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UK researchers working with NASA to improve heat shield technology

Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 4:34 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - University of Kentucky researchers are working with NASA to advance key technologies for space exploration.

Every few years, NASA creates Space Technology Research Institutes and UK was selected, along with a handful of other colleges, to be a part of it. Their goal is to research and improve heat shield technology.

This new STRI, which NASA is calling the Advanced Computational Center for Entry System Simulation, or ACCESS for short, is comprised of four other colleges, each with a specific role for studying heat shields.

At UK, Dr. Alexandre Martin, a professor of Mechanical Engineering, will lead the university’s part in focusing on heat shield modeling.

Heat shields are designed to protect payloads, whether astronauts, equipment, or scientific experiments, onboard a spacecraft during the harsh flight through the atmosphere of Earth or another planet.

While this technology has always been used since the beginning of the space era, Dr. Martin and his team are looking to improve on the technology to make it lighter and more reliable.

“You’re trying to send robots, you’re trying to send humans, you’re trying to send payloads, you’re not trying to send a heat shield on Mars or another planet,” Martin said. “So, one of the goals is to hone on this and try to really optimize the design of the heat shields so that we can better understand what are the problems, better understand the uncertainties are.”

Dr. Martin says this project will last roughly five years but, so far, he says they’ve already been making significant progress, at the University of Kentucky.

Dr. Martin says this project will also allow students at the University of Kentucky to get hands-on and real-world experience by helping with the research and development.

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