Halfway to Space

By Cooper Eastwood

This blog is an update to Cooper’s first blog: Aiming for Space with a Fully Reusable Rocket

Hi again! I am Cooper Eastwood, an Aeronautical Engineering sophomore and co-investigator of the Embry-Riddle Suborbital Reusable Vehicle. The whole world put itself on pause and everyone felt the effects. I know that at my home in Los Angeles many businesses and everyday workers have been forced inside due to the pandemic. Online learning, commerce, and communication became the new norm. I and many others have witnessed the whole world adapt and change in only a few months. Now almost a year later much has changed but the goal is always the same: to get to space cheaper and more often.

The Embry-Riddle Suborbital Reusable Vehicle (ERAU-SRV) team transitioned completely online during the summer period. Gaurav Nene and I stayed on task even in different parts of the country through video calls and scheduled meetings. Our small integrated team dynamic allowed us an easy transition as we can continue working diligently on the next steps of development whenever necessary. During this time, we submitted the lengthy and necessary documentation for unguided commercial suborbital vehicle launch approval at Spaceport America. We coordinated documentation with the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) and the New Mexico Spaceport Authority. Then in June 2020 we received the launch approval for a future date in 2021. We are taking our two-stage launch vehicle past the Karman line, or 100 kilometers, and to do so we need to launch from an FAA licensed facility. As New Mexico begins the process of allowing more frequent travel to their federal sites, the team will be at Spaceport America to observe the launch facilities and finally meet the ground support members.

Me manufacturing our sustainer fins on a CNC mill

To get the final funding we needed to finish the vehicle. The College of Engineering, the Undergraduate Research Institute, and Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach campus opened an opportunity for student projects to win grant funding by presenting in front of the Board of Alumni. Dr. Ron Madler, Dean of the College of Engineering, extended an invitation for us to further our research and break new ground with this brand-new alumni collaboration. We submitted a proposal to the board, bidding for a chance to present. This contained our preliminary design review, our FAA package, and the AIAA published technical report regarding our avionics. We qualified as one of the top three finalists and in under a week we made our presentation. Once the dust settled, we were awarded a grant to accelerate our work! With this new thrust of momentum and enough funding to purchase the rest of the booster stage, the next step in our engineering method was to verify our vehicle.

We required a launch test of our sustainer to accomplish six objectives: verify performance and our trajectory models, qualify the structural components, validate the recovery system, validate performance of telemetry, gain experience with pre-launch operations, and gain post-launch operations experience. After five days of integration we put the vehicle on the pad at Friends of Amateur Rocketry launch site in Mojave, California.

The ERAU-SRV sustainer takes flight!

On December 19th, 2020 at around 12:30 PM, the rocket was launched and experienced a recovery system failure at apogee which was addressed in a 35-page post-flight report. The sustainer surpassed its goal of 31,666 feet – exactly 6 miles. The vehicle was only partially recovered due to ballistic reentry, however we received two sets of flight data from our identical on-board computers. Every piece of the rocket was sifted from the sand, meticulously inspected, and documented. By finishing the in-depth report we completed five of our six objectives and proved that we could take the step forward on construction of the booster stage to launch at Spaceport America.

Recover and inspection of the rocket underway. We found parts to the GoPro, Spot Tracker, both AIM XTRA computers, as well as all the body components. Due to this inspection we found the root cause of the failure.

Immediately after our test we welcomed a new faculty advisor as well as a member of our team. Our previous faculty advisor Dr. Michael Fabian moved on to government research and Prof. Robert Gerrick, Mechanical Engineering Chair, took the role of our mentor. William Knoblauch, a Mechanical Engineering freshman, also became a member of our team by assisting in post-flight analysis and continuing testing research on flight critical hardware. We are in the process of accepting new members aiming to grow hands on experience with suborbital launch vehicles. As our vehicle and team grow, so do our hopes of surpassing our goals.

Gaurav (left) and Me (right) holding the sustainer right before placing it on the launch rail.

When the previous post left off, we were anticipating a trip to Portland, Oregon to attend the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Student Conference Region VI and present a 30-minute presentation on our avionics system at the conference. This was cancelled only a week before taking place in March 2020 and was postponed until the same time this year. Now after resubmitting the paper to a judge’s panel for review, it was accepted to the 2021 student conference at California State Long Beach and will be taking place in April.

Being a cross-discipline undergraduate research project gives us the opportunity to collaborate with a diverse group of engineers who can all contribute to space flight. As we expect many more space launches, the amount of experimental data gained per flight will be exponential. After a successful launch we will be calling on all students and as well as those considering enrolling at Embry-Riddle Prescott to form ideas, build hardware, and program experiments for the vehicle. These will all be taken to space, an environment that can be exclusively reached repeatedly only at Embry-Riddle. If you have a great idea and a goal, you really can get to space with the College of Engineering and the Undergraduate Research Institute’s backing.

