Current Projects

Student Aerothermal Spectrometer Satellite of Illinois and Indiana (SASSIĀ²)

Sponsor: NASA Science Mission Directorate

Partner: Purdue University

SASSI2 will characterize the flow field and radiation generated by the diffuse bow shock formed during high-speed flight through the upper atmosphere. Optical spectrographic measurements of the radiation will provide benchmark data for fundamental flow, radiation, and materials modeling, resulting in improved prediction of the aerothermodynamic environment encountered by bodies entering the atmosphere, including entry vehicles, meteors, and large impactor ejecta. Novel MEMS-based pressure and temperature sensors will characterize the free-stream and help interpret spectrometer data; successful flight of these sensors will space-qualify them for future picosat missions.

The goal of this project is to develop industry-critical skills in undergraduate students while pursuing a meaningful science investigation. The undergraduate student team has responsibility for all project roles, with multiple faculty members at each participating university providing mentoring, guidance, and training.

Utilization of Self-Healing Materials in Thermal Protection System Applications

Sponsor: NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate

Current technology for repairing thermal protection systems from micrometeor and orbital debris impact damage has a low Technology Readiness Level (TRL) and there are no repair materials currently available for use. The proposed plan for advancing self-healing TPS consists of four stages: manufacturing, thermal testing, self-healing testing, and thermal testing of healed samples. Placing the material in arc jets with relevant reentry environments will test the thermal response of the material. Impacting or damaging the integrated material will test self-healing properties. After performing this research, self-healing TPS will be ready for testing in relevant space environments by measuring material responses in vacuum and at extreme varying temperatures.

Past Projects

Chariot to the Moons of Mars


Sponsor: NASA Science Mission Directorate

Partners: Purdue University, Arizona State University, Tyvak Inc., JPL Team Xc

Chariot to the Moons of Mars is a science-driven planetary small satellite mission concept study led by Prof. David Minton, a planetary scientist at Purdue University. Chariot will investigate the origins of Mars’s moons Phobos and Deimos. Chariot will utilize drag-modulated aerocapture for orbit insertion at Mars and electric propulsion to visit both moons in a single mission. The Putnam Research group will lead the mission and trajectory design for the complete mission and the design and development of the cruise/aerocapture flight system.

Strategies for Landing High Ballistic Coefficient Vehicles on Mars


Sponsor: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Landing more capable vehicles at Mars requires the development of systems to land higher masses on the surface. Supersonic retropropulsion is a promising technology development that will likely be required to land larger robotic and human class payloads at Mars. In collaboration with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, hypersonic control strategies are being developed to enable the landing of high mass vehicles that use supersonic retropropulsion for terminal descent.

Hypersonic Trajectory Control via Moving-Mass Actuation


Sponsor: University of Illinois