NASA’s Early Stage Innovations Grants Awarded to 13 Universities; Several to Explore 3D Printing


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download-29In several years, it’s going to be very interesting indeed to see what comes of 13 early stage innovation space technology grants just awarded to universities around the US via NASA. Not your run-of-the mill science projects, these innovations may have as much as $500,000 behind them through the grants. Each one of the university programs has up to three years to work on their projects, meant to further the space program with new technology considered to be ‘unique, disruptive, or transformational.’

15-022_0“NASA’s Early Stage Innovations grants provide U.S. universities the opportunity to conduct research and technology development to advance NASA’s scientific discovery and exploration goals,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington. “Partnering with academia in advancing these critical areas of research ensures we are engaging the best and brightest minds in enabling the agency’s future robotic and human space flight missions.”

Three of the university proposals involve 3D printing, to include one from the University of Pittsburgh, which we reported on earlier as they were working with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in investigating how materials transform on the nanoscale. Carnegie Mellon has also produced numerous interesting projects and research connected to 3D printing including bioprinting, robotics, and even involvement in policymaking regarding the technology.

Proposals in the category of Modeling and Simulation-Based Certification of Additive Manufacturing Processing Parameters are outlined as follows:

Modeling of Microstructure Formation in Additively Manufactured IN718 with Emphasis on Porosity Prediction; Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – led by Anthony Rollett, this project will focus on creating models with nickel-based superalloys.

“We will predict the pore structure that can arise from lack of fusion in additive parts based on the process conditions and scan geometry. We will further predict the pore structure that arises from the pore structure of the powder particles themselves and the way in which such pores can be trapped in the melt pool, thus persisting into the part,” states the team in their project description.

Prediction of Microstructure Evolution in DMLM (Direct Material Laser Melting) processed Inconel 718 with Part Scale Simulation; University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – led by Albert To, the project will focus on translating materials into thermal modeling for cyclic superheating and supercooling processes, working to predict microstructure evolution under complex heating and cooling cycles, and speeding up thermal modeling for part-scale process simulation.

“These innovations will lead to a robust simulation toolkit capable of predicting microstructure in an as-fabricated AM part given the process parameters,” states the team in their project description.

Certification of Additive Manufacturing Processing Parameters through Physics-Based Predictive Simulation of Process-Defects-Microstructure; The Ohio State University, Columbus – led by Wei Zhang, this project focuses on developing a physics-based, predictive modeling approach for certification of additive manufacturing processing.

“Particularly, an integrated process-microstructure models will make it attainable for significantly new capable for multiple laser passes, drastically improving the relevance of process-microstructure models to actual AM production scenario,” states the team in their project description.

The other ten ESI proposals include:

High Fidelity Modeling of Parachute Inflation Dynamics

  • An Innovative High Fidelity Multidisciplinary Computational Framework for Parachute Inflation Dynamics; Stanford University, California
  • Adaptive FSI (Fluid-Structure Interaction) of flexible parachutes under strong dynamic loading using strongly coupled shell mechanics and large-eddy simulation with analytical curvilinear hybrid meshing; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Electric Propulsion Physics Theory and Model Development

  • Modeling of the Nanometric Regime of Cone-Jets to Improve the Design and Understanding of Electrospray Thrusters; University of California, Irvine

Modeling Radiation Failure Mechanisms in Wide-bandgap Semiconductor Materials to Power Devices

  • Modeling, Testing, and Simulation of Heavy-Ion Basic Mechanisms in Silicon Carbide Power Devices; Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee
  • Development of 2-D and 3-D transient electro-thermal computational models to predict the radiation failures in SiC (Silicon Carbide)-based Schottky diodes and power field-effect transistors (FETs); Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York

Advanced Telescope Architecture Technologies and Optical Components

  • Laser Guide Star for Large Aperture Segmented Space Telescopes; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
  • High Spatial and Temporal Frequency Active Surfaces for Diffraction Controlled Telescopes; California Institute of Technology, Pasadena

Autonomous Planning for Human Spaceflight

  • Technologies for Mixed-Initiative Plan Management for Human Space Flight; Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta
  • Explicable Planning and Re-planning for Human-in-the-loop Decision Support; Arizona State University, Tempe
  • Explainable and Scalable Planning with Probabilistic Temporal Logic Specifications; University of Texas at Austin, Texas

NASA’s Early Stage Innovations grants provide US universities the opportunity to conduct research and technology development for up to three years. [Photo credit: NASA]

If it weren’t for NASA’s openness and obvious need for using progressive technologies, the space program would remain very limited and may have never gotten off the ground to begin with. 3D printing has been in use by NASA for decades already—long before most of us had heard of such a thing. Most recently we reported on their testing of a 3D printed rocket engine. Discuss in the NASA forum at

[Source: NASA]

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