Graduate Projects

Graduate Projects I and II (ASEN 5018/6028) is a two-semester course sequence designed to expose MS and PhD students to Project Management and Systems Engineering disciplines while working a complex aerospace engineering project as part of a project team.   The project team of from 7 to 20 students may perform some or all of the following project activities during the two-semester course sequence:  

  • requirements definition
  • design and design review
  • build
  • test
  • verification.  

A lecture common to all lab sections will introduce students to project management, systems engineering and entrepreneurship as well as technology transfer and intellectual property issues.

For ASEN 5018, it is strongly recommended that students interested in a particular graduate project section enroll early in the open enrollment period. If a graduate project section is full, students are encouraged to choose another project. They may also place themselves on the waitlist; however, until all graduate projects sections have been adequately enrolled, waitlisted students are not guaranteed a spot in the course.

Graduate Projects is a suitable option for degree AES MS students who choose to complete two semesters of work on an aerospace engineering project rather than write a thesis or complete certificate required coursework to satisfy graduation requirements, and for PhD students who value this type of project experience to meet their coursework requirements.  The course is also open to students in other engineering departments with the approval of the project professor.

Students completing this course series will be better prepared for the type of project management processes and team dynamics they will encounter in government and industry. The knowledge and skills gained by the students as a result of taking this course will make them more competitive and effective in today's job market.

Graduate Projects Summary for Spring 2017

Section 011 – Bioastronautics Human Spaceflight project  - Dr. Jim Voss.  This project will begin design on the Long Duration Spaceflight Habitat for astronaut crews to live in while transiting between Earth orbit and an exploration destination within our solar system.  The team will conduct a survey of existing life support systems that will enable safe and comfortable travel through space for months to years in duration. They will develop life support and crew accommodations requirements for the habitat, complete the preliminary design of human interfaces and accommodations, and prepare a preliminary layout of crew-required systems within an existing cargo spacecraft shell.  Additional or future work will involve completion of a mock up of the interior of the habitat, and work on location and fit of systems and crew accommodations.  The mock up will be used for form and fit evaluations and human factors testing.  The project students will function as a team in support of a real-world design and development program, working closely with the Bioastronautics faculty team working on the habitat design, and industry partner Orbital ATK for the habitat design, and NASA.   Lab sessions are Tuesday and Thursday from 11:00 to 12:50 in ECAE 104.

Section 012 - CubeSat – Dr. James Mason.  There will be two cubesat projects being developed simultaneously this semester.  The first is the CU Earth Escape Explorer (CU-E3) that is part of the NASA Deep Space Challenge to build a cubesat to launch on the Lockheed Martin Space Launch System.  The second is a cubesat, called MAXWELL, with a novel RF communications payload.  Three cubesats have previously been developed in this course.  One operated on orbit for 28 months, the second was launched to the International Space Station in late 2015 and will deploy in spring 2016 and the third will launch in 2017.  Our goal is a two year design-develop-build-test phase.  Both the CU-E3 and MAXWELL will be nearing a critical design review phase in fall 2016.  The cubesat project is great for those who want to learn about small satellite development and have an experience designing, building and testing hardware that will fly in space.  The Lab sessions are on Monday and Wednesday from 1:00 to 2:50 in ECAE 1B16.

Section 013 - AMARCS – Dr. Lakshmi Kantha.  The Additive Manufactured Aerospike Reaction Control System (AMARCS) is a regeneratively cooled, liquid fuel, aerospike rocket engine designed for attitude and reaction control of satellites. What makes AMARCS unique is the use of additive manufacturing (3D printing) to manufacture the aerospike nozzle with the fuel passages printed internally into the nozzle for regenerative cooling.  Similarly, the complex injector design will also benefit from additive manufacturing. The overall objective of the AMARCS project is to prove that additive manufacturing can be used to manufacture flight ready parts of a rocket engine, with designs that would be difficult or impossible to manufacture by conventional deductive machining methods,  while decreasing production cost and  time, and increasing performance.  The project is to demonstrate that, with appropriate post-printing heat treatment and finishing techniques, an additively manufactured Nickel alloy engine is able to operate as designed under the harsh high pressure, high temperature environment of a rocket engine. This assessment will be done through a hot fire test on a purpose-built test stand using LNG as fuel and GOX as the oxidizer. The project is sponsored by ULA and is ITAR restricted. Lab sessions are on Monday and Wednesday from 3:00 to 4:50 in ECAE 104.

Section 014 - X-Hab – Dr. James Nabity.  The NASA and Space Grant sponsored, 2016-2017 X-Hab project will develop, test, characterize, and optimize prototype CO2 removal beds with respect to the bed size and shape.  The AETHER atmosphere revitalization rig located in the Bioastronautics Laboratory (ECAE 1B65) will be available to support experiments. The challenges of this project are twofold: 1) to assess and improve upon the limitations to CO2 uptake and transport within the test articles, and 2) to assess and improve upon the performance of the test articles through vacuum and thermal cycles. The size and shape of the CO2 removal beds and housings, along with the flow characteristics, influence how a CO2-laden flow interacts with the gas-liquid contact surfaces, how thermal energy is managed (in both sorption and desorption), and how the desorption vacuum is conducted through the beds. CO2 uptake and transport rates have a significant effect on how large the bed(s) needs to be in order to meet the CO2 removal rate requirements of a crewed spacecraft. Thermal management and vacuum conductance are important drivers for system power requirements, as is the pressure drop across the bed. While the CO2 sorbent material plays a major role in uptake and transport rates, this project will focus on the design of beds that can work with a wide array of liquid CO2 sorbents.  The lab sessions are on Monday and Wednesday from 1:00 to 2:50 in ECAE 104. 

Section 015 - Deep Space Navigation – Dr. Daniel Kubitschek. The Deep Space Navigation Graduate Project focuses on the development of key autonomous, deep space navigation capabilities for CubeSat applications.  The project is sponsored by an industry partner with an interest in solving the technical challenges of on-board, autonomous measurement processing, orbit determination and maneuver computation and will require the students to lead, organize, schedule, develop, test, verify, validate and deliver conceptual approaches, hardware solutions and algorithms to the industry partner at the end of the semester.  Weekly status teleconference meetings will be held by the student team to keep the industry partner informed of the progress, with a final presentation and product deliverable, to be defined by the team in consultation with the industry partner.  It is expected that a conference paper and presentation will also be delivered by a designated team member at a future, related conference, to be selected by the student team and faculty advisor.  

Information/Obligations of Industry Partners