By Zoe Crain
Team members: Zoe Crain, Madison Padilla, James Wigton, Murtuza Lemonwala, Zachary Gibbons, Alan Davis, Nathanael dePutter, Joshua Pearson, Sierra Dryer, Joseph Guest, and Nicholas Mallott
One of the four AE Astro capstone projects is being completed by Team Asteria, who operate under Project Manager Zoe Crain and are working on Project Hera. Crain’s team is in Spacecraft Detail Design (AE 445) with Dr. Julio Benavides this semester.
Hera is designed to be an autonomous landing system consisting of a ground station, an ascent vehicle, and a descent vehicle. The descent vehicle (the main system in the project) is meant to preserve a delicate payload during a fast descent from high altitudes. The project was originally intended to be a preservation system in the event of a plane crash or failed rocket launch. The descent vehicle should pilot itself to a pre-determined location.
The project was originally proposed by members of Dr. Benavides’ capstone class in the fall semester, and selected by Dr. Benavides to be a viable project idea.
However, the project itself has proved to have one huge discrepancy. “Our biggest difficulty this semester has definitely been our need to use another team’s design to lift our system,” said Crain. Asteria is using a previous team’s design, a massive hexacopter, to lift their descent vehicle to altitude during testing. “The problem with Team Ascension’s design is literally everything,” said Crain ruefully. “We’ve basically had two projects this entire time, because we had to fix all of Ascension’s mistakes.”
At this point, however, Asteria has completed their project: for better or worse. “Apollo [the hexacopter] is absolutely destroyed,” reports Crain. “It worked perfectly during a flight test until it hit 65 meters in the air. Then, the flight controller stopped working completely for some reason and it hit the ground at about 80 miles an hour.” Needless to say, Asteria is unable to complete their flight tests for their descent vehicle.
But the experience hasn’t been all bad. “The most exciting thing about this project is literally that we were even able to get as far as we did,” Crain said. “We fixed one capstone project, plus built our own from scratch. Being able to come into another team’s design blind and still manage to integrate it with your own is extremely difficult, and I am beyond proud of our ability to do it.”
Finally, Crain notes, “Astro projects are a ridiculous amount of work. Dr. Benavides has done an incredible job of emulating industry standards, but that means Astro teams design an entire system from nothing. Because of this, we had to do research into information way outside our comfort zones, like EE and SE materials.”
Asteria would like to thank Dr. Benavides, Dr. Bradley Wall, and Dr. Stephen Bruder for the innumerable hours they have put into helping the team understand concepts far beyond the scope of the class.
Editors Note: Zoe Crain is a copy-editor of Horizons and quotes herself. This is not ethicial.