Aerospace Conference Coming To Tech

SOCORRO, N.M. October 29, 2012 – The top minds in commercial space research programs will meet in Socorro for the second annual meeting of the Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation under the Federal Aviation Administration.

University researchers, private companies and federal officials will hold a conference on campus, including a poster session, invited talks, and tours. New Mexico Tech was invited to join the Centers of Excellence in 2010 due to Tech’s facilities, research opportunities and curriculum in aerospace, astrophysics and mechanical engineering.

“This gives us a chance to show our colleagues and the FAA what capabilities exist in Socorro that can support commercial space,” Vice President of Research Dr. Van Romero said. “The future of commercial space is very bright and this is a great opportunity for students to get in on the ground floor of this expanding economic boom to New Mexico.”

Since 1990, the FAA has created nine different Centers of Excellence, with Commercial Space Travel being the latest, newest focus. Ken Davidian, the Director of Research for the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation, said these annual conferences are important for researchers to network, share ideas.

“For us as a new entity, it is useful to get together and get to know each other,” Davidian said. “We’ve come a long way since late 2010 and, in large part, that’s due to being able to get together and discuss how things are going.”

Davidian said the main purpose of the Center of Excellence is to promote world-class research, meet the needs of the commercial space industry and help satisfy the FAA’s regulatory and safety goals.

“However, the underlying theme is to develop tomorrow’s space industry leaders and researchers,” he said. “Student involvement is the whole point – to encourage more students to go into science, technology, engineering and math curricula.”

Tuesday is considered “Day 0” of the conference, with a tour of Spaceport America and a student poster session in the evening.

After the Wednesday morning overview session, the research workshops deal with topics of space traffic management, transportation operations and payloads, human spaceflight research, and industry viability.

New Mexico and its universities have carved out a niche within the commercial space industry, Davidian said.

“California, Colorado, Texas and Florida are the top civil space states in the country – as far as jobs and infrastructure,” he said. “New Mexico is unique for suborbital commercial space flight and there’s a lot of work that NM universities are doing for the military programs.”

New Mexico Tech specifically has much to offer the commercial space industry, as well, he said. He said Tech can contribute significantly in areas of energetic materials testing at EMRTC, lightning safety research at Langmuir Lab, object tracking at the Magdalena Ridge Observatory and lab work on designing new sensor technology.

“We have unique research capabilities in engineering, astrophysics and astronomy, and test capabilities at EMRTC,” said Dr. Warren Ostergren, chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department at Tech. “We are uniquely positioned to support research in this area.”

Ostergren said the annual conference provides an opportunity for the university researchers to share their work with colleagues and engage students.

Davidian said, “The interaction between the people generates innovation and great ideas. That helps disseminate the innovations from one university to another. It may sound cliché – but it’s all about the people.”

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech