Engineering proposals receive $1M in NASA funding

Vanderbilt University has been awarded $1 million by NASA for a pair of proposals designed to aid the space agency. Both of the Vanderbilt proposals were submitted by Alvin Strauss, professor of mechanical engineering.

NASA has awarded $16.8 million to 19 colleges and universities nationwide to conduct research and technology development in areas of importance to the agency’s mission. In addition to the research and technology development, the awards enable faculty development and higher education student support.

One School of Engineering proposal calls for developing experimental test facilities that will be used to measure the temperature effects on materials traveling at hypersonic speeds, like the underbelly tiles that are designed to protect the space shuttle upon re-entry into the atmosphere.

The other calls for the development of a fuel tank capable of holding supercooled rocket fuels during a prolonged space flight, even as gas pressures increase because of solar radiation. This would be accomplished by taking an existing space-qualified polymer and reinforcing it with silica aerogels — a low-density solid first created in the 1930s that absorbs radiation, and has the lowest known heat transfer of any material.

Strauss is director of the Tennessee Space Grant Consortium, which is comprised of 11 Tennessee colleges and universities as well as three not-for-profit organizations. Vanderbilt University is the lead institution. TSGC is part of the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program, supported by NASA and affiliate institutions.

The projects will be subcontracted to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and to the University of Memphis, members of TSGC.

A total of 24 proposals were selected for funding in Puerto Rico and the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wyoming. Winning proposals were selected through a merit-based, peer-reviewed competition.