San Antonio, Texas
June 10, 2012
June 10, 2012
June 13, 2012
25.862.1 - 25.862.12
IONOSPHERIC ROCKET PAYLOAD DEVELOPMENT: PROJECT AND COURSEIn the last three years, the departments of Physics and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at WestVirginia University have developed an undergraduate project course on rocket payloads which hasparticipated annually in NASA’s RockSat program. The main course goal is to provide students with ahardware-oriented, open-ended, space science project experience. The project is offered as a two-semester course: in fall, the students learn about rocket dynamics and propulsion through theory, dataanalysis, and simulation. They practice mechanical and electrical design, and prepare conceptual,preliminary, and critical reviews. The payload concept and documentation are reviewed by RockSatmanagers and NASA engineers and if accepted the project continues in the spring semester. Studentsthen construct and test the actual payload while documenting its development in progress reports andregular telecons with RockSat managers and, on specific milestones, with NASA engineers. The payloaddesign has focused on capturing and understanding the vehicle’s flight dynamics via different sensorsand an onboard camera, and measuring properties of the ionospheric and upper-atmosphericenvironment. With a flight apogee of 120 km, the payload is designed to measure cosmic-ray fluxes, theterrestrial magnetic field and its fluctuations, and ionospheric plasma density. The 2011 payloadfeatured a capillary-flow experiment developed in collaboration with the Department of Chemistry andthe 2012 payload will include a dusty-plasma experiment. A four-student team travels to NASA’sWallops Flight Facility to integrate the payload on the rocket and attend the launch; following that, flightdata are analyzed and a final report is prepared and submitted to RockSat. The project involves thecollaboration of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center researchers and involves several industry partnersand donors . Team students tend to have primarily mechanical/aerospace and computerscience/engineering backgrounds. The course can fulfill a technical elective requirement in the School ofEngineering curriculum. Overviews of the experiments conducted and descriptions of the courseprocedures are given in the paper. Examples of the positive outcomes for the students’ personal andprofessional goals are recounted. Lessons learnt by the faculty advisors and suggestions for otherschools planning to participate in such programs are summarized.
Vassiliadis, D., & Pisano, D., & Gu, Y. (2012, June), Ionospheric Rocket Payload Development: Project and Course Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. https://peer.asee.org/21619
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