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By Nikki Cabus

FAU Engineering selected by NASA for University Nanosatellite Program

Read Time 3 Minutes

Florida Atlantic University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science is one of eight U.S. university teams chosen to collaborate with NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the U.S. military in advancing small satellite technology.

Established in 1999, University Nanosatellite Program (UNP) was the first federally-funded program dedicated exclusively to university participation in spacecraft development and nearly 5,000 students from 38 U.S. universities have participated since its beginning. Remaining true to its founding principle of education, the program has developed into the premier U.S. small satellite education program. Over the years, the program has had 11 cycles of student programs.

This training program takes place from May to August and is designed to provide students with specialized systems engineering training for spacecraft development. Led by faculty experts, the program aims to refine satellite project proposals, increasing the likelihood of student-designed technology reaching space. Teams that are selected for the program, including FAU College of Engineering & Computer Science, will gather for a kickoff meeting at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center before spending seven weeks interning at the Air Force’s facilities in Albuquerque. There, students will work with the Space Dynamics Laboratory and receive expert guidance to refine their proposals.

“We are incredibly excited and proud to have been selected to work with NASA and the U.S. military to help revolutionize the space domain with tiny yet powerful small satellite technology,” said Stella Batalama, Ph.D., dean, FAU College of Engineering and Computer Science.

“Importantly, this initiative will offer participating students invaluable systems engineering training specific to spacecraft development and is part of NASA’s broader strategy to engage and retain students in STEM fields to build a robust pipeline of talent in the aerospace sector.

The FAU College of Engineering & Computer Science UNP is led by Dr. Oscar Curet, an associate professor in the Department of Ocean and Mechanical Engineering and a member of FAU’s Center of Connected Autonomy and Artificial Intelligence (CA-AI), along with Dr. George Sklivanitis, a Schmidt Research Associate Professor, and a fellow of FAU’s Institute for Sensing and Embedded Network Systems Engineering (I-SENSE), and a senior member of CA-AI.

Curet’s research interests and expertise include fluid dynamics, biomimetics and biological locomotion, hydrodynamics of underwater vehicles and energy harvesting. Sklivanitis’ research interest and expertise include autonomous radios, ocean Internet of Things, networked AI and connected robotics. The team also includes three students: Vitas Diktanas, a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering with a concentration in aerospace, Sky Rueff (undergraduate in mechanical engineering), and Jonathan Mazurkiewicz. (undergraduate in computer engineering).

The 2024 Mission Concept Program provides funding for all travel, including kickoff, final event, and in-person reviews, allowing faculty and students to formulate teams without straining university resources. NASA uses CSLI as one if its ways to attract and retain students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines. This strengthens NASA’s and the nation’s future workforce. The initiative promotes and develops innovative technology partnerships among NASA, U.S. industry, and other sectors for the benefit of all.

Guided by years of spacecraft development history, the UNP structure is divided into four distinct phases. Successful completion of each phase is accomplished through specific entrance and exit criteria. Phases include various reviews and program down-selects intended to help as many teams as possible achieve successful spacecraft mission operations. The UNP Program Office assists university teams throughout the development process in a variety of ways, including facilitating educational opportunities, meetings, reviews, and supplied resources. UNP spacecraft that meet Phase C exit criteria are launched through the Space Experiments Review Board and the Space Test Program (STP).

By Nikki Cabus

Broward-based eVTOL startup Doroni Aerospace launches Series A and FAA releases blueprint for air taxis

Read Time 5 Minutes

Just last week Doroni Aerospace announced the exclusive launch of their Series A Reg D funding round available to accredited investors. 

Morgan Stanley research predicted that the eVTOL (electric vertical taken off and landing) market will reach over $1 trillion by 2040. Doroni is on a mission to capitalize on this opportunity today and aims to make this technology accessible to everyone.

With backing and support from Space Florida, Doroni has already raised over $3.6 million from over 2000 investors and taken just under 300 pre-order requests for vehicle purchases. Just this past February, the startup completed its first untethered test flight with the Doroni H1 eVTOL. Only a handful of companies worldwide have been able to achieve this milestone.

Some of Doroni’s recent accomplishments are pretty remarkable.

