Supporting Students Beyond the Classroom
Students in the Aerospace Engineering Program enjoy the use of state-of-the art facilities that support innovative research and interactive learning. Learn about the specialized features of these diverse facilities:
Aerospace Laboratories - Higgins Laboratories (HL016)
This 1,825 sq. ft. facility is used to conduct Major Qualifying Projects and graduate research work. Both the Aerodynamics Test Facility and Vacuum Test Facility (VTF) are located here.
- Aerodynamics Test Facility - Aerodynamic flows are studied in this laboratory with the aid of traditional pressure, temperature, and velocity sensors, as well as advanced optical instrumentation. A low-speed, closed-return wind tunnel has a test-section of 2’ x 2’ x 8’. The tunnel speed is continuously variable up to 180 ft/s, and the temperature can be controlled via a controller and a heat exchanger in the settling chamber. The tunnel is equipped with a two-component dynamometer.
- Vacuum Test Facility (VTF) - The 450 sq. ft VTF is designed to support ongoing research and educational activities requiring a controlled vacuum environment. The cornerstone of this facility is a 50” diameter, 72” long stainless steel vacuum chamber which enables the creation of a vacuum environment for use in the characterization of electric and chemical thruster performance, investigation of neutral and ionized gas plume expansion in a vacuum, and testing of avionics for nanosatellites designed to operate in a vacuum environment.
The pumping system for the VTF includes a rotary mechanical pump, positive displacement blower combination capable of providing substantial pumping speed (> 560 liters/sec ) at low vacuum (10-2 - 10-3 Torr). This pump pair can be used for tests requiring relatively high mass flow rates, such as plume measurements on micro-chemical thrusters. For tests of electric thrusters where lower pressures (higher vacuum) are required, the mechanical pump would be used initially to pump the system down to the milli-Torr pressure range. Pumping would then transition to a 20” cryopump, which can provide up to 10,000 liters/s (on N2) at pressures less than 10-6 Torr.
Computational Fluid and Plasma Dynamics Laboratory-HL236
This 500-sq. ft. modern computational facility is used for graduate research and undergraduate projects in computational fluids, gas, and plasma dynamics. The CFPDL provides workstations and a dedicated Linux cluster housed in a specialized facility in Higgins Labs. CFPDL provides access to advanced Direct Simulation Monte Carlo, Particle-in-Cell, fluid dynamics, and MHD codes as well as visualization and data-reduction software.
Fluid Dynamics Laboratory-HL311
This 400 sq. ft. laboratory is used for graduate research and educational activities in fluid dynamics. It houses a low-speed, low-turbulence wind tunnel facility with a one-foot square test section, which is used for experiments on low Reynolds number aerodynamics related to biologically inspired flight, and fluid-structure interaction. These systems are of practical importance in many aero- and hydrodynamic systems, such as micro-air vehicles and flow-induced vibration of flexible cables.
Standard equipment such as vibration shakers, hot-wire anemometry systems, spectral analyzers, digital oscilloscopes, and data acquisition systems are also used in the laboratory.
Systems and Robot Control Laboratory – HL312
The Systems and Robot Control Lab, a 420 sq. ft. facility, has state-of-the art data acquisition and control capabilities for experimental verification of control algorithms as applied to autonomous systems, intelligent machines and smart structures. Applications include structural, structural-acoustic, fluid-structure, thermal, thermoacoustic and mechatronics systems as applied in aerospace, mechanical, chemical and civil engineering.
Equipment includes a dSPACE® ACE-1103 kit with DS1103 PPC Controller Board (8 analog outputs, 20 analog inputs, 6 encoder inputs) and two QUANSER® Hardware-in-The-loop Board with WinCon 4.1 and Quarc® Real-Time Control Software along with their dedicated PCs.
To validate real-time vibration control experiments, the Systems and Robot Control Lab has a TMC® active vibration isolation table (TMC® model 63-563), four single-channel ACX®-EL1224 high voltage/low amps power amplifiers, one double-channel Krohn-hite® (model 7602M) power amplifier, one six-channel rack mounted PCB® (model 790A06) power amplifier for piezoceramic patch actuation and an HP dynamic signal analyzer (model 35665A).
