Purdue in Space

Purdue-designed heat transfer experiment arrives at International Space Station

Issam Mudawar

Designed by Purdue University professor Issam Mudawar, the Flow Boiling and Condensation Experiment (FBCE) has arrived at the International Space Station to test whether two-phase flow (flow boiling and flow condensation) is efficient in the microgravity of space. This heat transfer experiment, 10 years in the making, is vital to creating efficient cooling systems for future spacecraft. FBCE is the largest phase change experiment ever conducted in space.


Purdue Aerospace District to welcome two new hypersonics facilities


As announced by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, Purdue Aerospace District will become an epicenter of hypersonics research, with two brand new facilities with capabilities found nowhere else on earth: the Hypersonic Applied Research Facility, and the Hypersonic Ground Test Center.


Sirisha Bandla joins Cradle of Astronauts as part of Virgin Galactic's first fully crewed flight

Sirisha Bandla

Virgin Galactic has successfully completed its first fully crewed commercial spaceflight. Joining founder Sir Richard Branson was Purdue AAE alums Beth Moses, who earned her commercial astronaut wings in 2019; and Sirisha Bandla, who became Purdue's 26th astronaut.


Astronauts need a fridge, so Purdue Engineers built one that works in zero gravity

NASA fridge

For astronauts to go on long missions to the moon or Mars, they need a refrigerator. But today's fridges aren't designed to work in zero gravity – or upside down, if oriented that way when a spacecraft lands on another planet. A team of engineers from Purdue University, Air Squared Inc., and Whirlpool Corporation is working on building a fridge for zero gravity that operates in different orientations and just as well as the one in your kitchen, giving astronauts access to longer-lasting and more nutritious food.


Using VR to get inside a supernova


Danny Milisavljevic, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Purdue, University is teaching his students astronomy by letting them touch the stars. With commercially-available virtual reality headsets, students can collaborate from anywhere in the world to virtually explore stars and supernovae.


Shirley Dyke featured in "For All Mankind" podcast


In the Apple TV+ series "For All Mankind," both the US and Russia have built bases on the Moon. But how realistic can that be? The official Apple TV+ podcast talked to Shirley Dyke, who researches resilient extraterrestrial habitats at Purdue, and is building a physical testbed at Herrick Labs.


Loral O'Hara and Yen Matsutomi built a bond at Zucrow Labs

Loral O'Hara and Yen Matsutomi

NASA astronaut Loral O'Hara and Blue Origin's Yen Matsutomi met when they were graduate students at Purdue's Zucrow Labs. Now as close as ever a decade later, they have both been named Outstanding Aerospace Engineers by Purdue.


Perseverance rover examines the Mars landscape through a camera with Purdue design

Briony Horgan

Briony Horgan raised her arms in triumph as the Mars rover Perseverance landed on February 18, a symbolic declaration of mission success. That electric moment was just the beginning for the Purdue University scientist. With Perseverance on the ground and moving, Horgan is now focused on analyzing data from the instrument she works with: Mastcam-Z.


Aaron Comis: Parachute Engineer

Aaron Comis

While sending humans into space is impressive, bringing them back safely to earth is the true accomplishment. And all crewed space capsules return the same way: by parachute. Aaron Comis, a Purdue Online Master's student, is a NASA parachute engineer who works with Boeing and SpaceX to bring those astronauts home safely.

The Green flash: towards a safer hypergolic propellant


When SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule splashed down off the Florida coast in August following its first crewed mission, the two astronauts inside could not exit the capsule immediately. Technicians outside had to confirm there were no airborne vapors from hydrazine, a highly toxic fuel used by the vehicle's hypergolic thrusters. Now, Purdue University combustion researchers are investigating a safer and less toxic hypergolic propellant, studying its explosive reaction with a new technique involving both visible and infrared high-speed cameras.

Purdue alumni play key roles in successful Virgin orbit launch

Virgin Orbit

When Virgin Orbit's air-dropped LauncherOne rocket reached space on January 17, it was a statement for the company punctuating its arrival in the growing small-satellite launch market. The launch was a culmination of nearly nine years of intense, relentless, thorough work. The achievement of becoming the first private company to send a liquid-fueled, air-launched rocket into orbit validated visions for so many involved in the achievement, including several Purdue alumni.