  • successfully completed 53 unique flight tests with the Doroni H1 P1
  • built full 3D cockpit simulator tested by thousands of flight enthusiast and experienced pilots
  • completed the H1 airframe with fully functional cockpit complete with software, avionics, and a computer system that’s ready for flight integration
  • recruited Dan Saccani, a former Tesla and Lucid Motors CFO as our fractional CFO
  • raised an impressive seed round of over $3.5M through equity crowdfunding on StartEngine.com
  • working with major OEMs like Honeywell, Garmin, and Amphenol to incorporate aviation systems and components
  • received an overwhelming response of 270+ preorder requests
  • expanded our R&D capabilities by moving to a state-of-the-art 13,000 square foot R&D facility in Coral Springs
  • received another technology patent on their latest technology in design and aerospace features from the USPTO
  • garnered support from esteemed organizations such as the City of Pompano Beach, The Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, and Space Florida

Doroni’s mission is to bring new sustainability to commuter transportation by making flight accessible to the masses. The Doroni H1 is their go-to-market personal eVTOL (AKA “flying car”) that the company says will offer a safe, practical, and environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional automobiles. They are helping define the future of Urban Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) by engaging with the aviation industry, academia, the military, and the FAA as well as our prospective civilian and commercial customers.

On May 3rd, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released an updated blueprint outlining the next steps for future future air taxi, or eVTOL aircraft, operations in the United States.

Under the blueprint developed by NASA and industry stakeholders, AAM operations will begin at a low rate with air taxis flying much as helicopters do today. They’ll use existing routes and infrastructure such as helipads and early vertiports.  As the number of operations increases, air taxis are expected to fly in corridors between major airports and vertiports in city centers. The complexity of the corridors could increase over time from single one-way paths to routes serving multiple flows of aircraft flying in both directions. Over time, these corridors could link an increasing number of routes between vertiports.

The FAA expects aircraft technology will evolve as well. Aircraft automation and real-time data sharing between aircraft will likely play increasing roles in these corridors. The operational blueprint is a key step — along with certifying the aircraft and pilots — in the FAA’s effort to safely usher in and support this next era of aviation. The blueprint aims to provide a common frame of reference to the FAA, NASA and industry to help guide their research and decision-making.

Doroni is targeting a Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) certification with the FAA that would make the company extremely viable when compared to the complicated and time-consuming certification processes of larger air taxi competitors. From its inception with the Doroni Y6 and X8 prototypes that came before it, the Doroni H1 was designed to maximize safety and will undergo exhaustive multi-level quality control. As Doroni likes to say, “Safety Is In Our DNA.”

What was once only seen in futuristic sci-fi movies in now becoming a reality. The world’s first eVTOL vertiport, Air-One, was opened in April 2022 in the United Kingdom. This is just one of the first of over 200 vertiport sites planned across the globe for Air-One. The vertiport was a collaboration between Urban-Air Port, a U.K.-based ground infrastructure developer, and Supernal, Hyundai Motor Group’s urban air mobility division.

According to Urban-Air Port, multiple international locations are already on the company’s order book for additional sites including efforts to bring air taxi services to Miami as soon as 2028.

The difference between Doroni and it’s competitors is its plans to offer their vehicles for personal purchase and use. The eVTOL market is divided into cargo, personal, and air taxi segments with many competitors popping up, but according to Doroni, these competitors are not focusing on personal purchase.

The personal segment is further subdivided into 1- and 2-seater categories. 1-seaters typically have an open frame with exposed propellers, have limited range, and are intended for recreational/leisure use. The Doroni H1 falls under the 2-seater + Payload category. Doroni sees a tremendous benefit and value of entering the personal segment under this category and believes that as a US-based company located in the eVTOL hub of Florida, they can become a major industry player.

Flying an aircraft may seem like a daunting task, but Doroni’s Founder and CEO, Doron Merdinger, explains that anyone with a driver’s license and 20 hours of flight training from the company can do it. He also claims that it’s cleaner, quieter and more sustainable.

Doron explains this in a recent ABC News Miami interview by asking, “Why do we need to destroy nature in general when we introduce a system that doesn’t require roads, does not pollute, doesn’t make noise at that level?”

He continued, “I can tell you 100% that the technology for what we are doing is here now. It’s not in the future – it’s here now.”

“We will experience nature. . . It will be safer, quieter and more efficient.”

The 1650 lb. 2-seater, Doroni H1, can fly a couple hundred feet off the ground with a flying distance of 60 miles, cruising speed at 100 miles per hour, and maximum speed of 140 miles per hour. The aircraft is expected to charge from approximately 20% to 80% in just 15 – 20 minutes which is extremely fast.

The Doroni H1 aircraft cockpit was a popular exhibit at Tech Hub’s 10th annual TECHpalooza 2022. The company brought out the full size cockpit for attendees to experience the future of transportation.

