Some Purdue space research highlights:
- Purdue President France A. Córdova is a former NASA chief scientist who worked on projects that included Hubble. After watching the news coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing and then a documentary about cosmology, she became fascinated with space science. Córdova continued writing and editing articles as a staff member of the Los Angeles Times news service, but she was going to forge a career as a scientist. She earned her Ph.D. in Physics from the California Institute of Technology, one of only two women in a class of eighteen.
- Steven Collicott operated an experiment on the International Space Station in 2007 to study how fluids flow in the absence of gravity, and his students fly experiments every year on NASA's "vomit comet," an airplane used by the space agency to induce weightlessness for experiments and astronaut training. Collicott, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics, also operates a new zero-gravity laboratory that enables researchers and students to conduct experiments in the absence of gravity, recreating the weightlessness and microgravity environments of space. The zero-gravity experiments will help create better designs for fuel tanks, life support systems and other spacecraft systems that contain fluids.
- Professor Kathleen Howell, acting head of the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, is conducting work supporting ongoing and proposed space missions in the near term. Her work has attracted an increasing number of high-quality graduate students – currently she has 15 thesis students. Students benefit from active participation on NASA mission teams. With NASA-industry interactions, students also gain exposure to engineering strategies, and they contribute to solutions necessary to meet the science objectives of missions.
- A team of Purdue University launched a rocket last year as part of a four-year project to design, build, test and launch a "hybrid rocket technology demonstrator" for development of vehicles capable of delivering small payloads into space. John Tsohas, a doctoral student in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, is leading the project. Faculty advisers include Stephen Heister, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics, and Scott Meyer, a senior engineer at the Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories.
- Steven Schneider, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics, has developed and operates the nation's only wind tunnel capable of running quietly at "hypersonic" speeds, which is critical for collecting data to show precisely how air flows over a vehicle's surface in flight. Findings are being used to develop a new type of engine called a scramjet, which promises to reduce the huge costs associated with human space travel. Purdue engineers recently used the wind tunnel to conduct experiments needed to design an advanced aircraft called the X-51A, a scramjet test vehicle expected to evolve into future "hypersonic" vehicles for spacecraft, aircraft and missiles. The wind tunnel will help engineers designing not only hypersonic vehicles but also gliding reentry vehicles, NASA's new Orion capsule for future moon missions and planetary probes. Schneider also was a member of a NASA team studying "boundary-layer transition predictions" for the space shuttle's return to flight after the Columbia accident, and he was a member of a review board that advised NASA on heating issues related to insulating foam used on the spacecraft. The researchers developed specifications to help astronauts repair damage caused by foam or ice hitting the shuttle's heat tiles. He was one of a couple dozen scientists who honed specifications for what would be in effect a repair manual for astronauts flying on the shuttle.
- Issam Mudawar, a professor of mechanical engineering, has been working closely with NASA for the past nine years on projects related to understanding the influence of zero gravity, lunar gravity and Martian gravity on power generation, life support and temperature-control space systems. Researchers in his lab also have developed a highly instrumented "Purdue flow boiling apparatus" that has been used to obtain data in KC-135 parabolic flight experiments that simulated reduced gravity conditions. This work is being performed in collaboration with scientists at NASA's Glenn Research Center. Mudawar also has collaborated in a special NASA program to define future research needs.
- Daniel DeLaurentis, an assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics, has research funded by NASA to build architectural analysis models and capabilities for design of the Lunar Outpost Command, Control, Communication, and Information architecture. His efforts are directly related to efforts aimed at returning to the moon. The work particularly focuses on ensuring a smooth meshing of data and communication systems for crewed and robotic lunar operations.
- Barrett Caldwell, an associate professor of aeronautics and astronautic and industrial engineering, is working with DeLaurentis and has several NASA projects related to space travel. His research projects include work more specifically focused on mission control operations and ground assembly of space vehicles, and my lab has the capability to decode and synchronize time-coded voice recordings from mission control. He also is director of the Indiana Space Grant, a group of universities and institutions that works with schoolchildren, teachers, college students, industry and museums to increase the public's knowledge about the science of space exploration and to support development of an educated workforce. It is one of 52 such groups nationwide funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the National Council of Space Grant Directors, as well.