Aerospace Research Laboratories
US News & World Report for FY12
Number of Awards (Contracts/Grants) = 126
Full-time TT or Tenured faculty involved = 19
Advanced Propulsion Research Laboratory (APRL)
Opportunity exists to advance propulsion technologies by incorporating our understanding
of basic physical mechanisms related to fuel-air mixing and combustion processes into engine
design. Our long-term goals are to make aero-propulsion and space propulsion much more reliable,
more affordable, and environmentally benign, while increasing the specific engine performance.
In Advanced Propulsion Research Laboratory (APRL), fundamental and applied studies on
active/passive control of turbulent mixing and combustion processes are conducted to develop
advanced combustor technologies that will help achieve these long-term goals. APRL accommodates
two test stands connected to a continuous air supply capable of 358 cfm at 165 psig. One test
stand is used for detailed quantitative measurements and flow visualization, while the other is
dedicated for high-intensity reacting flow experiments. Advanced diagnostics, including
non-intrusive flow visualization, laser-based velocimetry, and radical chemiluminescence are
available along with more conventional flow measurement systems using thermocouples and
high-bandwidth pressure transducers. Recent research has focused on supersonic mixing enhancement
for scramjets, active control of dump combustor dynamics, and development of a highly efficient
Learn more about Advanced Propulsion Research Laboratory...
Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft Center (AGRC)
Long-standing and important research is conducted in the Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft Center, as a U.S. Army Center of Excellence in Helicopter Technology. One of only three such centers in the country, the center conducts leading-edge research in rotorcraft aerodynamics, dynamics, acoustics, structures and flight mechchanics. Unique experimental facilities such as two fully-instrumented rotor rigs, a hover tower and a 10-foot vacuum chamber are funded by the Army and by an industry consortium.
The Smart Structures Program, funded by a university research initiative grant from the
Army Research Office, is a truly multidisciplinary effort within the Clark School involving
structures, controls, materials and aeromechanics. Faculty from four departments collaborate
on research involving the use of embedded sensors and actuators within composite parts to
alter shapes and loads to respond to changing conditions in structures. initial applications
of smart structures research are adaptive wings, variable speed helicopter rotors, vibration
control, noise reduction and structural monitoring of aerospace systems.
Learn more about Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft Center...
Army MAST Collaborative Technology Alliance Center on Microsystems Mechanics
The objective of the MAST CTA is to perform enabling research and technology transition to enhance tactical situational awareness in urban and complex terrain by enabling the autonomous operation of a collaborative ensemble of multifunctional, mobile microsystems. To achieve this objective, the Alliance is expected to advance fundamental science and technology in several key areas including:
- Microsystem Mechanics
- Processing for Autonomous Operation
- Microelectronics, and
- Platform Integration
The MAST CTA "Center on Microsystem Mechanics" is coordinated through the Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft Center (AGRC) at the University of Maryland (UM), which serves as the Principal Member.
Autonomous Vehicle Laboratory (AVL)
The Autonomous Vehicle Laboratory (AVL) is a facility in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, located in the Jeong H. Kim Engineering Bldg, and conducts research and development in the area of biologically inspired robotics. We seek to distil the fundamental sensing and feedback principles that govern locomotive behavior in small organisms that will enable the next generation of autonomous microsystems. Unique capabilities include rapid-prototyping facilities for microsystem fabrication and development, a VICON marker-based visual tracking system that provides direct measurements of 6-DOF vehicle position and orientation for system identification and real-time feedback, a low speed wind tunnel with a specialized high speed camera system for insect tracking and wing kinematics measurement, and advanced hardware and software tools for visual-based simulation of flight systems.
Center for Hypersonics and Research
Another center for excellence, this one funded by NASA, is the Center for Hypersonic Education and Research for the study of high speed flight (i.e., flight more than five times the speed of sound). Research topics in the center cover all aspects of the hypersonic realm from the very fundamentals of hypersonic fluid dynamics including leading edge flows, shockwave interaction and real gas effects to very applied studies of vehicle configuration, optimization and engine controls and integration.