Purdue scientist among the first to study Hayabusa2 asteroid samples

Michelle Thompson

A fireball lit up the Australian sky as Japan's Hayabusa2 asteroid explorer sent a capsule containing pieces of nearby asteroid Ryugu down to the Earth's surface. The capsule and its cargo were met with international cheers, including those of Michelle Thompson, professor of planetary sciences at Purdue, who will be one of the first researchers in the world to study the samples.

Scott Tingle named to team of Artemis astronauts

Scott Tingle

Scott Tingle (MSME '88) has been named to NASA's Artemis Team, who are preparing to become the next humans to set foot on the Moon! Tingle spent 168 days on the International Space Station in 2018.

Read more about the new Artemis team!

Purdue graduates its first Space Force officer

Ashwin Sivakumar

Ashwin Sivakumar is graduating from Purdue in December with goals beyond finding a job. In fact, the Air Force ROTC member has his sights set on the stars. Sivakumar will be Purdue’s first ROTC cadet to become a U.S. Department of Defense Space Force officer.


Purdue collaborates with Morgan State on new rocketry program

Morgan State students

Purdue University, home to 25 astronauts and a leading aeronautics and astronautics program, will lend its expertise to Morgan State University as it launches its own liquid-fueled rocketry lab and training program, a first among Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The relationship began when three Morgan State students interned at Purdue's Zucrow Labs in 2019.


NASA selects Purdue projects for zero-G testing

Steven Collicott

NASA has funded a series of zero-G experiments, focusing on its current priorities of lunar exploration and orbital research. Out of 28 projects, 5 were from Purdue University, more than any other school. The experiments will be run by professors Steven Collicott and Issam Mudawar.


Midwest Rocketry Forum recruits big names

Midwest Rocketry Forum

Purdue's chapter of SEDS (Students for the Exploration and Development of Space) has started a podcast called the Midwest Rocketry Forum. Guests have included Tory Bruno of United Launch Alliance, as well as other distinguished personnel from NASA, SpaceX, and Blue Origin.


Spacesuits for the Moon, Mars, and Beyond

Amy Ross

The first and last people to walk on the Moon were Purdue engineers. The next humans to walk on the Moon will be wearing a spacesuit designed by Purdue engineer Amy Ross (BSME '94, MSME '96). She recently showcased the new xEMU spacesuit, which offers extended flexibility and protection for astronauts to explore the Moon as part of NASA's Artemis program.


NASA awards $2.8 million to Purdue's Indiana Space Grant Consortium

Barrett Caldwell

The Indiana Space Grant Consortium, headquartered at Purdue University, has received a $2.8 million grant from NASA to support student and faculty learning projects. The consortium helps launch interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines for elementary students to graduate students.


Randy Eckman: The pursuit of Orion’s first giant leap

Randy Eckman

Randy Eckman (BSAAE '13) first teamed with NASA as an undergraduate, when he landed a cooperative education opportunity there in 2009. This entailed alternate semesters of working at NASA and completing coursework at Purdue. Today, he takes great pride in helping prepare the Orion spacecraft for its first giant leap.


David Helderman brings Purdue expertise to Blue Origin rockets

David Helderman

David Helderman (BSAAE '06, MSAAE '09) grew up drawing pictures of spaceships. When he came to Purdue, he began working on the real thing, building rockets at the largest academic propulsion lab in the world, Zucrow Labs. Today, he oversees rocket testing for Blue Origin.


Loral O'Hara graduates astronaut class, eligible to go to space

Loral O'Hara

Loral O'Hara (MSAAE '09) grew up just 50 miles from Johnson Space Center in Houston. But she's now ready for much bigger journeys. After two-and-a-half years of training, Loral has graduated from NASA's astronaut candidate program, and is now eligible for spaceflight. Learn how her adventurous life aboard submarines prepared her for life in space.


