2007 from the Sloan Foundation for her efforts in reaching students and teachers.

  • NASA: Reiff received an "Outreach Certificate" from NASA in 2008 in recognition of spreading the understanding of NASA science.

  • Athelstan Spilhaus Award: Reiff received only the second-ever Athelstan Spilhaus Award from the American Geophysical Union in 2009 for lifetime achievement in inspiring the public about science.

  • Birkeland Speaker: Reiff was the special "Distinguished Birkeland Speaker"in 2012 for the University of Oslo, given at the Norwegian Academy of Science.

  • SPARC Award: Reiff received the first ever "SPARC" Award (Space Physics and Aeronomy Richard Carrington Award) from the SPA Division of AGU in 2012 for lifetime achievement in public outreach.

Contact us with questions or comments about Space Update Inc