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An Assessment of the Performance of Machine Learning Techniques When Applied to Trajectory Optimization

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Prior research has confirmed that supervised learning is an effective alternative to computationally costly numerical analysis. Motivated by NASA's use of abort scenario matrices to aid in mission operations and planning, this paper applies supervised learning to trajectory optimization in

Prior research has confirmed that supervised learning is an effective alternative to computationally costly numerical analysis. Motivated by NASA's use of abort scenario matrices to aid in mission operations and planning, this paper applies supervised learning to trajectory optimization in an effort to assess the accuracy of a less time-consuming method of producing the magnitude of delta-v vectors required to abort from various points along a Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit. Although the utility of the study is limited, the accuracy of the delta-v predictions made by a Gaussian regression model is fairly accurate after a relatively swift computation time, paving the way for more concentrated studies of this nature in the future.

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2018-05

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Analysis of FDM-Enabled Thermoplastics as Hybrid Rocket Fuel

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In this analysis, materials capable of being 3D printed such as acrylonitrile-butadiene styrene (ABS), polyethylene terephthalate-glycol (PETG), and polylactic acid (PLA) were analyzed mathematically to determine their potential application as a fuel source for a hybrid rocket engine currently being

In this analysis, materials capable of being 3D printed such as acrylonitrile-butadiene styrene (ABS), polyethylene terephthalate-glycol (PETG), and polylactic acid (PLA) were analyzed mathematically to determine their potential application as a fuel source for a hybrid rocket engine currently being developed by Daedalus Astronautics. By developing a 3D printed fuel option, new fuel grain geometries can be manufactured and tested that have the potential to greatly improve regression and flow characteristics of hybrid rockets. In addition, 3D printed grains have been shown to greatly reduce manufacturing time while improving grain-to-grain consistency. In the end, it was found that ABS, although the most difficult material to work with, would likely provide the best results as compared to an HTPB baseline. This is because after conducting a heat conservation analysis similar to that employed by NASA's chemical equilibrium with applications code (CEA), ABS was shown to operate at similarly high levels of specific impulse at approximately the same oxidizer-to-fuel ratio, meaning the current Daedalus test setup for HTPB would be applicable to ABS. In addition, PLA was found to require a far lower oxidizer-to-fuel ratio to achieve peak specific impulse than any of the other fuels analyzed leading to the conclusion that in a flight-ready engine it would likely require less oxidizer and pressurization mass, and therefore, less overall system mass, to achieve thrust levels similar to ABS and HTPB. By improving the thrust-to-weight ratio in this way a more efficient engine could be developed. Following these results, future works will include the hot-fire testing of the four fuel options to verify the analysis method used. Additionally, the ground work has been set for future analysis and development of complex fuel port geometries which have been shown to further improve flight characteristics.

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2017-05

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An Automated Test System for Terahertz Receiver Characterization

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An automated test system was developed to characterize detectors for the Kilopixel Array Pathfinder Project (KAPPa). KAPPa is an astronomy instrument that detects light at terahertz wavelengths using a 16-pixel heterodyne focal plane array. Although primarily designed for the KAPPa

An automated test system was developed to characterize detectors for the Kilopixel Array Pathfinder Project (KAPPa). KAPPa is an astronomy instrument that detects light at terahertz wavelengths using a 16-pixel heterodyne focal plane array. Although primarily designed for the KAPPa receiver, the test system can be used with other instruments to automate tests that might be tedious and time-consuming by hand. Mechanical components of the test setup include an adjustable structure of aluminum t-slot framing that supports a rotating chopper. Driven by a stepper motor, the chopper alternates between blackbodies at room temperature and 77 K. The cold load consists of absorbing material submerged in liquid nitrogen in an open Styrofoam cooler. Scripts written in Matlab and Python control the mechanical system, interface with receiver components, and process data. To calculate the equivalent noise temperature of a receiver, the y-factor method is used. Test system operation was verified by sweeping the local oscillator frequency and power level for two room temperature Schottky diode receivers from Virginia Diodes, Inc. The test system was then integrated with the KAPPa receiver, providing a low cost, simple, adaptable means to measure noise with minimal user intervention.

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2014-05

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Improving damage detection and localization in complex composites

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The goal of this research is to couple a physics-based model with adaptive algorithms to develop a more accurate and robust technique for structural health monitoring (SHM) in composite structures. The purpose of SHM is to localize and detect damage

The goal of this research is to couple a physics-based model with adaptive algorithms to develop a more accurate and robust technique for structural health monitoring (SHM) in composite structures. The purpose of SHM is to localize and detect damage in structures, which has broad applications to improvements in aerospace technology. This technique employs PZT transducers to actuate and collect guided Lamb wave signals. Matching pursuit decomposition (MPD) is used to decompose the signal into a cross-term free time-frequency relation. This decoupling of time and frequency facilitates the calculation of a signal's time-of-flight along a path between an actuator and sensor. Using the time-of-flights, comparisons can be made between similar composite structures to find damaged regions by examining differences in the time of flight for each path between PZTs, with respect to direction. Relatively large differences in time-of-flight indicate the presence of new or more significant damage, which can be verified using a physics-based approach. Wave propagation modeling is used to implement a physics based approach to this method, which is coupled with adaptive algorithms that take into account currently existing damage to a composite structure. Previous SHM techniques for composite structures rely on the assumption that the composite is initially free of all damage on both a macro and micro-scale, which is never the case due to the inherent introduction of material defects in its fabrication. This method provides a novel technique for investigating the presence and nature of damage in composite structures. Further investigation into the technique can be done by testing structures with different sizes of damage and investigating the effects of different operating temperatures on this SHM system.