Five BK precision® (model 1761) power supplies and a Kepco® power supply (model ATE 55-10DM) are available to provide a range of power supply requirements, and five BK precision® (model 5492) digital multimeters are available for testing of electronic components.
Acceleration, velocity, and strain measurements are made possible via accelerometers.Systems and Robot Control Lab has five miniature (0.5g) ceramic shear ICP accelerometers (PCB® model U352C22), a four-channel PCB® signal conditioner (model 442C04) with gain 1x, x10, 100x, and one PCB® dual-mode vibration amplifier (velocity or position) single channel (model 443B01). A PCB® ICP microphone is also available for pressure measurements.
For calibration and signal conditioning, Systems and Robot Control Lab has a Krohn-hite® Low-Pass/High-Pass Butterworth/Bessel 4-Channel Filter (model 3364); a PCB® handheld shaker for accelerometer calibration; a 4-channel PCB® line-powered sensor signal conditioner with gain 1x, 10x, and 100x; one PCB® modally tuned Impact Hammer kit for vibration testing; and one dual-mode PCB® vibration amplifier (velocity or position) single-channel (model 443B101). In addition, Systems and Robot Control Lab has an Agilent® 20Mhz Function/Arbitrary waveform generator (model 33220A) and dedicated workstations for control design and implementation accessing Matlab®’s Real-Time Workshop, Optimization, Linear Matrix Inequalities, and Robust Control toolboxes.
The Systems and Robot Control lab has seven iRobot® Create programmable robots each equipped with a bluetooth adapter module (BAM) for complete wireless control and its own advanced power system batteries. A bluetooth USB radio provides remote communication with the iRobot® Create programmable robot and the BAM. This wireless mobile sensor network is used for verification of moving source detection schemes as applied to biochemical source detection and containment, and intrusion detection in enclosed spaces. Added to these mobile robots is an autonomous battery-powered helicopter equipped with its own IMU unit and the ability to communicate with the iRobot® mobile sensor network in order to create a heterogeneous sensor network.
Fluid and Plasma Dynamics Laboratory – HL314
The FPDL, covering 500 sq. ft., consists of several vacuum chambers and specialized test facilities for the investigation of onboard propulsion, electrospray sources (for both propulsion and nano-fabrication applications), plume/spacecraft interactions, and microfluidics research. The laboratory includes an 18” diameter, 30” tall stainless steel vacuum chamber equipped with a 6” diffusion pump backed by a 17 cfm mechanical pump. The system is capable of an ultimate pressure in the low 10-6 Torr range. This chamber is used primarily for study of hollow cathodes operating with condensable propellants.
For microfluidics research, FPDL includes a calibrated flow system for delivery of liquid flowrates in the range of 75 – 250 micrograms/sec for studies of two-phase flows in microchannels. Imaging of these flows is accomplished with a high-resolution monochrome progressive scan Pulnix-1325 camera with computer based image-capture and processing software. In addition, a portable fume hood work space is available for use in testing of dielectrophoretic flows with high vapor-pressure fluids. FPDL includes a variety of tools and specialized instrumentation including a syringe pump, oscilloscopes, precision source meter, electrometer and digital multimeters. Data from these instruments is collected and stored on computer using a LabView based data acquisition system.
Micro Fluid & Plasma Dynamics Laboratory – HL314
This 300 sq. ft. laboratory consists of a vacuum chamber and specialized equipment for the investigation of gaseous and plasma microflows, with application to microsensors, microdevices, and micropropulsion. The laboratory includes an 18” diameter, 30” tall stainless steel vacuum chamber. The MicroFPL includes a variety of tools and specialized instrumentation including oscilloscopes, precision source meter, electrometer, and digital multimeters.
CubeSat Ground Operations Room
The CGO room is under development and will serve as the focal point for undergraduate student activities associated with telemetry, tracking, and eventual command of CubeSats. This communications node will eventually be part of a larger network of national and international ground stations supporting CubeSat missions.
Aerospace MQP Laboratory
This laboratory supports MQP work associated with a number of different aerospace-related projects. Workbenches provide the space required for assembly, integration, and testing of hardware, often with more than one student group working together on complex, interrelated projects.