Marcos Flores and Allison Bolinger certified as NASA Flight Directors

Marcos Flores

Congratulations to Marcos Flores (MSAAE '15), who has been certified as NASA's 96th Flight Director.

This comes just one month after Allison Bolinger (BSAAE '04) achieved the same certification as Flight Director. The two are now active at Mission Control at Johnson Space Center in Houston.


Blue Origin flies Purdue payload

Dimitrios Michalaros

Dimitrios Michalaros, a First-Year Engineering student, designed an experiment that was launched on Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket on December 11, 2019. He designed the artifical gravity Nanolab while still in high school in Greece, and refined its design with help from Steven Collicott, professor of aeronautics and astronautics, who has organized several payloads on New Shepard rockets.

Learn more about Dimitrios and his experiment.


LightSail 2 named one of Time Magazine's top inventions of 2019

LightSail 2

LightSail is a project to demonstrate the use of reflective sails to harness the momentum of sunlight for propulsion. LightSail 2 launched into space in June 2019, and became the first object ever to alter its trajectory using just the power of photons. Project manager David Spencer, associate professor in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Purdue, has been involved with Lightsail since 2010.

Learn more about LightSail.


Astronaut Reunion lands at Purdue

Astronaut Reunion

Thirteen Purdue astronauts, as well as flight directors and other NASA personnel, returned to campus for Homecoming the weekend of October 12, 2019. They spoke at local schools, toured Purdue facilities and classrooms, saw the Neil Armstrong exhibit at the Archives, were guests of honor at the Homecoming Parade, and were featured at the Saturday football game.

Check out the full photo gallery!


Could humans live in lava tubes on the moon?

Apollo 11 recap

In 2017, Purdue researchers helped discover a lava tube on the moon that could protect astronauts from hazardous conditions on the surface. Now, 3D image reconstructions of lava tubes here on Earth could help assess if they are stable enough to build human habitats. The work is part of Purdue's Resilient ExtraTerrestrial Habitats (RETH), a group that researches how future human habitats on the moon or Mars can be made resilient against hazards like radiation, temperature fluctuations, seismic activity and meteorite impacts.

Read how lava tubes could be part of the solution.


Apollo 11 Anniversary Celebration

Apollo 11 recap

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, Purdue hosted Apollo 11 flight director Gene Kranz, panels of space experts, screenings of a Neil Armstrong documentary, events for kids, the announcement of a new Cislunar Initiative, and even a flyover from one of Neil Armstrong's planes, an F-100F!

Check out a photo recap of the Apollo 11 weekend at Purdue.


The Next Giant Leap: Women and the Future of Space Exploration

Loral O'Hara

Astronaut candidate Loral O'Hara (MSAAE '09) says the future of space exploration is here. With the goal of being the latest product of Purdue's "Cradle of Astronauts," O'Hara feels the momentum and says what we learn from the stars will help us on Earth.

Read the full story at Medium.


See a chunk of Mars on Purdue's campus!


In 1929, this two-inch section of rock was found in Purdue's biology department. The Field Museum in Chicago then confirmed: not only is it part of a meteorite, but it almost certainly came from Mars. You can now see this meteorite in person, on display in the Neil A. Armstrong Hall of Engineering, next to a moon rock brought back by Apollo 17 astronauts.

Read more about the Lafayette Meteorite.


How would you survive on Mars?

How would you survive on Mars?

The Resilient ExtraTerrestrial Habitats Institute is working to ensure that the first long-term settlement on other planetary bodies are safe from hazards such as a meteoroid colliding with the moon or violent sandstorms on Mars. Shirley Dyke, head of Purdue University’s RETH Institute, said she noticed that the habitats on other planets portrayed on TV don’t look realistic. In order to keep occupants alive, a habitat system on another planet would have to be much more sophisticated, even smart.

