UTA researcher developing parameters to help create defensible space transportation plan
Fears that the United States is falling behind in key areas of space exploration and defense have spurred government agencies to address the needs of the nation's civilian and military space programs.
Bernd Chudoba, University of Texas at Arlington aerospace engineering professor, has received a $250,000 grant from the Air Force Research Laboratory headquarters to develop parameters for a forecasting methodology that will allow strategic planners to identify science and technology gaps related to space transportation issues like hypersonic speed, space launch/return and in-space operation. The grant also would identify and rank emerging technologies that the United States needs to address. Ed Kraft, associate director of research at the University of Tennessee Space Institute, is co-principal investigator on the project.
"We will apply a parametric, multi-disciplinary mentality to the strategic planning environment to build a toolbox that will allow strategists to forecast what architectures on earth and in space should be available to help the U.S. plan toward its 2030 goal of eliminating vulnerabilities and being defensible from space," Chudoba said.
Chudoba and his team will function like a think-tank, applying established aerospace number-crunching tests and vehicle-design practices to strategic forecasting, which will allow them to build a generic system that combines government space programs like NASA and private space companies with military space programs. The resulting toolbox will allow planners to look broadly at issues of defensible space, space travel and colonization that could affect the United States down the road. Key to such space infrastructure is cost-effective transportation: how to get into space, move in space and the upper atmosphere, and return. This could include the possibility of launching spacecraft from the moon or an asteroid for future manned and unmanned space exploration.
"By enriching the planners' forecasting toolbox, we will effect things like space travel, private space launches and other activities," Chudoba said. "To run transportation planning scenarios well, they must be able to correctly identify not just vehicles, but associated costs, political issues and environmental variables as well. We want decision-makers to be able to use the multi-disciplinary tools we develop to make the best possible fact-based decisions for the future of U.S. involvement in space."
Chudoba has worked with NASA, DARPA, AFRL and various private industries on numerous subsonic to hypersonic and reusable space access transportation activities which involved technology and strategic forecasting. He recently taught a professional hypersonic vehicle design short course at Wright Patterson AFB.
Chudoba's work is an example of data-driven discovery, one of four themes of UTA's Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact, said Erian Armanios, chair of the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department.
"For the United States to remain competitive in space exploration and defensible space, we must make it possible for decision-makers at the highest levels to make the most out of time-tested space vehicle design practices and lesson learned," Armanios said. "Dr. Chudoba's innovative talent stems from a meticulous understanding and grasp of the evolution of space transportation within the political, economic and social context. His contributions to this project will be exceptionally invaluable. ."
Chudoba is an expert in space vehicle design. He has previously provided recommendations for technology investments that would enable astronauts to perform on-orbit servicing of satellites. He is also the author of a book that explores the design of long-range space vehicles.