Collective Dynamics and Control Laboratory (CDCL)
The Collective Dynamics and Control Laboratory (CDCL) conducts research in multi-vehicle control, autonomous vehicles, and bio-inspired collective behavior. Specific research topics include nonlinear control and dynamics, mobile sensor networks, and biocomplexity. Sample research projects include cooperative control of autonomous vehicles in the air and sea, optimal and adaptive sampling of spatiotemporal processes, and quantitative modeling of animal groups. Robotics is a major theme in CDCL research and to support mobile robotics research we have an eighteen camera indoor motion-capture studio and a twelve-camera underwater motion-capture system. CDCL research is supported by the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, and the U.S. Army.
Composites Research Laboratory (CORE)
The Composites Research Laboratory (CORE) provides an environment for educational, research,
and development of activities in composite materials and structures. The goals of the laboratory
are to promote the understanding and the use of composite materials, to maintain up-to-date
manufacturing and testing facilities in order to conduct basic research, and to provide an
accessible knowledge and technology base. CORE is comprised of facilities which allow the full
spectrum of specimen manufacture, preparation, inspection, and testing. The manufacture of
composite components and specimens can be done in either an autoclave or a vacuum hot press.
A layup facility allows the fabrication of flat laminates with arbitrary stacking sequences.
This facility includes the necessary templates to accurately cut preimpregnated tape, and two
four-section cure assemblies with caul plates and aluminum dams.
Learn more about Composites Research Laboratory...
Film Cooling Research Laboratory
A technology of particular interest in propulsion systems (rockets or air breathing engines) is film cooling. The viability and advancement of this technology depends on understanding the complex heat transfer and mixing processes that occur near walls. As part of NASA CUIP’s initiative, our research lab has implemented an experimental and numerical approach to improve the understanding of film cooling physics as well as to develop and validate accurate Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) codes to aid in the design of future film cooling systems. The research group has a unique experimental facility, equipped with minimally intrusive diagnostics for experimental characterization of film cooling flows (Particle Image Velocimetry, Infrared thermography, fast-response microthermocouples). Numerically, we work on both in-house high fidelity codes as well as NASA’s LOCI-CHEM. Current research includes experimental, numerical, and analytical characterization of both subsonic and supersonic film cooling flows.
Glenn L. Martin Wind Tunnel (GLMWT)
The Glenn L. Martin Wind Tunnel is a state of the art low speed wind tunnel that has been
actively involved in aerodynamic research and development since 1949. It was constructed as
part of a gift to the University in the late 1940's. It was provided with the best available
equipment at the time of its construction and has been frequently upgraded to maintain it as
a state of the art facility. It is large enough to perform extensive development tests for a
wide range of vehicles and other systems and is well suited for conducting major research
efforts in low speed aerodynamics and hydrodynamics. The range of applications for subsonic
aerodynamic tests is very broad. The list of research and development tests carried out
includes work on aircraft of many types and many other vehicles and devices some of which
are mentioned on our "Examples of our work" page. More than 1800 tests have been
conducted to date.
Learn more about Glenn L. Martin Wind Tunnel...
Low Reynolds Number Aerodynamics Laboratory
The Low Reynolds Number Aerodynamics Laboratory is an experimental aerodynamics laboratory focusing on unsteady, separated, and three-dimensional flows for application to bio-inspired flapping wing vehicles, rotorcraft, and wind/water turbines. We perform experiments in water tanks and wind tunnels to better understand the flow physics and vortex dynamics of unsteady lift and drag generation.
Learn more abou the Low Reynolds Number Aerodynamics Laboratory
The brainchild of Dr. James Hubbard, Morpheus Lab is a dynamic research facility focused on aerospace applications of smart materials and structures. The lab has facilities at both the NASA Langley Research Center and the University of Maryland College Park, with additional offices at the National Institute of Aerospace. The Morpheus Laboratory focuses on developing disruptive aerospace technologies based on smart materials. We concentrate on finding revolutionary solutions to real-world problems, with an emphasis on simplicity of concept and elegance of design.
