The University of Nebraska–Lincoln sent its fourth team in three years to NASA’s prestigious Microgravity University for April missions at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The UNL team, nicknamed "Red Moon," included eight Nebraska Engineering students:
The team’s faculty co-advisers were Carl Nelson, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Zhaoyan Zhang, associate professor of mechanical engineering.
According to NASA, Team Red Moon studied cryocooler validation fortheVariableSpecificImpulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) VF- 200 for missions with the International Space Station starting in 2012-13.
Cryocooling is required to keep the High-Temperature Superconducting (HTS) magnet assemblies at or below 40 degrees Kelvin, or 40 degrees above absolute zero, for the VF-200’s plasma exhaust technologies at Low Earth Orbit. UNL students tested the cryocooling in super-gravity (1.8g) and microgravity (<0.1g) conditions.
Microgravity University missions fly on NASA’s specially-equipped aircraft with parabolic maneuvers on 1.5-hour flights over the Gulf of Mexico to simulate varying conditions of gravity.