Aerospace Research Laboratories Overview

Advanced Propulsion Research Laboratory (APRL)

Advanced Propulsion ResearchOpportunity 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 the 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 liquid-fueled burner.

Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft Center (AGRC)

Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft CenterLong-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 mechanics. 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.

Army MAST Collaborative Technology Alliance Center on Microsystems Mechanics

MAST CTA Center on Microsystem MechanicsThe 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, which serves as the Principal Member.

Autonomous Vehicle Laboratory (AVL)

Autonomous Vehicle LaboratoryThe 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 (CHR)

Center for Hypersonics and ResearchAnother 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.

Center for Orbital Debris Education and Research (CODER)

Center for Orbital Debris Education and ResearchThe Center for Orbital Debris Education and Research (CODER) has been established to address all issues related to orbital debris. These include technology and systems, space policy, economics, legal, and sociological issues. A long-term goal is the development of policies, laws and space systems that will lead to the efficient remediation and control of space environmental pollutants.

The center seeks international collaboration and inclusiveness and envisions multiple sources of domestic and international support. CODER will be an international clearing house for research and educational programs that address orbital debris issues, and it will be a focal point for idea interchange through conferences, meetings and outreach.

Collective Dynamics and Control Laboratory (CDCL)

CDCLThe 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, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the U.S. Army. For more information, please contact the director Dr. Derek A. Paley at

Composites Research Laboratory (CORE)

Composites Research LaboratoryThe 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.

Film Cooling Research Laboratory

Film Cooling ResearchA 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, the Film Cooling Research Laboratory 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)

Glenn L. Martin Wind TunnelThe 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 2100 tests have been completed as of mid 2015.

High-Speed Aerodynamics and Propulsion Laboratory

The High-Speed Aerodynamics and Propulsion Laboratory (HAPL) at the University of Maryland specializes in investigations of a wide variety of high-speed flow problems, including hypersonic boundary-layer transition, aerodynamic interactions between free-flying bodies, shock-wave/boundary-layer interactions, fluid-structure interactions, scramjet unstart, and diagnostic development.

Separated and Transient Aerodynamics Laboratory





The Separated and Transient Aerodynamics Laboratory is an experimental aerodynamics laboratory in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland. Our research focuses on unsteady, separated, and three-dimensional flows on flapping wings, rotorcraft, and wind/water turbines. We perform experiments in water tanks and wind tunnels to better understand the flow physics and vortex dynamics of these flows.

Morpheus Laboratory

Morpheus logoThe brainchild of Dr. James Hubbard, Morpheus Laboratory 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 this purpose.

The Morpheus Laboratory also houses the StarLab.

The StarLab is a University of Maryland facility operated by the Morpheus Lab, and houses a state-of-the-art premier motion capture studio for augmented reality, virtual training and to track, train, and animate. It is available for research, training, animation, kinematic studies, augmented reality development and more.

For more information: Flyer [pdf], Brochure [pdf]

National Institute of Aerospace (NIA)

NIA LogoWhile 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 National Institute of Aerospace 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.

Official NIA website.

Planetary Surfaces and Spacecraft Lab

The Planetary Surfaces and Spacecraft Lab is focused on computational and experimental research at the intersection of planetary science, plasma physics, granular mechanics and spacecraft design. The fundamental physics of granular matter are studied in order to understand the evolution of bodies in our solar system as well as to design spacecraft to explore these destinations. Research topics range from dust on the surface of asteroids to magnetorheological robotic end-effectors for use inside the International Space Station. Additionally, there is a strong emphasis on studying the environment near small planetary bodies, such as the Moon, asteroids and comets.

Space Power and Propulsion Lab (SPPL)

SPPLThe 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.

The laboratory has six vacuum facilities and a broad array of plasma generation capabilities and diagnostic instrumentation.  It is currently located in a newly renovated 900 sq. ft. space on the second floor of the Glenn L. Martin Wind Tunnel Building.

Space Systems Laboratory

SSL Moon LogoA 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 Systems Lab.

UAS Test Site

The University of Maryland Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Test Site, located in St. Mary's County, offers researchers, students, government and industry access to extensive resources and pools of expertise in every aspect of UAS research.