Carthage fuel gauging tech launched into space

Carthage College students Jackson Wehr and Sheila Franklin conduct Modal Propellant Gauging experiments on a parabolic flight with Carthage College physics professor Kevin Crosby in 2016. Courtesy of Carthage College.

Technology developed at Carthage College in collaboration with NASA was launched into space Wednesday aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard Rocket.

Carthage’s Modal Propellant Gauging technology uses acoustic vibrations to gauge levels in spacecraft fuel tanks. The new technology has been in development at Carthage since 2011, according to a press release.

“We are developing a new and powerful approach to solve a problem that has been around since the Apollo era,” said Kevin Crosby, Carthage College physics professor. “It’s a hard problem because liquids in space behave in strange ways that we’re just beginning to understand.”

Carthage’s MPG technology is on track to be included in NASA’s Artemis program, which promises to put the first woman and the next man on the moon within the next 10 years.

“The Artemis program calls for propellants that have never been used in deep space missions,” Crosby said. “Getting accurate measurements will be critical to both a mission’s safety and success.”

A mere 1% improvement in the ability to measure propellant translates into hundreds of pounds of additional materials that can be brought to the moon, Crosby added.

Blue Origin mission carried research payloads from NASA, University of Florida and a handful of other universities and private companies, according to a press release. Crosby and several students were in Van Horn, Texas for the launch.

Blue Origin is a privately-funded aerospace manufacturer and suborbital spaceflight services company owned by Jeff Bezos. The company is headquartered in Kent, Washington.

Carthage College’s partnership with NASA began in 2008, when Carthage was one of ten colleges and universities selected for NASA’s Systems Engineering and Educational Discovery program.

Carthage went on to become one of two colleges in the country to participate in the SEED program for all six years of the program’s existence, according to a press release. Though many student teams designed one-off experiments, each experiment produced at Carthage has been adopted by NASA researchers for continued development.

“Dr. Kevin Crosby and his students’ contributions have greatly benefited NASA and our plans to return humans to deep space,” said Rudy Werlink, the NASA research engineer who first developed the idea behind the MPG project. “This has been a collaboration for over nine years, and I am looking forward to additional space flight demonstrations of the technology in the years to come.”

A replay of Blue Origin’s New Shepard Rocket launch can be found here.

 

 

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Brandon Anderegg
Brandon covers startups, technology, banking and finance. He previously worked as a general assignment and court reporter for The Freeman in Waukesha. Brandon graduated from UW-Milwaukee’s journalism, advertising and media studies program with an emphasis in journalism. He enjoys live music, playing guitar and loves to hacky sack.