Operation VAMFA and National Engineers Week

Alex-2016 Alex, Uncategorized 0 Comments

Welcome to the thick of E-Week 2015! I love National Engineers Week because the week is a celebration of engineering. This week, I’ve eaten at the E-Week barbecue and laughed at the E-Week talent show. And tomorrow night, I cannot wait for the Viterbi Ball!

To me, E-Week is more than just fun, interesting activities. E-Week reminds me why I love engineering and my fellow Trojan engineers. So, in honor of E-Week, I present to you my coolest engineering project yet: Operation VAMFA.

Set yourself in the year 2045. Us Earthlings have the technology to send human settlements across the solar system and have already set up camp on Mars. The next stop on human expansion? Venus. Your mission is to scout out Venus to understand if and where Venus is habitable for human life. Like Captain Kirk, you are tasked with exploring bold new worlds in a state-of-the-art spacecraft and dive deep in the Venusian atmosphere, searching for answers. Your spacecraft is equipped with probes to measure magnetic field and atmospheric conditions. As you cruise through Venus’ atmosphere, you begin to gather atmospheric data and relay it back to Earth.

Now, at a certain point, you should find a layer of Venus’ atmosphere whose composition closely matches that of Earth. Bingo, you have hit the jackpot! In reality, scientists have predicted this very phenomenon and believe that humans could live on blimps in this atmospheric layer.

Enter Operation VAMFA, my term project for ASTE 330: Astronautics and Space Environments II. With my friends Michael and Hannah, I designed operation VAMFA (Venus Atmospheric and Magnetic Field Analysis) to study the atmosphere and magnetic field of Venus to determine if and where Venus is habitable. Five payloads would be used to collect data on Venus’ surface, lower, and upper atmospheres: a magnetometer, a camera, a High resolution IR Fourier spectrometer, an UV-visible-near IR imaging spectrometer, and an UV and IR spectrometer for solar/stellar occultations and nadir observations. Then, the collected telemetry would be sent back to Earth via a high gain antenna using X-band frequencies. The probe navigated Venus’ atmosphere using its bipropellant liquid engine of MMH and N2O4.

Operation VAMFA is not just theoretical; my team sized all of its subsystems properly to create a complete mission. The sizing of the spacecraft’s solar arrays and propellant mass requirements were not just arbitrary numbers; the mass and power budgets were driven by the payload and structural requirements of our spacecraft. VAMFA’s flight trajectory from geostationary Earth orbit to Venusian orbit was meticulously calculated to save as much propellant as possible. Furthermore, our design accounted for solar array and structural degradation for Venus’ atmosphere and even the magnetic interference between the spacecraft’s magnetometer and computer systems! If prototyped and built, VAMFA should be fully functional.

Interestingly enough, ASTE 330 was taught by Dr. Anita Sengupta, a Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) engineer who worked on the Mars Curiosity Rover mission. Through this term project, I believe Dr. Sengupta was preparing our class for industry work. In multiple respects, Operation VAMFA parallels a JPL or NASA project proposal. Our team had to propose a problem and create a detailed solution given current technological limits. Maybe Dr. Sengupta could propose Operation VAMFA to JPL for us!

Well, I hope Operation VAMFA inspires you to be the best engineer you can be! Happy E-Week from Southern California!

Click here (VAMFA) to see what VAMFA would theoretically look like!

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