Read the full story about survival on Mars


Meet Purdue’s Virgin Galactic Astronaut

Meet Purdue’s Virgin Galactic Astronaut

Space tourism may sound like a concept that only exists in the pages of a Ray Bradbury novel, but it’s much closer to a reality than you might think. Purdue alumna Beth Moses is the Chief Astronaut Instructor and Cabin Test Lead at Virgin Galactic, a commercial spaceflight company that’s preparing to send space tourists to the final frontier beginning later this year. In fact, Beth just returned from a Virgin Galactic flight last month as its first cabin evaluator. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s in aerospace engineering from Purdue, previously worked at NASA as the Extravehicular System Manager for the International Space Station.

Read the full Q&A with Beth Moses on Medium.com.


Living on Mars: Purdue team to lead simulation facility mission

Living on Mars: Purdue team to lead simulation facility mission

The air may be breathable and the location is on planet Earth, but for two weeks a multidisciplinary team of Purdue students and alumni will eat, sleep, work and live like they’re on Mars.

For the second consecutive year, a Purdue team will undergo a mission at the Mars Desert Research Station facility in Utah, conducting a number of experiments and living life as though stationed on the fourth planet from the sun.

Read the full story about the Martian Makers' journey.


Julia Badger: Designing the Future of Space Robots

Julia Badger: Designing the Future of Space Robots

Not many people can claim that they programmed the first humanoid robot in space. Julia Badger (BSME '03) saw her hard work pay off with Robonaut, a sleek feat of humanoid technology that flew on the International Space Station. Today, as the Project Manager for the Robotics and Intelligence for Human Spacecraft Team at NASA's Johnson Space Center, she is designing the next generation of autonomous robots that will help humans explore the solar system.

Read the full story about Badger's journey.


John Vellinger: From Chix in Space to a Company in Space

John Vellinger: From Chix in Space to a Company in Space

What do you say about someone who has had the same job since the 8th grade? As a student in the 1980s, John Vellinger (BSME '89) won a contest that sent chickens into space. He then utilized that experience to found a company called Techshot, which custom-builds experimental modules for the International Space Station.

Read the full story about Vellinger's journey.


Mark Geyer brings daring-but-reasoned approach to director role at NASA's Johnson Space Center

Boiler Up - Mark Geyer brings daring-but-reasoned approach to director role at NASA's Johnson Space Center

Mark Geyer (BSAAE '82, MSAAE '83), who became the 12th director of NASA's Johnson Space Center in late May, is ready to remind the world NASA is "back in the business of launching people" into space.

Read the full story about Geyer's ascent to director.


Purduette Becomes a "Professor" of Spacewalking

Allissa Battocletti

While at Purdue, Allissa Battocletti (BSAAE '11) sang with the Purduettes. They gave her the presentation skills, while the Aeronautics and Astronautics classes gave her the technical chops. Now she uses both skillsets at NASA to teach astronauts how to conduct spacewalks.

Read the full story about Allissa's journey from sparkly show choir girl to aeronautical engineer.


Spacesuit Designer Amy Ross Puts Astronauts in Good Hands

Amy Ross

Many people go into the family business. For Amy Ross (BSME '94, MSME '96), that family business just happens to include human spaceflight! As head of Advanced Spacesuit Pressure Garment Development at NASA, Amy designed the gloves used by every spacewalking astronaut since 1998 -- including her father, record-breaking astronaut Jerry Ross.

Learn how a Purdue co-op helped Any to become an expert in spacesuits.


Drew Feustel Suits Up for Third Space Mission

Drew Feustel

From studying car design in community college, to racing in the Purdue Grand Prix, to exploring for oil, to servicing the Hubble telescope, Dr. Andrew "Drew" Feustel (BS '89, MS '91, EAPS) has had anything but a typical career trajectory.

Learn how Drew achieved the 3rd-most hours spent spacewalking among all astronauts in history.


Scott Tingle becomes Purdue's 23rd astronaut

Scott Tingle

Scott Tingle likes to go fast. Whether it's in a tricked-out Harley-Davidson speeding down the highway, or an F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet landing on an aircraft carrier, Scott is cool, calm, and in control. Today, however, he is moving at 17,000 miles an hour, in a vehicle the size of a football field. On board the International Space Station, Scott Tingle has become the latest Purdue University graduate to fly into space.

Learn how a master's degree at Purdue Engineering set him up for success as an astronaut.


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