Using a virtual reality headset and simple joystick (not steering wheel), attendees could imagine gliding through the sky in the Doroni H1 eVTOL aircraft. For most, this was the first flying car prototype they had ever seen or even heard of.

Flying cars could be a reality within the next 2 years. The cost is currently around $250k, but once the cost of materials levels out, the technology such as batteries becomes more accessible, the company expects the prices to lower, or at least not increase, over time.

“This is real and this is happening – We have come a long way from where we were just a decade ago,” stated Billy Nolen,  FAA acting administrator.

Investors, visit the Doroni website now to learn more and secure your stake in the future of mobility: https://www.doroni.io/

 

By Nikki Cabus

Interstellar engineering; Student uses NASA-supplied simulated lunar soil to 3D print out-of-this-world housing

Read Time 4 Minutes

NASA is working to build a research base on the moon to send the first astronauts to Mars. Along the way, a new industry is coming to life: construction on surfaces beyond Earth. This is where master’s student Brandon Aguiar ’21 is launching his promising career. 

Aguiar is advancing a 3D printing technique that makes durable structures out of lunar dust. He has produced igloos, building blocks and cubes with complex angles and curvatures.

Essentially, Aguiar is researching a material that could be the backbone of interstellar engineering. 

“It’s very expensive to ship supplies to space. One pound of material can cost thousands of dollars,” says Aguiar, a life-long fan of space exploration.

“Just imagine what it would cost taxpayers to ship entire houses to the moon. Instead, we can use the material that is already there to build infrastructure.” 

Lunar dust is a powder consisting of tiny, irregularly shaped rocks. It covers the moon and can present a potential hazard for astronauts. In previous missions, the dust has eroded spacesuits and sensitive equipment. 

Aguiar’s research would flip this hazard into an asset. Using a lunar dust simulant provided by NASA, he is working with a material that has approximately five times the hardness of mild steel. Now, the College of Engineering and Computing student is focusing on how to make his 3D-printed objects withstand all the perils of the moon, including radiation, asteroids and temperature swings.

Aguiar works under the guidance of engineering experts at FIU’s Plasma Forming Laboratory. One of those experts is Ambreen Nisar, a research assistant professor who researches ceramic materials used for space exploration and hypersonic vehicles.

“On Earth, temperatures are very different depending on where you go. The weather in Miami is super hot, but somewhere in the northwest, it’s still freezing. The same happens when you are on the moon,” Nisar said. “Any material that is used needs to withstand extreme thermal shock.”

Aguiar joins other researchers around the country who are focused on making structures out of lunar dust. In particular, Aguiar is focused on finding a way to manufacture the structures to withstand the harshest elements of space. The key is getting the parameters of the 3D printing and treatment process right. He mixes the dust with a resin, which is like a glue, to bind the small rocks together. Then, he 3D prints the material and puts it through a furnace to acquire the desired shape and to burn away the resin.

It’s like cooking, Aguiar says; the ingredients and parameters must be exactly right. He learned it from Professor Arvind Agarwal, director of the Plasma Forming Laboratory. 

“When I’m teaching my new students, I always use the example of cooking to explain materials engineering,” Agarwal says. “You can make a chicken into either grilled chicken or fried chicken. The taste is completely different, but the starting material is the same. The same goes for lunar dust used in Brandon’s research. By modifying how he ‘cooks’ the dust, he can completely change how his structures perform.”

Aguiar will continue his research on a Presidential Fellowship as a Ph.D. student at FIU this fall. His 3D-printing method and parameters are pending patents and were recently published in a journal. 

Aguiar’s research is a continuation of a senior project done by FIU Ph.D. student Kazue Orikasa, who is now researching how plastics could be used to protect technology in space. 

You can read more about Brandon here.

 

 

This article was originally written by David Drucker ’18 who is an account manager for FIU’s College of Engineering and Computing, where he writes about research and technology. Drucker has been a contributor to FIU News since 2018. In 2021, he led the launch of Panther Personalities, a podcast highlighting members of the FIU community. In his spare time, David enjoys fishing, golfing and putting his Paws Up for the Panthers at university events. The article was posted with Drucker’s permission. 

FAU Engineering selected by NASA for University Nanosatellite Program
Broward-based eVTOL startup Doroni Aerospace launches Series A and FAA releases blueprint for air taxis
Interstellar engineering; Student uses NASA-supplied simulated lunar soil to 3D print out-of-this-world housing