AE Team Takes First Place in NASA BIG Idea Challenge
An Aerospace Engineering at Illinois team took top honors Monday in NASA’s inaugural Breakthrough, Innovative and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge. (See NASA Press Release.)
The BIG Idea Challenge is an engineering design competition sponsored by the NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Game Changing Development (GCD) Program and managed by the National Institute of Aerospace. University teams were challenged to develop concepts for steering Mars entry vehicles utilizing Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) technology. HIADs are large, inflatable heatshields used to provide additional drag area during planetary entry and may be an enabling technology for landing the large payloads on the surface of Mars to support future human exploration missions.
The Illinois team garnered first place for their Cable-Controlled Aeroshell Deceleration System (CCADS) concept. CCADS utilizes lift for hypersonic trajectory control via a center-of-gravity shift mechanism (course control) and a cable system to deform the flexible HIAD (fine control).
Four teams, from Illinois, Georgia Tech, The State University of New York at Buffalo and Purdue University, were invited to the 2016 BIG Idea Forum to present their concepts to a panel of NASA judges at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, on Monday. The Forum also included technical lectures from NASA personnel on entry, descent, and landing technology and an extensive tour of the facilities at NASA Langley.
The AE team members, all of whom are undergraduates, are Austin Scott, Sam Wywrot, Jose Mari Tuason, Steven Kosvick, and Sashank Gummella. (See related story.) AE Assistant Professor Zach Putnam advised the Illinois team.
“All the credit for this win belongs to the student team,” said Putnam. “The NASA judges were very impressed that our undergraduate team went from zero knowledge of entry, descent, and landing systems and HIADs to winning this challenge in a matter of months. I am very proud of them.”
Said Mary E. Wusk, acting director for GCD in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, “Now is the time when revolutions in technology and engineering will be the markers of tomorrow’s success in space exploration. We recognize the value in engaging top talent from America’s brightest collegiate students and faculty, and are making university collaboration a priority to remain at the forefront of these revolutions.”
Learn more about the BIG Idea competition.