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Home | Tag Archives: cSETR

Tag Archives: cSETR

UTEP Mechanical Engineering Professor to Study Materials for Hypersonic Cruise Vehicles

A mechanical engineering professor from The University of Texas at El Paso will help enhance the sustainability of structures moving at hypersonic speeds through a $130,000 grant from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

Calvin M. Stewart, Ph.D., associate professor of mechanical engineering in UTEP’s College of Engineering, is the principal investigator of the award from the AFRL.

The grant will be used to conduct experimental and computational research on materials for hypersonic cruise vehicles (HVCs).

The project objective is to develop a real-time mechanical state tool for the predictive maintenance of turbomachinery and the survivability of hypersonic structures.

The mechanical state is the temporal and spatial distribution of residual stresses, deformation, and defects within a material.

Stewart directs the Material at Extremes Research Group under the direction of UTEP’s NASA MIRO Center for Space Exploration Technology and Research (cSETR). The project is divided into two research objectives.

The first objective is to generate a database of standard and nonstandard experimental data for a candidate material for hypersonic cruise vehicles.

The second objective is to develop a tool — based on information from the database — that incorporates both a physically realistic model and computationally efficient software to enable the real-time prediction of mechanical state.

“Real-time prediction of the mechanical state is important for the survivability of HCVs,” Stewart said. “At that speed, the life expectancy of these vehicles is measured in minutes. If we can better predict the mechanical response under the conditions of hypersonic flight, we can extend the life of HCVs and eventually be able to travel around the globe in less than two hours.”

The AFRL grant will used to support student researchers and provide student travel to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio.

“The success of any research project arises not from the professors involved but from the students,” Stewart said. “The students involved in this project will work on a national high-priority research area. Ideally, these students will go on to work for AFRL and be an example of the high caliber of students that UTEP can produce.”

Progress of Unmanned Aerial Systems Program at UTEP is Soaring

Michael McGee, Ph.D., is comfortable with the pursuit of lofty goals.

The senior research associate with The University of Texas at El Paso’s NASA MIRO Center for Space Exploration and Technology Research (cSETR) put that notion on display throughout a 20-year career with the U.S. Air Force and subsequent success in private industry as a senior policy researcher.

But his latest undertaking is just as towering. Since January 2018, McGee has led cSETR’s work in unmanned aerial systems (UAS). In less than a year, he has made UTEP the focal point of efforts to significantly improve public safety and bolster border security through the utilization of drone technology. His ability to bridge communication between various governmental agencies has not only elevated the heights of UTEP’s drone program, it has also increased the campus’ footprint.

Test Site Bravo in Tornillo, Texas, on the eastern fringe of El Paso County, will serve as the flight test range for cSETR’s burgeoning UAS program. The new test site will see a runway and completion of other test and evaluation infrastructure development within the next two years. The center already has grown its UAS fleet to 11 state-of-the-art aircraft and expanded laboratory facilities to support UAS research and development. UTEP’s growth in east El Paso County represents the realization of efforts to turn the region into a vital component to meet the workforce needs of a rapidly-growing segment of the aerospace industry.

“I am grateful to be part of an institution that takes a very unique look at higher education,” McGee said. “I also relish the opportunity to work on a project that is critical to the development of our nation, both from a technological standpoint and as a provider for the workforce needs of the 21st century.”

McGee brings a wealth of aviation experience to UTEP. He is an accomplished F-16 Falcon pilot who flew more than 1,500 missions and served a number of combat and command tours in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The aptitude he displayed at high altitude eventually led to a four-year stint as an instructor at the Air Force Fighter Weapons School — known as Top Gun — at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

After retiring from the military, McGee joined the RAND Corporation, where he focuses on a variety of civilian and military aviation, defense and security related subjects for the Department of Defense and other government agencies.

His decades of flight experience have been significantly beneficial in the establishment of the UAS program at UTEP due to his knowledge of application of technological advancements to aircraft and sensors, his attention to the safety aspects of flight and their importance in aerospace research, and his ability to navigate the regulatory processes associated with aviation.

His extensive knowledge and national connections made him an exceptional choice to lead the UAS program, said Ahsan Choudhuri, Ph.D., UTEP associate vice president for strategic initiatives and cSETR’s founding director.

“Our center began with a focus on rocket propulsion, and we still conduct very significant work in that aspect,” Choudhuri said. “But as time passes, research centers evolve. We have seen a tremendous need, nationally, for unmanned aerial system drones. This is a natural expansion from what cSETR currently does, and it represents an industry that will dominate the workforce needs of the future. We wanted to be at the forefront of that challenge and we wanted to actively build our UAS program. But we needed the right person. We wanted someone who believes in UTEP’s mission, first, but also someone who has the expertise and national connections to get it off the ground. Mike brings both of those aspects to the job.”

McGee’s impact was felt immediately. In March, he led a team of leaders from El Paso County, the City of El Paso, El Paso International Airport and many other regional government entities in a partnership with California-based AirMap, a global airspace management platform for drones, in installation of the country’s first countywide-area operational low-altitude UAS Traffic Management (UTM) system. The system initially became operational in March, providing critical deconfliction between manned and unmanned aircraft.

