Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program

On December 8, 2010 NASA announced selection of a team of undergraduate students from the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics of Purdue University for “zero-gravity” flight testing of their proposed experiment. This team will participate in NASA’s “Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program,” or RGSFOP, with flight tests in June, 2011. The student team, led by Sirisha Bandla, submitted their original research proposal in October, 2010 as part of Professor Steven Collicott's unique design-build-test class, AAE418 Zero-Gravity Flight Experiment.

The team’s experiment is titled “Scaling of Diaphragm Tank Models and Dynamics in Low Gravity.”  The students seek to verify the suitability of a dimensionless stiffness parameter, derived from their analysis, as a dependable method for use in both experiment design and spaceflight propellant system design.  With a verified stiffness parameter, proper scaling of spacecraft propellant tanks with elastomeric diaphragms to create experiments which will dependably function independent of the intrinsically imperfect environment of the zero-gravity parabolic aircraft flights will be feasible.  The analysis and dimensionless parameter will also be reliable tools for quantitative design of these propellant systems for operating optimally during spacecraft docking or pointing maneuvers. 

The team of Paul Frakes, Dan Kolenz, Mike McCarthy, David Lynch, Sirisha Bandla, Raj Dua, Austin Hasse, Matthew Hill, and Zachary Richardson is Purdue’s 45th successful team in NASA’s RGSFOP since the program began in 1996.  Purdue undergraduate students have made Purdue the leader in participation in this competitive prestigious national program.  The team has worked since August in experiment design, spacecraft propellant system details, K-12 outreach, proposal writing, and fabrication of prototypes to show the feasibility of the unique parts of the proposed experiment construction techniques. 

Alums and friends of AAE should look for announcement of a casual get-together for dinner or snacks in the south-eastern Houston area in early June.  This will be a chance to meet the team and socialize with fellow AAE alums and friends in the Houston area. 

L~R David Lynch, Mike McCarthy, Austin Hasse, Dan Kolenz, Zachary Richardson, Sirisha Bandla, Matthew Hill, Rajat Dua, not pictured Paul Frakes