Category: News

PSTDL Researchers at 2024 Space Resources Roundtable

Michigan Tech’s Planetary Surface Technology Development Lab (PSTDL), led by Assistant Professor Paul van Susante (ME-EM), was represented at the 24th meeting of the Space Resources Roundtable (SRR), held in Golden, Colorado, on June 3–7.

Van Susante presented a poster and chaired a session at the event, and Research Engineer Chuck Carey (ME-EM) and four students presented. The presentations and posters were well received, and Michigan Tech was well represented by the team.

Van Susante chaired the session “Regolith Excavation and Conveyance.” His poster topic was “Lunar and Mars ISRU, Excavation and Construction Test Capabilities and Project Progress at the MTU-PSTDL.”

Carey presented a talk on “Testing a Novel Lunar Regolith Compaction Device for Site Preparation.”

Ph.D. candidate Travis Wavrunek (mechanical engineering) presented a talk on “Development of the TEthered Mechanism for Persistent Energy Storage and Transmission (TEMPEST) System for the Watts on the Moon Challenge.”

Recent graduate Ellie Zimmermann ’24 (B.S. Mechanical Engineering) presented a talk on “Cryogenic Vacuum Testing of a Heated Cone Penetrometer for Thermal Detection and Quantification of Water in Icy Lunar Regolith Simulant.” Zimmermann is an incoming PSTDL Ph.D. student.

Undergraduate student Robin Austerberry (mechanical engineering) presented a poster on “Durability Testing of a Lunar Surface Excavation Rover.”

Recent graduate Christi LeCaptain ’24 (B.S. Mechanical Engineering), the outgoing team lead for MTU Lunabotics, participated with the rest of Michigan Tech’s representatives in a site visit with Lunar Outpost, one of our research project partners. LeCaptain is also an incoming PSTDL Ph.D. student.

The SRR promotes knowledge, advances education, and provides information on availability, applicability and status of development of the resources of space beyond the atmosphere of the Earth.

Michigan Tech’s PSTDL Competing in Break the Ice Challenge Finals

Paul van Susante (ME-EM) and 16 student researchers from Michigan Tech’s Planetary Surface Technology Development Lab (PSTDL) are in Huntsville, Alabama, this week competing in the final round of NASA’s Break the Ice Lunar Challenge, being held June 8–15, 2024, at Alabama A&M University.

Begun in 2020, the Break the Ice Lunar Challenge asked competitors to propose robotic systems that can use resources found on the lunar surface in regolith (icy moon dust) to aid astronauts living on the moon. The PSTDL is one of six teams competing in the finals—three led by universities and three led by industry companies.

Yesterday and today (June 11–12), the PSTDL is participating in Phase 2, Level 3 of the challenge—its final round, and the culmination of more than three years of work and four rounds of the competition. The finals are being livestreamed on NASA’s Break the Ice Lunar Challenge website.

The PSTDL took part in the excavation portion of the challenge yesterday. If the schedule remains accurate, the team will compete in the transportation portion today (June 12) at 4 p.m. ET.

Watch for the results to be announced by NASA on FacebookX (formerly Twitter), Instagram, and Break the Ice’s news page and main page.

How We Got Here

  • December 2022: The PSTDL is one of 15 teams selected to advance to the semifinals after competing in the Phase 2 qualifying round.
  • December 2023: NASA narrows the field to six finalists — including the PSTDL.
  • February 2024: Alabama A&M is selected to host the challenge’s final round.

Ana Dyreson Presents at 2024 Power Systems and Photovoltaic Events

Group of five people standing outside near a solar panel array.
Graduate Students: Ayush Chutani, Jonathan Aurand, Shelbie Wickett, Adnan Hilal, Jacob Chizek, David Wallis, Keith Holliday. Some of the students are shown, with Ana Dyreson on the right.

Ana Dyreson (ME-EM) attended the Power Systems Engineering Consortium (PSERC) Industry Advisory Board meeting at Cornell University, held May 29–30.

Dyreson presented on the PSERC project “Incorporating climate impacts into electricity system planning models: review and case study.”

She also attended and presented at the Photovoltaic Performance Modeling Consortium (PVPMC) Workshop in Salt Lake City, Utah, held May 7–9.

Dyreson presented on the panel “Modeling Snow Effects on PV Systems.” The presentation topic was “Snow shedding from single-axis tracking PV systems: observations from the Michigan Regional Test Center and implications for modeling widespread snow events.” The presentation was co-authored by Ph.D. students Shelbie Wickett and Ayush Chutani (both mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics).

Ana Dyreson is an assistant professor in ME-EM. She leads the Great Lakes Energy Group, where she uses energy analysis and grid-scale modeling to study the performance of renewable technologies and the operation of future electric power systems, with a focus on the impacts of climate change on those systems in the U.S. Great Lakes region.

Blough and DeClerck at the 2024 Society for Experimental Mechanics Conference

Jason Blough and James DeClerck (both ME-EM) attended the 2024 Society for Experimental Mechanics Conference in Vancouver, Washington, from June 3–6.