“Over the past few years, the number of unmanned systems in the U.S. has grown significantly. Unfortunately, the federal government currently can’t ensure deconfliction between manned and unmanned aircraft in this low altitude airspace,” McGee said. “We have civilian and government operators that fly manned aircraft in this same low-altitude environment every day of the year. We also have an international border to the south and restricted airspace to the north because of Fort Bliss and White Sands Missile Range. So, all of the region’s air traffic funnels over our city. When you start to mix unmanned systems and manned systems in the same low-altitude airspace, it becomes a public safety hazard. We had two choices: either wait for the federal government to come up with a solution or combine research capabilities here at UTEP and the partnerships in aviation of all the region’s local, state and federal organizations that all have significant requirements to improve safety. That’s how we arrived at the UTM.”

Since then, he has continued to build relationships with local emergency responders as well as state and federal agencies in efforts to enhance public safety and border security throughout the region. That work is being funded by a $480,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense.

“El Paso is very unique in that we are a large urban island,” McGee said. “We are a long way from Dallas, Phoenix, and Albuquerque. This created an opportunity for all these agencies to work together to develop this program. We have a close partnership with all those federal, state and local agencies. We are actively conducting research to help increase the safety of our region.”

An outgrowth of that research has been the integration of capabilities from interdisciplinary research within the drone program. McGee said “cSETR’s main unmanned aviation focus is advanced research on long-range and long-endurance autonomous aircraft, advanced sensor integration, and autonomous aircraft able to operate in confined, GPS-denied environments.”

Angel Flores-Abad, Ph.D., research assistant professor with cSETR, is developing a method to perform close-range inspections of power plants and other structures using drones. Flores said his navigation system will be able to safely move drones within one foot of structures to inspect their integrity and assess damage. His work is funded through a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

“This is an example of a novel technology, developed through our unmanned aerial systems program, that will allow us to focus on power-plant inspection and maintenance,” Flores said. “It will reduce costs of operation and protect the critical energy infrastructure of the United States. You can see how unmanned systems play a very critical role in public safety.”

Choudhuri lauds the interdisciplinary aspect of the UAS program. The reach extends to the rest of the campus, allowing for other colleges within the university to leverage cSETR’s aviation expertise and the drone program’s advanced platforms and sensors to conduct new research and compete for grants in their own areas of expertise, thereby increasing UTEP’s research portfolio. The campus can benefit from systems similar to those used by many defense contractors, he said.

“This is proof of our ability to bring different engineering backgrounds together to solve complex problems,” Choudhuri said. “We are not only a part of a national evolution, we are at the forefront. UTEP will be prepared to meet the workforce needs of the technological shift that will lead the next few decades.”

Author:  Pablo Villa – UTEP Communications

UTEP’s cSETR to Lead $3M Collaborative Grant to Foster Next-Generation Energy Workforce

The work of UTEP professors has placed the campus’ NASA MIRO Center for Space Exploration Technology Research (cSETR) at the forefront of a three-year Department of Energy (DOE) grant worth $3 million for a collaboration between five institutions.

Yirong Lin, Ph.D., and Norman Love, Ph.D., associate professors of mechanical engineering, along with Calvin Stewart, Ph.D., assistant professor of mechanical engineering, were named recipients of the grant. The award is a new initiative of the DOE known as the Partnership for Research and Education Consortium in Ceramics and Polymers (PRE-CCAP).

The UTEP professors will lead the effort with counterparts from Florida International University (FIU) in Miami, Tennessee State University (TSU) in Nashville, as well as Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Kansas City National Security Campus toward the project’s overall goal of establishing a sustainable pipeline of highly trained, next-generation workers and a community of technical peers to support the core mission of the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) – to enhance national security through nuclear science applications.

“The cSETR is pleased to be awarded the opportunity to steward this Department of Energy collaboration,” said Ahsan Choudhuri, Ph.D., associate vice president for strategic initiatives of UTEP and cSETR director. “The work of Dr. Lin, Dr. Love and Dr. Stewart to strategically design our education and research efforts in collaboration with partner schools and laboratories will ensure the success of PRE-CCAP. This grant is a testament to their efforts and to the national preeminence of cSETR, the College of Engineering and UTEP as a whole. We are excited to move forward.”

At UTEP, the fund will support three doctoral students and five undergraduate students. Those students will be a focal point of PRE-CCAP’s goal of providing opportunities for minority student research internships, research skills training, intellectual collaboration between Minority Serving Institutions and DOE laboratories, and to increase visibility of NNSA related scientific activities.

“We are building a pipeline for a future generation workforce,” Lin said. “There will be many opportunities for student research here at UTEP. They will also collaborate with other students in research projects, they will go on internships to these national labs where, chances are, they will get hired upon graduation.”

To accomplish that goal, Lin said the partner schools will take a three-pronged approach to the technical aspects of the project, which is geared toward developing a new method of material systems for applications in nuclear energy. At cSETR, research will be conducted on design, synthesis and fabrication of advanced ceramics and polymers for energy applications.

FIU will focus on material characterization while TSU will carry out simulations and modeling. The laboratories will provide technical guidance as well as provide student interns with real-world opportunities to carry out their work.