The Trace Evidence Analysis of Makeup

by MaeLee DeVries

My name is MaeLee DeVries and I am a senior at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) in Prescott, Arizona. I am majoring in Forensic Biology and I am interested in trace evidence, which is why I chose the research topic of trace evidence of makeup. We’ve all seen it on crime shows, there’s a piece of evidence that could not have been found, but somehow the investigators are always able to trace it back to the perpetrator in the end. While that is not wholly reality, it is not completely far from the truth either. Trace evidence can be very difficult to deal with because it is difficult to see, difficult to handle, and even more difficult to avoid cross contamination. However, if done properly, the analysis performed on trace evidence can corroborate stories and determine the truth. This is why I wanted to do this research because the more data there is, the stronger statistical values can be, which can create more conclusive evidence. Hopefully, this research helps contribute to a usable and searchable database for makeup to help investigators speed up investigation processes and be more objective in their investigations. After all, objectivity is one of the main goals of evidence-based research because it excludes bias and seeks the truth.

To be able to do this research, I had the privilege of receiving a Space Grant and being selected to be funded for an Ignite Undergraduate Research Project during the fall semester of 2020. The goal of this research was to support and develop a method for easily distinguishing the morphological and chemical features of various lipsticks and eyeshadow palette samples. There is a lot of data that still needs to be collected in trace evidence analysis of makeup research to fill the gap of information that exists; therefore, this research will demonstrate nondestructive analysis techniques that can help trace the evidence back to its source by providing more data that can be utilized in crime laboratories to assist in solving crimes. As the project leader and the only student on this project, my duties were to prepare the research samples, analyze the samples using a light microscope, Fourier-Transform Electron Microscopy (FTIR), and learn how to use the Scanning Electron Microscope in tandem with an Energy Dispersive Spectrometer (SEM/EDS) to analyze the potentially toxic chemicals within and individualistic characteristics of the different brands of makeup samples

Highly esteemed engineer, Dr. Lanning, teaching me how to use the SEM/EDS.

In this research my mentor, Dr. Teresa Eaton and I studied three different brands of eyeshadow and two different brands of lipstick. Originally, we were going to study six different brands of eyeshadow palettes; however, due to this being my last semester, time constraints did not allow me to study all of the samples I would have liked to; therefore, we studied palettes from Maybelline, Revlon, and Milani and a red lipstick sample and a pink lipstick sample each from Milani, and Wet n Wild. I did, however, run into some hiccups along the way, which is nothing new if you are familiar with research. First, preparing the samples took much longer than expected due to the meticulous cleaning and recleaning of materials to avoid cross contamination. When dealing with evidence, this is paramount. The second problem I ran into had to do with the SEM/EDS. While I was in the middle of viewing and analyzing my samples, the filament on the SEM/EDS burned out, putting my entire project to a halt. The filament allows for the visualization of the samples because that is where the electron beam originates, which without, the visualization is not possible. Obviously, I cannot research blindly; however, the kind Dr. Lanning (pictured above) came to my rescue, replacing the filament within hours. These roadblocks were impeding, but I got past them and was able to complete what I could of my research.

I analyzed a total of 37 samples viewed under the light microscope and analyzed using FTIR and 41 on the SEM/EDS, so a lot of samples were run, just not all of the samples I wanted to analyze. The techniques used were not invasive, other than the SEM/EDS and were able to discriminate between palettes, but not individual samples. FTIR was not invasive and quick, but only showed a fingerprint, while SEM/EDS was destructive, but showed the chemical composition and only used a very small amount of sample.

Optical Microscopy Images

FTIR Spectra and Data

Graph 1. Sub-sample 1b compared to TALC in an FTIR spectrum.
Graph 2. Sub-sample 2b compared to Silicon in an FTIR spectrum.

As you can see, Figure 1, 2, and 3 demonstrate the light microscopic view of a Milani eyeshadow sample, a Maybelline eyeshadow sample, and a Revlon eyeshadow sample, respectively. In my observations, I noted signature red-pink circular particles in nearly all of the Milani eyeshadow colors, which can help distinguish the samples from other palettes. In the Maybelline reflective eyeshadow sample glass-like and other reflective and metallic-like particles were noted, which were consistent with most of the shiny and glimmering samples. The Revlon eyeshadow was fine and fibrous, which was common throughout the more neutral and less glittery and shiny eyeshadows.

Graphs 1 and 2 are both FTIR spectra and show that there is a broad band at around 1000 in both sub-samples 1b and 2b. This was the same amongst nearly all of them, but other peaks helped differentiate between palettes based on what the chemical fingerprint was most likely related to. Most of the sub-samples from Sample 1 (Maybelline) were related to TALC, most of the sub-samples from Sample 2 (Revlon) were related to silicon, and most of the sub-samples from Sample 4 (Milani) were related to paraffin. This simple information is significant due to the differentiation it provides between palettes.

SEM/EDS Images and Data

Figure 4 shows the SEM image of eyeshadow sub-sample 2a by Revlon. The elemental composition is shown to the right demonstrating that there are two heavy metals that were not expected to be within this sample, Tc and Bi. Both are not toxic at low levels.

Figure 5 shows the SEM image of eyeshadow sub-sample 1i by Maybelline, which demonstrates expected heavy metals such as Fe, Cu, and Zn.

Figure 6 shows the SEM image of eyeshadow sub-sample 4e by Milani. Again, expected heavy metal content is observed as well as cylinders of carbon suspected to be some form of microplastics.