According to the Society for Experimental Mechanics’ mission statement: the society is “composed of international members from academia, government, and industry who are committed to interdisciplinary application, research and development, education, and active promotion of experimental methods.” The society aims to increase the knowledge of physical phenomena; further the understanding of the behavior of materials, structures and systems; and provide the necessary physical basis and verification for analytical and computational approaches to the development of engineering solutions.

Bough and De Clerck are profiled on the society’s Executive Board page. Blough is the current president-elect for the 2023–24 year and acted as the vice president for 2022–23, while De Clerck held the positions of president, president-elect and vice president from 2022–23, 2021–22 and 2020–21, respectively.

Paul van Susante Receives ASCE Outstanding Technical Contribution Award

Paul van Susante (ME-EM), assistant professor and Lou and Herbert Wacker Professor of Mechanical Engineering, is the recipient of the 2023 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)’s Outstanding Technical Contribution Award.

According to ASCE Aerospace’s website, “The Outstanding Technical Contribution Award and the Outstanding Professional Service Award are the highest awards offered by the Aerospace Division. These are awarded based on nominations from division committees, and selection by the Executive Committee.” The technical contribution award is “given to an individual who has contributed substantially to advancing the state of the art in aerospace engineering, sciences and technology, and space exploration and construction with application to civil engineering.”

Van Susante’s award for 2023 was announced at the ASCE Aerospace Division’s Biennial International Conference on Engineering, Science, Construction and Operations in Challenging Environment. The 19th meeting of the conference, known as ASCE Earth & Space, was held in Miami, Florida, on April 15-18 hosted by Florida International University. Van Susante and other award winners are highlighted on page 19 of the conference program.

Van Susante advises two prize-winning NASA challenge teams and the Multiplanetary Innovation Enterprise (MINE) team at Michigan Tech. He heads the Planetary Surface Technology Development Lab (PSTDL, or Huskyworks).

Professor L. Brad King, Orbion Space Technology Team Named to Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Companies 2024” List

Turning dreams into reality is all in a day’s work for Lyon (Brad) King and his entire team at Orbion Space Technology. Case in point: Orbion Space Technology has been named to Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies of 2024 list. Companies that send satellites into space on a rocket can use Orbion’s thrusters to maneuver them precisely to their final destination.

Dr. King is an experimentalist interested in studying electric space propulsion systems, including Hall-effect thrusters, ion engines, and arcjets. King is the Richard and Elizabeth Henes Endowed Professor (Space Systems) with MTU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics. As faculty advisor for the Aerospace Enterprise, King works with undergraduate students to provide hands-on aerospace education and experience. Aerospace Enterprise places an emphasis on space mission design and analysis, vehicle integration, systems engineering, and comprehensive ground testing and qualification. The idea for launching Orbion began taking shape here: King and co-founder Jason Sommerville realized they had not only the core technology, but an incredible network of talent in the form of aerospace and Isp Lab alumni to meet an urgent need in the new space economy. King (CEO of Orbion Space Technology) and Makela started the company in 2016.

Products under construction at Orbion Space Technology. The company is based in Houghton, Michigan and several members of the leadership team are graduates of Michigan Technological University’s doctoral program in mechanical engineering. (Image Credit: Orbion Space Technology)

In a previous article, author Cyndi Perkins tells us that “Orbion now employs more than 40 full-time engineers in its Houghton facility, with seven holding PhD degrees. You’ll find Huskies at the helm in several key positions—CTO Sommerville is a 2009 PhD graduate—but the company is more than just an outgrowth of Michigan Tech.”

Other MTU ME-EM alums holding positions with Orbion:

Michigan Tech alums from other programs include Kanwal Rekhi, PhD (MS, Electrical Engineering) and John Rockwell (BS, Business Administration).

The Michigan Tech-Orbion connection brings a wealth of opportunities for students to connect theory with practice. Michigan Tech’s Aerospace Enterprise teams have already launched three satellites into space.

Jeff Allen Presenting at CBPSS Spring Meeting

Jeffrey Allen
Jeffrey Allen

Jeffrey S. Allen, John F. and Joan M. Calder Professor of Mechanical Engineering, associate chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics (ME-EM) and ME-EM’s director of undergraduate studies, was invited to present and participate in a panel session at the spring meeting of the Committee on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space (CBPSS), held March 19–21, 2024, hosted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Washington, D.C.

Allen’s panel session started at 1:15 p.m. ET. on March 20. It was livestreamed via Vimeo at the 3 h 21 m mark.

The CBPSS committee was eager to hear Allen’s insights on the key science questions surrounding the theme “Probing Phenomena Hidden by Gravity or Terrestrial Limitations,” with a particular emphasis on thermal physics in microgravity and its wide-ranging implications for space exploration. Allen contributed to a panel addressing unique scientific inquiries pertinent to space exploration.

The meeting is part of the 2024 Space Science Week, a joint meeting of the discipline committees of the Space Studies Board of the U.S. National Academies, in collaboration with the Board on Physics and Astronomy and the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board. These groups will convene at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., to discuss advances and challenges in space and Earth science and exploration.

By Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics.

Jeffrey Allen seated in a wired room with other participants.
Jeff Allen preparing to deliver his panel presentation “Perspectives on Thermal-Fluid Physics in Microgravity and Its Broader Applications to Space Exploration.”
Presentation slide with inset speaker view and Venn diagram described in the caption.
A presentation slide from Jeffrey Allen entitled “Thermal-Fluid Physics in Microgravity.” A Venn diagram shows a complex picture of needs and opportunities. Overlapping areas of NASA missions, design guides and engineering tools, CFD and submodels, technology development and deployment, science, and microgravity platforms lead to enabled science, enabling science for model development and computational design, and enabling science for engineering and design.

Greg Odegard leads $5 million Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) project

Professor Gregory Odegard, with his wealth of experience in guiding large multidisciplinary research teams, is preparing to undertake a promising new research project supported by AFRL. Greg Odegard’s team at Michigan Technological University will work with researchers at Florida State University, Columbia University, and Penn State to develop the next-generation of composite materials for hypersonic aerospace vehicles. These composites will have significantly improved manufacturability and thermo-mechanical performance relative to state-of-the-art composites. The material development will be driven by multi-scale computational modeling.

Professor Gregory M. Odegard on the Michigan Technological University campus.

Greg Odegard is John O. Hallquist Endowed Chair in Computational Mechanics in the Department of Mechanical Engineering–Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Technological University. Before joining Michigan Tech in 2004, Odegard was a researcher at NASA Langley Research Center (2000-2004). He has garnered multiple accolades throughout his career, including the Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award (2011), the Ferdinand P. Beer and E. Russell Johnston Jr. Outstanding New Mechanics Educator Award (2008), and the Michigan Tech Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award (2008). In April 2023, Odegard received the prestigious NASA Outstanding Public Leadership Medal, recognizing the impact of his notable leadership accomplishments on the NASA Mission.

Odegard has authored or co-authored over sixty technical journal articles and four book chapters, and has been involved in over one hundred conference presentations. According to Google Scholar, his publications have been cited over 4,000 times in the technical literature. His research has been funded by NASA, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, Mayo Clinic, Southwestern Energy, General Motors, REL, and Titan Tires. As a PI and co-PI, he has been involved in externally funded research projects totaling over $21 million.

Naber and Worm on Cold Temperature Effect on EVs

Jeff Naber and Jeremy Worm (both ME-EM/APSRC) were quoted by WLUC TV6 in a story about how cold temperatures affect the range of electric vehicles, or EVs. Both researchers work at Michigan Tech’s Advanced Power Research Center. Director Jeff Naber says EV batteries are effective until 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Below that temperature, you’re going to have to have the battery heat it somehow.”

Jeff Naber, director of Advanced Power Systems Research Center

Associate Director Jeremy Worm says the center is working with Baraga-based construction equipment manufacturer Pettibone to create a hybrid loader for moving large pipes and lumber.

The machine uses battery and diesel power to maintain its effectiveness in extreme conditions.

Naber and fellow colleagues direct the Advanced Internal Combustion Laboratories (AICE) at the University. His research interests are in IC engines and after-treatment and the development and application of advanced experimental techniques, signal processing technologies, theoretical models, and embedded control to characterize the thermo-physical processes.

Worm’s research interests include high-performance engines, alternative fuels, and hybrid electric vehicles.

Read more at WLUC TV6, by Justin Van’t Hof.

December 14, 2023: Global Composites Experts Webinar by Dr. Gregory M. Odegard

Photo of the Composites Design and Manufacturing HUB logo with photos of a scientist, airplane and astronaut in space. Lower left shows photo of Dr. Gregory Odegard, the featured webinar speaker.

Abstract:
Current state-of-the-art composite materials are not light/strong enough for crewed missions to Mars and beyond. Structural components of deep space vehicles require lighter/stronger materials for fuel efficiency. The NASA Space Technologies Research Institute (STRI) for Ultra- Strong Composites by Computational Design (US-COMP) is focused on developing a new generation of composites for this purpose. US-COMP is using computational simulation to drive the material design in an efficient manner. By developing new simulation tools, experimental methods, and databases of material information, US-COMP is playing a central role in the national Materials Genome Initiative (MGI). The ultimate goals of US-COMP are to design, fabricate, and test composite panels that meet NASA’s requirements; and to train students to enter the advanced composite materials workforce.

Bio:
Prof. Gregory Odegard is the John O. Hallquist Endowed Chair in Computational Mechanics in the Department of Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Tech. He is the Director of the NASA Institute for Ultra-Strong Composites by Computational Design, which
is focused on development the next generation of composites materials for manned deep- space missions. Before joining the faculty at Michigan Tech, Greg was a researcher at NASA Langley Research Center from 2000-2004. He received his PhD at the University of Denver in 2000. His research is focused on computational modeling of advanced material systems. He is the recipient of the NASA Outstanding Public Leadership Medal, is a Fellow of ASME, and an Associate Fellow of AIAA.