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An experiment by nine Old Dominion University engineering students has been selected by NASA to fly on a rocket mission June 7 from the Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island.

The group's project, one of only 10 selected from across the country, will be flown on a NASA Orion suborbital sounding rocket. Five of the experiments will fly in the main body of the rocket's payload section, including Old Dominion's, while the other five will be placed in the nosecone. Launched early in the morning, the 20-foot rocket is expected to carry the experiments more than 25 miles above the Earth. After descending by parachute and landing in the Atlantic Ocean, the experiments will be recovered and returned to the students later in the day. The students will examine and analyze their experiment data and present their preliminary findings to NASA personnel the following day.

Led by Min Song, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Robert L. Ash, associate vice president for research and economic development, the group consists of graduate students Sachin Shetty, the project manager; Kenneth Bone, mechanical engineering lead; Ersin Ancel, space system engineering lead; David Hurley, Manish Wadhwa, Swetha Gali and Deepthi Gopalpet; and undergraduate students Kent Williams and Nathanael Miller.

The ODU experiment will examine the influence of the sounding rocket launch vehicle acceleration environment on the ability of a low-cost wireless sensor network to maintain communications during the launch phase of the flight. Additionally, the project will address the characterization of the radio frequency, space electromagnetic and instrumentation noise that should be simulated in a ground-based mock wireless network satellite environment.

The work is part of an ongoing commitment by Old Dominion, as part of the Mid-Atlantic Institute for Space and Technology (MIST), to provide leadership in the development of wireless spacecraft bus technologies to support MIST's mission to provide low-cost access to space.

For the NASA launch, the students design the experiment, build the hardware, participate in the launch process, support removing the experiments from the payload after launch and recovery, analyze the data and present their results, noted Phil Eberspeaker, chief of the NASA Sounding Rockets Program Office at Wallops. "This will be an experience they remember all their life and hopefully will guide them into science and engineering careers."

Other student experiments will examine magnetic fields, fluids and payload temperatures during flight. Students also will study the effects of the flight environment, such as radiation and high gravitational forces, on a variety of materials placed in the nosecone and the payload section.

Approximately 40 students and teachers are expected to attend flight week activities at Wallops, June 5 through 8. While at Wallops they will receive instruction in rocketry and electronics and tour the NASA rocket, scientific balloon and aircraft facilities.

This article was posted on: November 1, 2006

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