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2015-05

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A Space Elevator to Mars: Calculating Space Flight Trajectories

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Human habitation of other planets requires both cost-effective transportation and low time-of-flight for human passengers and critical supplies. The current methods for interplanetary orbital transfers, such as the Hohmann transfer, require either expensive, high fuel maneuvers or extended space travel.

Human habitation of other planets requires both cost-effective transportation and low time-of-flight for human passengers and critical supplies. The current methods for interplanetary orbital transfers, such as the Hohmann transfer, require either expensive, high fuel maneuvers or extended space travel. However, by utilizing the high velocities of a super-geosynchronous space elevator, spacecraft released from an apex anchor could achieve interplanetary transfers with minimal Delta V fuel and time of flight requirements. By using Lambert’s Problem and Free Release propagation to determine the minimal fuel transfer from a terrestrial space elevator to Mars under a variety of initial conditions and time-of-flight constraints, this paper demonstrates that the use of a space elevator release can address both needs by dramatically reducing the time-of-flight and the fuel budget.

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2020-05

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The Effect of Spoilers on Vehicle Aerodynamics and Performance

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An understanding of aerodynamics is crucial for automobile performance and efficiency. There are many types of “add-on” aerodynamic devices for cars including wings, splitters, and vortex generators. While these have been studied extensively, rear spoilers have not, and their effects

An understanding of aerodynamics is crucial for automobile performance and efficiency. There are many types of “add-on” aerodynamic devices for cars including wings, splitters, and vortex generators. While these have been studied extensively, rear spoilers have not, and their effects are not as widely known. A Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and wind tunnel study was performed to study the effects of spoilers on vehicle aerodynamics and performance. Vehicle aerodynamics is geometry dependent, meaning what applies to one car may or may not apply on another. So, the Scion FRS was chosen as the test vehicle because it is has the “classic” sports car configuration with a long hood, short rear, and 2+2 passenger cabin while also being widely sold with a plethora of aftermarket aerodynamic modifications available. Due to computing and licensing restrictions, only a 2D CFD simulation was performed in ANSYS Fluent 19.1. A surface model of the centerline of the car was created in SolidWorks and imported into ANSYS, where the domain was created. A mesh convergence study was run to determine the optimum mesh size, and Realizable k-epsilon was the chosen physics model. The wind tunnel lacked equipment to record quantifiable data, so the wind tunnel was utilized for flow visualization on a 1/24 scale car model to compare with the CFD.

0° spoilers reduced the wake area behind the car, decreasing pressure drag but also decreasing underbody flow, causing a reduction in drag and downforce. Angled spoilers increased the wake area behind the car, increasing pressure drag but also increasing underbody flow, causing an increase in drag and downforce. Longer spoilers increased these effects compared to shorter spoilers, and short spoilers at different angles did not create significantly different effects. 0° spoilers would be best suited for cases that prioritize fuel economy or straight-line acceleration and speed due to the drag reduction, while angled spoilers would be best suited for cars requiring downforce. The angle and length of spoiler would depend on the downforce needed, which is dependent on the track.

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2019-12

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Automated Generation of Aircraft Wing Structures

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This paper describes the development of a software tool used to automate the preliminary design of aircraft wing structure. By taking wing planform and aircraft weight as inputs, the tool is able to predict loads that will be experienced by

This paper describes the development of a software tool used to automate the preliminary design of aircraft wing structure. By taking wing planform and aircraft weight as inputs, the tool is able to predict loads that will be experienced by the wing. An iterative process is then used to select optimal material thicknesses for each section of the design to minimize total structural weight. The load analysis checks for tensile failure as well as Euler buckling when considering if a given wing structure is valid. After running a variety of test cases with the tool it was found that wing structure of small-scale aircraft is predominantly buckling driven. This is problematic because commonly used weight estimation equations are based on large scale aircraft with strength driven wing designs. Thus, if these equations are applied to smaller aircraft, resulting weight estimates are often much lower than reality. The use of a physics-based approach to preliminary sizing could greatly improve the accuracy of weight predictions and accelerate the design process.

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2019-12

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Engineering Education: How Today's Youth Learns CAD Skills in an Online Environment

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The purpose of this project is to assess how well today’s youth is able to learn new skills<br/>in the realm of engineering through online video-conferencing resources. Each semester of this<br/>last year, a class of students in both 3rd and 6th

The purpose of this project is to assess how well today’s youth is able to learn new skills<br/>in the realm of engineering through online video-conferencing resources. Each semester of this<br/>last year, a class of students in both 3rd and 6th grade learned about computer-aided design (CAD)<br/>and 3D printing through their laptops at school. This was done by conducting online lessons of<br/>TinkerCAD via Zoom and Google Meet. TinkerCAD is a simple website that incorporates easy-to-learn skills and gives students an introduction to some of the basic operations that are used in<br/>everyday CAD endeavors. In each lesson, the students would learn new skills by creating<br/>increasingly difficult objects that would test both their ability to learn new skills and their overall<br/>enjoyment with the subject matter. The findings of this project reflect that students are able to<br/>quickly learn and retain new information relating to CAD. The group of 6th graders was able to<br/>learn much faster, which was expected, but the class of 3rd graders still maintained the<br/>knowledge gained from previous lessons and were able to construct increasingly complicated<br/>objects without much struggle. Overall, the students in both classes enjoyed the lessons and did<br/>not find them too difficult, despite the online environment that we were required to use. Some<br/>students found the material more interesting than others, but in general, the students found it<br/>enjoyable to learn about a new skill that has significant real-world applications

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2021-05