Engineering Students Assisting NASA Scientists
Students in the Department of Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution at Texas A&M University, in partnership with Texas Space Technology Applications and Research (T STAR), a Bryan-based space company, are developing an integrated hardware and software system that assists NASA scientists in identifying properties of an unfamiliar substance recovered from space. Using this tool, the students will help shed some much-needed light on “the final frontier.”
Electronic Systems Engineering Technology (ESET) students within the Mobile Integrated Solutions Laboratory (MISL) are bridging the gap for a team of scientists who are creating Strata-1. Developed in a collaborative effort, the embedded intelligence of Strata-1 will function as the hardware and software subsystem that will monitor and control the experiment developed by a team of geoscientists from NASA and the University of Central Florida surveying an element called regolith. Regolith is the fine, impact-shattered material on the surface of airless bodies like the Moon, asteroids, and comets.
Strata-1, the first regolith experiment is scheduled to leave earth on SpaceX-9 and will run for more than a year on the International Space Station (ISS). Dr. Joseph A. Morgan, professor and director of MISL, mentored the Strata-1 undergraduate team of Dakotah Karrer (hardware developer), Vince Rodriguez (software developer) and Gustavo Ordonez (documentation) in meeting all NASA requirements on schedule and on budget.
The MISL team was initially approached by T STAR to work in collaboration with them to meet the engineering needs of NASA’s Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) Division geoscientists from Johnson Space Center and the University of Central Florida. The goal is to monitor the regolith and study how it reacts in a micro-G environment. Little is known about regolith, more commonly known as moon dust, and the public, private, academic team seeks to find out how it impacts different space systems. Unable to test it on earth with a full G of gravitational pull, the experiment will be taken to the ISS and will be tested in a near weightless environment.
The NASA Strata-1 team is partnering with T STAR and the ESET students who provide the engineering while T STAR provides the expertise in space hardware development and other valuable tools to complete the project — meeting NASA’s demanding requirements necessary for operation on the ISS.
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