ERAU Students Plan Weightless Experiment on NASA Aircraft

The team's experiment, titled Project FuSSION (Fuel Slosh Simulation of Induced Oscillatory Nutation), investigates the prediction of liquid behavior in fuel tanks that can cause destabilization of spinning spacecraft.


Daytona Beach, Fla., June 10, 2008 – NASA has selected a student team from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to fly an experiment of their own design in the annual Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program (RGSFOP).

The team's experiment, titled Project FuSSION (Fuel Slosh Simulation of Induced Oscillatory Nutation), investigates the prediction of liquid behavior in fuel tanks that can cause destabilization of spinning spacecraft.

Over the course of six months, the team members have been developing and testing their experiment in preparation for their flights on NASA's modified C-9 aircraft, which simulates weightlessness by performing consecutive parabolic arcs at high altitude above the Gulf of Mexico. During the program, which runs July 10-19, 2008, the team will be based at Ellington Field near Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The fuel-slosh experiment is a continuation of a previous Embry-Riddle project that flew in the NASA program in 2006, NESST (Nutation Experiment Slosh Simulation Test). NESST team leader James Ristow, who is now a NASA engineer, remarked, "It's good that this topic is being revisited. There's much more that can be investigated."

Team FuSSION consists of five Embry-Riddle engineering students. Team leader Dillon Sances, a senior in Aerospace Engineering, says, "This NASA program is the opportunity of a lifetime for undergraduate students to perform real hands-on engineering while enjoying a unique microgravity experience."

The design team is composed of senior Thomas Smith and junior Joshua Gibson, both in Aerospace Engineering, and junior Brenton Cody Thompson in Engineering Physics. Shayna Neumann, a junior in Aerospace Engineering, is the team's outreach coordinator.

In fulfillment of the educational outreach requirement of the NASA program, the team is partnering with Embry-Riddle's TeachSpace program and with the Museum of Arts & Sciences in Daytona Beach to give presentations to local students of all ages to inspire them to pursue careers in science and technology. The team is also giving multiple presentations to schools across Florida. FuSSION's progress and outreach schedule is viewable at the project website, www.eraumicrogravity.

The goal of the NASA Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program is to increase the number of scientific professionals graduating from U.S. colleges and universities. The student teams are chosen by a review board of NASA scientists and engineers who examine proposals from a substantial pool of applicants from across the nation.

"I'm proud that Embry-Riddle students have been chosen for this prestigious program," says Dr. Sathya Gangadharan, Embry-Riddle engineering professor and advisor to Project FuSSION. "They've worked very hard to develop an experiment that addresses one of NASA's real-world challenges."

During the first week of the NASA program, the students must pass physical examinations and will receive physiological preflight training. During the second week, the students will fly in the C-9 aircraft, conducting their experiment in weightlessness as the aircraft performs 40 parabolic arcs, including some that simulate gravity on Mars and the Moon. After the flight experiment, the students will take part in debriefings and reviews and will submit a final report to NASA this fall.

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