Space Launch Instrumentation, Launch Preparation, & Live Mission Analysis

Space Launch Instrumentation, Launch Preparation, & Live Mission Analysis


This faculty research team presents a chance to join an exciting research group that has been selected by NASA to provide particle instruments for a variety of space-based missions over the years. In 2016, Prof Kasper and several of his colleagues were selected to build a particle instrument for the next flagship mission to the icy Jovian moon Europa. It has recently been shown that Europa has more liquid water than Earth, and may be the most likely location for life in the solar system after Earth. Prof Kasper’s instrument will measure charged particles around Europa to determine the depth and salinity of the ocean. Last year’s team built a real time imaging system for diagnosing the performance of three high flux particle accelerators that will be used to test the Europa instruments and other instruments for space missions under development by the group. The particle beams produced by these accelerators are too strong for standard diagnostic equipment, so the team built a working instrument for detecting and displaying the electric currents produced by these accelerators. The team’s imaging system is currently used to support several upcoming missions including an instrument for the Europa spacecraft, which will be used to confirm that there is more liquid water under the ice layer covering Europa than in all Oceans on Earth.

Currently, the team’s efforts are focused on the creation of a vacuum-compatible rotating stage that can survive the rigors of a simulated space environment (including particle streams) while providing precise positioning capabilities needed for instrumentation. Using open source hardware and custom software, the team is working to create a cost-effective alternative to existing off-the-shelf solutions.

In addition, team members may have other opportunities to enhance their hands-on experience. For example, two students from the 2015-16 team were selected for co-ops at JPL most likely as a result of the work done as a team member. The Space Research Building (SPRL) is home to the Space Physics Research Lab which has an extensive history of successful instrument builds that have flown or currently in orbit about some planetary body in the solar system; Cassini, the mission to Saturn, SAM, an instrument onboard the Mars rover Curiosity and much more. As a member of this faculty research team, students may have opportunities to get involved and perhaps work for SPRL as a student.

Students who successfully match to this faculty research team will be required to sign the following document in January 2018:

Student IP Agreement for Faculty Research Teams

2018 Terms and Conditions

How to Apply

Project Features

  • Skill level All levels
  • Students 5-11 Students
  • Likely Majors Any, CE, CS, ECE, EE, MATH, ME, SI, STATS
  • Course Substitutions ME 590, ECE Cognate
  • IP & NDA Required? Yes
  • Summer Opportunity Summer Funding Application
  • Mechanical Subteam (1 Student)

    Specific Tasks: design and build housing and structural elements for team instrumentation

    • Likely Majors: ME
  • Electrical Subteam: Sensors & Instrumentation (2 Students)

    Specific Tasks: design and test low noise current to voltage conversion circuit and multiplexer systems, select parts, layout boards, confirm performance, test breadboard circuits Preferred Skills: experience with circuit design/construction

    • Likely Majors: EE
  • Electrical Subteam: Embedded Systems (2 Students)

    Specific Tasks: incorporate signal processing circuits onto vacuum compatible sensor electronics boards in vacuum chamber. Preferred Skills: Experience with circuit prototyping, design/programming of microcontroller-based systems

    • Likely Majors: CSE/CS-LSA, CE, EE
  • Programming Subteam (4 Students)

    Specific Tasks: develop and implement interfaces between sensor and instrument prototypes, laboratory equipment, and desktop computers using Python and National Instruments data acquisition boards, implement calibration and real time display and signal processing. Preferred Skills: Python/LabVIEW/MATLAB programming experience

    • Likely Majors: CSE/CS-LSA, CE, Information (SI)
  • Apprentice Researcher (2 Students)

    Requirements: interest in project material, willingness to develop skills. OPEN TO FRESHMEN AND SOPHOMORES ONLY.

    • Likely Majors: Any

Faculty Sponsor: Justin KasperJustin Kasper
Associate Professor, Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering

Dr. Kasper designs sensors for spacecraft that explore extreme environments in space from the surface of the Sun to the outer edges of the solar system. He is interested in understanding the forces that lead to solar flares and the solar wind, a stream of particles heated to millions of degrees in the Sun’s atmosphere, or corona. His major results concern heating, instabilities, and helium in the solar corona and solar wind, and the impact of space weather on society. In 2007, he used measurements by the Voyager spacecraft to detect the termination shock, a massive shockwave surrounding our solar system. He has served on advisory committees for NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the National Academy of Sciences. He currently leads the SWEAP Investigation, an international team of scientists and engineers building sensors that will collect samples of the Sun for the NASA Solar Probe Plus spacecraft, a mission of exploration that will make history in 2018 as the first human-made object to plunge into the solar corona. He is also an instrument lead for the recently launched NOAA/NASA DCOVR space weather mission and for an instrument on the newly selected NASA mission to the icy Jovian moon Europa.