LPL in the News
Mission Possible or Impossible? UA Space Systems Engineer Has the Answer
LPL's Phoenix Mission to Mars scooped up the first evidence of water-ice on the Red Planet, and its HiRISE camera continues to beam stunning images of the Martian landscape back to Earth.
Today, LPL leads the billion-dollar OSIRIS-REx mission, which will launch in 2016 and bring back a pristine asteroid sample in 2023.
While science drives these missions, engineering expertise is essential to their success. Roberto Furfaro, an assistant professor for the UA's systems and industrial engineering department, is among those providing vital in-house support for LPL efforts.
Furfaro's Space Systems Engineering Laboratory -- or SSEL, a collaborative effort between Furfaro, his students, LPL and Raytheon -- helps scientists plan missions, design spacecraft and run simulations.
The simulations can create multiple "what-if" mission scenarios, as well as operation readiness tests in which scientists conduct dry runs of daily operations to head off problems before the real mission starts.
SSEL is a UA systems and industrial engineering department lab, housed at LPL's OSIRIS-REx Science and Processing Operations Center.
Developing an optimized mission plan and designing spacecraft starts with the science goals, Furfaro explained. Then it's a matter of finding an efficient trajectory that uses the least propellant to reach the target planet or asteroid.
"You have propulsion systems, attitude and control subsystems, structural considerations, power systems and communications needs," Furfaro said. "This all translates into a delta-V budget, which determines how much propellant you need, which determines how big the fuel tanks need to be and whether that results in a viable spacecraft."