“All the materials that are being developed out of this proposal are very important for high-temperature applications seen in the nuclear energy fields,” Love said. “Since we’re working on something that’s very relevant to this field, students are able to develop, model and test at our partner institutions and are marketable after graduation.”

UTEP’s cSETR, City, County Team Up for Region’s First UAS Traffic Management System

The NASA MIRO Center for Space Exploration and Technology Research (cSETR) at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) is setting the pace in a nationwide effort to improve low-altitude airspace safety.

Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) experts from cSETR are leading a team comprised of leaders from El Paso County, the City of El Paso, El Paso International Airport and many other local government entities that will install the country’s first countywide-area operational low-altitude UAS Traffic Management (UTM) system.

The University and community have teamed up with California-based AirMap, a global airspace management platform for drones, for this implementation.

A UTEP research team began installation of the UTM infrastructure in February. The system achieved initial operational capability March 15, and is expected to be fully operational by late summer.

“Unmanned aerial systems research, development and commercialization is a rapidly expanding part of the U.S. economy,” said Ahsan Choudhuri, Ph.D., cSETR director and chair of UTEP’s mechanical engineering department. “The cSETR research team under the leadership of Dr. Michael McGee is positioning UTEP and our region as a national leader in this new frontier. Our effort will create incredible educational and economic development opportunities for the El Paso community.”

Drone use by public users throughout the United States has risen significantly during the past few years, a trend that is expected to continue. There are currently more than 1,000 drones in El Paso registered with the Federal Aviation Administration. The actual number of drones in El Paso is likely much larger since not all owners register their aircraft with the FAA.

“The use of unmanned aerial systems will continue to exponentially grow throughout the U.S.,” said Michael McGee, Ph.D., cSETR senior research associate. “This UTM system sets the foundation for UTEP and our greater community to be national leaders in this arena, serving our 21st century student population.”

The primary focus of the UTM system is to increase safety throughout the Paso del Norte region. Mid-air collisions between manned and unmanned aircraft in low-altitude airspace are a significant concern.

This UTM system will allow for increased situational awareness for pilots of manned and unmanned aircraft, thus increasing safety in the community. The secondary focus of the UTM system is to facilitate safe and efficient drone operations, increasing public safety, and attracting more high technology opportunities for UTEP students.

Some of the societal benefits from utilization of the UTM infrastructure include helping farmers increase production by identifying problems in crops more quickly, clearing traffic accidents faster, inspecting critical infrastructure without putting people at risk, helping firefighters combat blazes more effectively, assisting in search-and-rescue missions, and inspecting buildings to identify energy efficiency issues.

Gallery+Story: UTEP, High School Students Win United Launch Alliance CubeSat Competition

Students from the NASA MIRO Center for Space Exploration and Technology Research, or cSETR, at The University of Texas at El Paso have been selected as first place winners of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) CubeSat launch competition, known as CubeCorps.

Their project, Orbital Factory II (OF2), will be launched on board the Atlas V rocket and placed into an elliptical orbit approximately 26,000 miles above Earth’s center.

ULA President and CEO Tory Bruno traveled to El Paso and made the announcement Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017 on the UTEP campus.

“I am thrilled to announce The University of Texas El Paso as the first place winner of our CubeCorps competition,” Bruno said. “Congratulations to the team; you are the next generation of rocket scientists and space entrepreneurs, and we are honored to be your ride to space.”

ULA’s CubeCorps was established to encourage hands-on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) experiences and provide universities with the opportunity to launch their CubeSats. This low-cost approach will make space more affordable and accessible.

Students and faculty members from UTEP’s Department of Mechanical Engineering will collaborate with engineers and technologists from Lockheed Martin Space Systems to design and develop the OF2, which will demonstrate on-orbit repair of solar cells using 3-D printing technology. The UTEP student team was led by research assistant professors Angel Flores-Abed, Ph.D., and Arifur Khan, Ph.D., cSETR research engineer Michael Everett, and David Espalin, associate director at the W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation.

UTEP’s CubeSat development initiative is a strategic partnership between its Keck Center for 3D Innovation and cSETR.

“Our goal is to quickly position ourselves as a leader of this rapidly emerging area to bring more opportunities for our students,” said Department of Mechanical Engineering Chair and Director of cSETR Ahsan Choudhuri, Ph.D. “Although there are other major university players, our strategic strength in additive manufacturing and in-space propulsion makes us a formidable team.”

ULA is the nation’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider, successfully delivering more than 115 satellites to orbit that provide critical capabilities for troops in the field, aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, enable personal device-based GPS navigation and unlock the mysteries of the solar system.

UTEP’s second CubeSat project, Orbital Factory I (OF1), is giving students from Bowie and Burges high schools and Hornedo Middle School the opportunity to work alongside University researchers to demonstrate robotic manipulations using a CubeSat platform. OF1 was the second place finisher of the Boston Museum of Science Fiction and New York NASA Space Grant Consortium High School CubeSat Competition.

More K-12 learning opportunities will be included in the development and testing of CubeSats as part of cSETR’s commitment to engineering education at all ages.

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