Researchers at the College of Engineering are helping the National Aeronautics and Space Administration determine if certain key rocket components—bellows expansion joints, which have been used on rockets for decades to help control the direction of thrust—can withstand the rigors of the next generation of space flight. NASA wants to make sure that vibrations in the joints won’t pose a risk for its new Space Launch System (SLS).
Expected to be the world’s most powerful rocket, the SLS will launch astronauts into a new era of deep space exploration, including missions to an asteroid and eventually to Mars, according to the space agency. Four RS-25 engines, previously renowned as the Space Shuttle main engines, will be used each time to muscle the SLS into space.
Ben Davis, an assistant professor in the college and a former NASA researcher, specializes in structural and flow-induced vibration. He and Stephen Higgins, a graduate research assistant, are using a grant from NASA to assess the structural integrity of the bellows expansion joints that are part of the RS-25’s design.
Stephen Higgins will help NASA determine if expansion joints, the corrugated fittings near his hand, can withstand the rigors of the next generation of space flight.