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Aerospace Students’ Mars Flyer Scores High in National Competition

June 23, 2005

Five aerospace engineering students entered their senior design project in a competition for an exploration air vehicle (EAV) organized by the Aerospace Vehicle Systems Technology Office at NASA’s Langley Research Center. Their efforts were rewarded with a shared top-tier award.

Students David Fullmer, Hisashi Inoue, Kimiharu Onda, Shinya Sato and Nemu Shirota, designed an autonomous, unmanned aircraft that could perform diverse missions on Mars and other planets. Their aircraft is equipped with a rocket propulsion system in the rear of the fuselage and a propeller propulsion system in the front. The rocket engine provides a vertical take-off, enabling the aircraft to clear nearby obstacles, until it reaches cruising speed. The propeller, powered by batteries recharged by solar cells on the wings, then takes over to provide cruise operations.

The rules of the competition established several requirements, including flight time to station, time on station, flight time back to home base, time between missions, altitude maximums, propulsion and fuel type, weather conditions, terrain, weight of vehicle and payload, and others. The students had to submit a detailed description of how their design accomplished these requirements and a drawing of the aircraft.

The team was advised by Aerospace Engineering Professor Donald Seath and, in part, by Assistant Professor Kamesh Subbarao. “This is a just reward for the diligence and hard work put in by the students,” said Subbarao. “They conducted a thorough research on the topic and produced an excellent systems design manuscript. I’m confident that more students will participate in future competitions, enabling them to gain visibility and use it to their advantage for finding successful career opportunities.”

Sharing the top award with UTA was a team from the University of Virginia. Other high scoring teams were from Clemson University, Ohio University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of Wisconsin at Madison.