By Nicole Capozziello
Published May 19, 2022
Sustaining flight on Jupiter may be the first step toward unlocking the potential of the giant planets.
Recently, a team of students took on the challenge of a mission to our solar system’s fifth planet, taking their research to the 2022 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Regional Student Conference.
The team’s project JASPER (Jovian Autonomous Sailplane for Persistent Exploration and Research) earned them first place in the team category for Region 1.
“As a department, we are extremely proud of our students’ participation and performance in a major national competition,” says Francine Battaglia, professor and chair of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. “Our department and research labs play a pinnacle role in preparing our students for professional challenges beyond the university. The CRASH Lab, directed by Javid Bayandor, has been instrumental in supporting and educating our students, as evidenced with the outstanding history of accolades by previous teams and now JASPER.”
Joseph Malach, a JASPER team member and a junior double majoring in mechanical and aerospace engineering says, “From the beginning of this project, I knew that this opportunity was a dream come true. It took a lot of hard work, and there's still more to come, but I am enjoying it and learning so much along the way. Our success at the conference is fulfilling, but the sense of accomplishment truly comes from the time and hard work we have put into this concept.”
The regional student conferences are an opportunity for students to present their research and be judged on technical content and presentation skills by AIAA members working in the aerospace industry.
“I found the experience of participating in and presenting research to be particularly rewarding. I've thoroughly enjoyed learning about and helping my team to design a space mission concept,” says Sydney Kwitowski, a JASPER team member and a junior double majoring in mechanical and aerospace engineering and minoring in biology. “Both taking MAE460 and now being a part of CRASH Lab have helped to solidify that I'd like to have a career in space exploration.”
Edward Luthartio, a JASPER team member and a senior mechanical engineering major says, “At the conference, it was inspiring to see so many students from different colleges present their work, each with their own potentially valuable impact on our world.”
JASPER is a concept mission to Jupiter that investigates the temperature, composition, weather, and structure of the planet's atmosphere. The proposed mission is envisioned to have multiple aircrafts that would study the Jovian atmosphere below 1 bar altitude. These atmospheric crafts must be able to survive the crushing pressure, extreme temperatures and violent winds of Jupiter. As a part of their study, the team explored the concept of operations and overall system functionality.
"I feel very lucky to work with such a great team of hard workers and critical thinkers," says Haley Parker, a JASPER team member and a junior aerospace engineering major. "Missions like Galileo and Juno have previously studied Jupiter, and it is a very special experience to build on the work of the scientists and engineers that have come before you."
In addition to Malach, Parker, Luthartio and Kwitowski, JASPER team members are Aiman Alobahi, Alexander Hertz, and Sayed Asif, all undergraduates in mechanical and aerospace engineering.
The team began working on the project in the fall of 2021 as part of the MAE 460 Space Mission Design class. After the semester ended, the students were offered the opportunity to continue the research as a part of CRashworthiness for Aerospace Structures and Hybrids (CRASH) Lab.
"Prof. Bayandor and CRASH Lab have been integral in providing opportunities to participate in research, and receive mentorship," says Parker. "Prof. Bayandor encourages his students to seek out unique opportunities to learn about and contribute to exciting new research in the space industry."
In addition to Bayandor, who is an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and director of the CRASH Lab, the students were mentored by Jamshid Samareh of the NASA Langley Research Center, as well as current CRASH Lab graduate students, in particular David Edwards, Nicholas Noviasky and Pietro Bronca.
“Working on this project, I realized that designing a mission and spacecraft is like a challenging puzzle. Much like how a puzzle consists of many different pieces to create a picture, space mission design consists of various subsystems, components, materials, and much more that have to fit together for the entire system to work,” says Luthartio. “And just like an unfinished puzzle, we are still trying to find and match the pieces together. Admittedly, it can get frustrating and tiresome but that's what I find so rewarding about the project: the overall picture slowly develops, and we could see that progress build up over time.”
Region 1 includes Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Additionally, it includes students from the Canadian provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador.
As first place regional winners, the team will attend AIAA SciTech 2023, one of the largest and most prominent aerospace professional events, to compete in the international and final leg of the competition with the winners of the other AIAA regions. The event will take place in National Harbor, Md., from Jan. 23-27, 2023.