My experience at NASA’s Marshal Space Flight Center this summer was very rewarding. It was rewarding in several aspects. The technical skills I learned and practiced were invaluable and the exposure to general work procedures as NASA I received was important as well. Also, the social connections made this summer might turn out to be the most rewarding aspect.
I worked in the Guidance, Navigation and Control Group for the Ares I Lunch Vehicle. My mentor was Joey Powers. In the past he worked on both the X-33 and the X-37 projects and is currently working on slosh modeling for the Ares I. Slosh is the motion of fuel inside the fuel tanks and a thorough understanding of the effects of this motion is vital to a successful launch. A convenient and inexpensive method to model this motion is to use what is called a “mechanically equivalent system” where the moving fuel is replaced with a point mass on springs or pendulums. A simulation code that does just that had already been developed. However, the code was continually being changed and updated and this was very inconvenient for Joey. My main project then was to develop a separate code that could be used for the same purpose and could be modified at Joey’s will. The initial use of this code was to independently verify the results of the previous simulation model. The code I developed was written in a general fashion so that in the future it can be used in different application, such as in the designing of a new launch vehicle.
This was also wonderful opportunity for me to meet new people. I had many interactions with both students, who will one day be my peers in the workforce, and people currently in the workforce, who I might be working for someday. The Marshal Space Flight Center is located in Huntsville Alabama and the other NASA interns and I tried to experience all of the city that we could. The activities we were involved in ranged from tranquil visits to the botanical garden to not so tranquil paintball matches. The connections I made with group directors and leaders were important as well. Towards the end of the summer, during a poster presentation of the work that I had done, I was approached about a potential graduate fellowship.
~Chris Marley, University of Missouri-rolla