Morpheus intends to benefit society through the generation of scholarship in the fields of adaptive aerospace structures and smart materials. In doing so, Morpheus hopes to bring a new vitality and vision to the aerospace industry.
We at Morpheus believe that all of our experiments should be able to stand up to the
rigors of actual flight, and as such we maintain a small squadron of flying testbeds for
Learn more about the Morpheus Lab ...
NASA "One CUIP" Team
The Constellation University Institutes Project (CUIP) is a consortium of approximately 24 universities in the United States working a cooperative agreement with NASA to focus on addressing the technical challenges of the NASA Constellation Program. To this end, the technical portfolio of CUIP is comprised of the following key technical areas, or virtual institutes (VIs):
- Thrust Chamber Assemblies (TCA)
- Propellant Storage and Delivery (PSD)
- Reentry Aerothermodynamics (RA)
- Structures and Materials for Extreme Environments (SMEE)
- Solids (SOL)
- Systems Engineering and Integration (SEI)
While there are many university, industry, and government lab–based scientists and engineers who will be engaged in aerospace engineering and atmospheric science research at the NIA and more generally in the fields, a continuous supply of fresh talent will be needed to keep these activities vibrant and growing. In addition, the knowledge that will drive these fields forward will continue to change as innovations reveal new ways of thinking. These changes will demand either a newly educated workforce or the continuous upgrade of scientific knowledge for those already established in the fields. NIA has established and is growing a set of educational programs that bring important knowledge to scientists and engineers in the aerospace engineering and atmospheric science fields, to the ultimate benefit of society.
NIA has already taken a major step toward the development of a world-class
educational environment by bringing together six highly regarded universities: Georgia Tech,
University of Maryland, North Carolina A&T, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech and the
University of Virginia. This team has a portfolio of demonstrated educational capabilities
that are acknowledged by leaders in the science and engineering community to be among the
best in the world. The NIA graduate program is being established at the NIA headquarters in
Hampton, Va. offering M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the member universities. These educational
opportunities are available to NASA employees and other partners of the Institute through
local instruction and advanced distance learning facilities.
Learn more about the National Institute of Aerospace(NIA)
Space Power and Propulsion Lab (SPPL)
The UMD Space Power and Propulsion Lab (SPPL), established in 2007 is dedicated to the research and development of power generation, conversion and propulsion technologies applicable to the exploration of space. Research topics within these areas are broad in scope, encompassing experimental, analytic and computational approaches, and technology readiness levels range from fundamental research to flight hardware development. Spin-off technologies are often explored as opportunities arise. Current research topics include:
- Inertial electrostatic confinement (IEC) fusion with direct energy conversion
- Superconducting helicon thruster using water as propellant
- Decomposition of Nitrous Oxide using a dielectric barrier discharge (DBD)
- Nano-particle formation using a helicon plasma
- Thruster plume impact on spacecraft materials
- Resonant inductive power transfer with superconducting coils
- Surface flow control using traveling wave DBD
- Electromagnetic Formation Flight (EMFF)
- Surface mobility with pneumatically actuated legged rovers
- Space debris remediation using laser ablation equipped vehicles
- Augmented reality stereoscopic helmet-mounted display
The laboratory has six vacuum facilities and a broad array of plasma generation capabilities and instrumentation. It is currently located in a 600 sq ft. space in the Jeong H. Kim Engineering Building, and will be relocating in 2013 to a 900 sq ft space on the second floor of the Glenn L. Martin Wind Tunnel building.
Space Systems Laboratory
A leader in the area of astronautics, the Space Systems Laboratory is centered around
a 50-foot diameter, 25-foot deep water tank that is used to simulate the microgravity
environment of space. The only such facility housed at a university, Maryland's neutral
buoyancy tank is available of undergraduate and graduate research opportunities. Research
in Space Systems emphasizes space robotics, human factors, applications of artificial
intelligence and the underlying fundamentals of space simulation. There are currently
five robots being tested, including Ranger, a four-armed satellite repair robot. Launched
by NASA in 1996, Ranger and its predecessor robot were both constructed in the Space
Learn more about Space System Laboratory...