Figure 7 shows the SEM image of lipstick sample 16 by Wet n wild. Expected chemical composition is seen.

Finally, Figures 4, 5, 6, and 7 show the images from the SEM and the chemical composition from the EDS for eyeshadow and lipstick samples. Figure 6 shows that there are some heavier more toxic chemicals in the sample compared to the other samples, but these chemicals are not toxic to humans at very low quantities. There were no distinct chemical differences between the palettes other than Sample 2, which had Technetium and/or Bismuth in several of the samples. The SEM images were quite fascinating to look at, and while each sample did look different in its own way, it would be a subjective way to look at evidence and as I said earlier, that is not the goal of trace evidence.

This image shows me preparing the eyeshadow makeup samples and preventing cross contamination where possible.

My final results for this research project indicated that the chemical analysis techniques, FTIR and EDS, can potentially differentiate between palettes, but not individual sub-samples, while the optical microscopy techniques, light microscopy, and SEM, may be useful in differentiating between sub-samples in color and morphology. However, as I mentioned above, this process is much more subjective, and it is important to have objective methods of analysis in trace evidence. This analysis is not discriminatory enough by itself to differentiate between individual sub-samples, though it may be useful for differentiating between palettes. In the end, there was ample data gathered that demonstrated elemental, morphological, and spectroscopic properties of the samples for results and future analyses.

In conclusion, I hope this is not the end of this research because there is so much potential that this type of research has to assist crime laboratories in reaching the truth faster and more objectively. The opportunity I have had with this research project has yielded great experience and understanding for me in the future. Personally, I want to be a forensic DNA analyst, which must be an objective analysis technique, because the main goal is providing the truth. Not who we think did it. DNA analysis uses databases, which are crucial to conclusions; however, DNA cannot act alone in submission of evidence. Stories and other trace evidence must align in order for the truth to be found; therefore, other forms of trace evidence are vital and necessary. I love science and the potential it holds. After all, it is prepared to provide the truth, if we handle and analyze it properly.

Designing a Container to Transport Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser

At the beginning of the school year, Chris Raatz pitched a Capstone project working with Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC). The project was to work with the Ground Operations (Ground Ops) team out of Louisville Colorado, the team he had been a part of for his internship that summer. The Ground Operations team wanted an ERAU Capstone team to fully design and validate a container to be used to transport the Uncrewed Dream Chaser (UDC). The team was then selected and formed, and a team lead was chosen. Maggie Mueller became the team lead, with team members Chris Raatz, Madison Sartain and James Robinson. From there the team had to brainstorm ideas for what the container would look like. Weekly phone calls with the Ground Ops team helped to define the project and hone in on what the container needed to accomplish. The first iteration of the container, called the UDC Transport Cover (UTC), was a simple box with a draw-bridge door.

First iteration of the UTC

This was the design that the team presented at the Preliminary Design Review in December. This project is under a Non-Disclosure Agreement with the company, so the presentation was only open to ERAU faculty. Shortly after this presentation, in late January 2019, several members of the Ground Ops team decided to come visit us and work with us for a few days on the project. This was very beneficial to the project as well as to the team members to be able to work with professional engineers and get feedback. The design was going well after this, however, the week before spring break, the Ground Ops team decided that they needed to change the concept of operations for how the UTC would be loaded. They told the team that instead of using a door, they would like to crane the payload in, which meant that the top five sides needed to be removable. At this point in time the UTC had changed slightly to have barn doors and chamfered edges.

Second iteration of the UTC

This was a difficult change for the team, however we faced it head-on, with the knowledge that big changes would be passed down to us in our engineering careers and we would have to find a way to figure it out. At this point, James and Chris were able to take a trip to visit with another company that is designing a piece of equipment that has to interface with the UTC. This meeting with Fulcrum Engineering in Fort Worth Texas was very informative and helpful in order to get the redesign on the proper track. After several weeks of working the redesign, the newest model has chamfered edges and a separate floor plate.

Newest iteration of the UTC

The team also designed, constructed and tested a four foot square container with a unit cell of the UTC wall in order to figure out what the heat transfer through the wall will be. The UTC has to be able to control its environment due to the fact that it is transporting spaceflight hardware. Being able to get our hands dirty with welding, cutting, insulation and assembly was great!

The team also had to opportunity at the beginning of April to travel to the SNC office in Colorado to spend two days working with the Ground Ops team and getting feedback on the redesign. The Ground Ops team was very helpful in ensuring that we had all different types of engineers from structural to heat transfer to electrical to meet with to ensure we could get all of our questions answered. The office is very nice and the people are great to work with. We also got to see the test article that was dropped at Edwards Air Force Base and successfully landed on the runway (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDEKSPOLXAc).

The ERAU team at SNC (left to right: AJ Bradley (SNC), James Robinson, Chris Raatz, Maggie Mueller, Madison Sartain, Kelly Diaz (SNC))

For the remainder of the semester the team will be working to complete the design and finish up the details of the container. We are excited to send our design to SNC for final review and for it to be built and used to aid in the mission of the Dream Chaser!