With the Space Coast in our backyard, researchers at the University of Central Florida are hard at work developing the next generation of space technology.
One of those projects focuses on hypersonic propulsion. Kareem Ahmed is a Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Associate Professor. His team is working on propelling rockets at speeds even faster than sound.
“This is Mach 5 inside. Outside, the vehicle will be flying at Mach 6 to Mach 17,” Ahmed said.
They are working to get people to outer space much faster and reduce emissions along the way with one-of-a-kind technology.
“It’s a supernova-like explosion that you’re harvesting the energy that are coming out of it to propel you forward,” he said.
So what does that mean for folks on Earth? Ahmed said one day you may be able to travel from New York to London in just five minutes.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Defense is investing $1.5 million into the project.
“So yeah, it’s super exciting,” he said.
While Ahmed is spearheading new launch technology, across campus Dhaka Sapkota’s team is focusing on how rockets land. They are hoping to prevent issues with lunar landings, where blasts of sand could disrupt other instruments already in space.
Sapkota created a prototype that demonstrates how machines could be used to melt down soil on the moon to create a landing pad. The machines would include a two-pass process that sifts through lunar soil and separates the material in such a way that allows them to be melted down into a landing pad.
“Our work is to use the materials from the moon so that we can save so much money and energy,” Sapkota said. “Our whole goal is to make sustainable lunar explorations. So once the landing pad is built, it will be reusable many times.”
Sapkota has also researched how to use minerals on the moon to create fuel. His experiment focused on concentrating ice from the moon’s craters to create fuel for rockets.
“So that we do not have to carry the fuel from here for the return trip,” he said.
The experiments are still in the works. Ahmed’s team hopes to have an engine ready for demonstration in three years.