Kristen Price, a doctoral student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, has been selected for the 2021 NASA Space Technology Graduate Research Opportunities (NSTGRO21) program. She is advised by mechanical engineering professor Alexandre Martin and associate professor Sean Bailey.
Being selected as a NASA Space Technology Graduate Researcher is a high mark of distinction. Because of Price’s exceptional background and potential for research, she has been chosen to develop groundbreaking, high-risk/high-payoff, early stage space technology. Her contributions will help make science and space exploration more effective, affordable, and sustainable.
Price’s research has focused largely on the process of spallation in thermal protection systems. During atmospheric entry, thermal protection systems are used on spacecraft to protect them from the large amounts of heat they experience. Spallation occurs when pieces of the ablative materials that make up these thermal protection systems break off and enter the surrounding flow. To better understand this process, experimental data resulting from tests in an arc-jet, which simulates a high-velocity, high-temperature flow, was analyzed. These results were compared between different test factors to better understand the causes of this process.
Additionally, an analysis of the spalled particle velocity over time allowed for an estimate of the size of these particles in order to better understand the amount of mass loss due to this process. Future work for this project includes implementing these findings into numerical models in order to better imitate the process of spallation in thermal protection system simulations.
Price also received a 2021 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship, which she declined in favor of the NASA doctoral fellowship. She was previously the recipient of a graduate fellowship provided by the NASA Space Grant and EPSCoR programs, which provide support for the whole state, and is hosted in the College of Engineering.