Over the summer of 2017, I had the opportunity to design and build mechatronic devices that enabled Marcus Murbach and Ali Guarneros Luna to continue their research on targeted payloads and modulated drag devices. During my internship at NASA Ames Research Center, I enhanced my software skills through the use of SolidWorks and learned about components of electronics and designed hardware. This experience led us closer to fulfilling Marcus Murbach’s SPQR proposal.
Small Payload Quick Return (SPQR) is a low-cost spacecraft that will be launched from the ISS and has the ability to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere in a timely manner. The SPQR will allow for communication with the operator, will have the ability to deorbit quickly, and target a specific area on earth. The SPQR will have the potential to return small scientific samples and data from orbital platforms. This technology development provides the opportunity for interplanetary Nano-satellites that may be utilized on small missions to the surface of Mars.
After being launched from the International Space Station, the SPQR will go through three stages. The first stage will allow the SPQR to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere through the use of a de-orbiting mechanism called an exo-brake. Stage two of the mission occurs after the SPQR enters the atmosphere. Once the outer shell and exo-brake burn out completely, a TDRV is ejected, which has the ability to passively stabilize itself and allow for a more controlled spin as it re-enters the atmosphere. The final stage the SPQR encounters utilizes a guided parafoil system that gives the ability to deliver the payload to a targeted location on the surface of Earth.
Last summer, I was able to contribute to this project by designing and conducting research for Marcus Murbach and Ali Guarneros Luna. I focused on stage one and two of the SPQR. I designed better linear actuators that would launch the TDRV in an efficient manner. In addition to designing, I was responsible for testing and logging the data for TechEdSat5’s solar panels, which is a cubesat experiment created to test stage one of the SPQR. For stage two, I utilized SolidWorks to design and model a newly designed TDRV. I, along with my coworker, designed a basic 2D model of the TDRV for Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) testing of the flow of particles that the TDRV would encounter during re-entry. The simple model was successfully tested and discovered to have several weak points. I redesigned the TDRV model to be more cost efficient and stronger points. The prototype was 3D printed and tested. The TDRV was redesigned to stabilizes itself quicker and control its spinning. This design helped further the process of making SPQR into a reality.
In the future, I would like to test my new design in a wind tunnel. In order for the new design to function successfully, the hinges and struts that have been implemented must withstand the particles and the maximum dynamic pressure it will encounter as it moves through the atmosphere. I want to verify that these hinges and struts function properly. In addition to working with the TDRV design, I would like to take part in the testing of the next iteration of the TechEdSat.