Mechanical Engineering Research Team Wins Multi-Year NASA Grant

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Researchers from the University of Kentucky (UK) will receive a $1.05 million NASA Research Award through the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). The grant is titled, “Improving Heat Shields for Atmospheric Entry: Numerical and Experimental Investigations for Modeling Ablative Thermal Protection System Surface Degradation Effects on Near-Wall Flow,” and aims at understanding the complex behavior of sophisticated ablative heat shield materials. These materials are able to withstand higher velocity interplanetary atmospheric entry by vaporizing some of their surface material to move heat away from the vehicle.

The science team is led by Dr. Alexandre Martin, who will develop theoretical and numerical models that can be tested through targeted laboratory experiments. Numerical simulation using these models will be optimized with the help of Kentucky State University professor Dr. Chi Shen, utilizing UK’s new supercomputer cluster. Co-investigator Dr. Sean Bailey will perform the experimental part of the research, with the help of Dr. Michael Winter. All three UK researchers are professors in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. In addition, the team will work with five researchers from NASA Ames Research Center, NASA Johnson Space Center and NASA Langley Research Center.

NASA Kentucky Space Grant and EPSCoR Programs director Dr. Suzanne Weaver Smith and associate director Dr. Janet Lumpp will help manage the grant, communicating new opportunities for the research team and accomplishments to the NASA program office. The grant marks the fourth consecutive year that an institution from the state of Kentucky has received a NASA EPSCoR grant, and the third time in the last four years that UK has led the science team. Electrical and computer engineering professor Jim Lumpp and mechanical engineering professor Haluk Karaca previously headed successful NASA EPSCoR grant awards.

For information about Dr. Martin’s research, visit his research page at http://www.engr.uky.edu/research/researchers/alexandre-martin/.

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