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MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department
enews Vol 2, #1
October 2005

In this issue:

  1. NASA grants Mars Gravity Team $200K
  2. AA Team creates MIT Arctic Campus
  3. AA ranks 7th of 34 in OCW use
  4. AA faculty play major role in new grad program
  5. Awards
  6. 16.62X honors tallied
  7. Aero-Astro/U. Pretoria partnership formed
  8. MIT Flying Club revived
  9. Comings and goings
  10. Check room availability with Tech Time
  11. Department report copies available


The Mars Gravity Biosatellite team is delighted to announce its receipt of a $200,000 NASA advanced projects development grant. The grant will support development of a full payload engineering model, as well as a number of broad tasks in systems analysis and integration. The Mars Gravity team thanks its members, Erika Wagner, Paul Wooster, John Keesee, Jason Hoogland, Audrey Schaffer, Rachel Lee, and Marcus Holzinger; as well as research partners, PSI and CSR, for their extraordinary efforts in securing these funds for the team. Speaking of the team, its members invite all to visit its new Web site Intern Daniel Blustein updated the site with new information current projects, team members, management - even a section for children.


At 75 degrees north latitude, Devon Island lies high in the Arctic Circle; a true desert island, and the largest uninhabited island on Earth. As of this past summer, an MIT flag proudly snaps in the artic winds over what will hopefully become a long-term Institute presence: a semi-permanent shelter at the Haughton-Mars Base, established by an Aero-Astro research team. As part of a NASA-funded Interplanetary Supply Chain Management project, the Aero-Astro team journeyed to the remote outpost to investigate similarities between logistics strategies to remote terrestrial sites and those needed for future Moon and Mars exploration. The MIT team included Professor Olivier de Weck (Principal Investigator), MIT Professor and former NASA astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman, and seven students. Its principal goal was to detail both the macro and micro logistics of the Haughton Base in order to inform a multi-scale network model of space exploration logistics. Research Scientist Matt Silver has written an article on the project that should appear soon in Tech Talk. To learn more, visit


Some summertime data offers an interesting look at traffic in OpenCourseWare's Aero-Astro neighborhood. By the end of July, there were 41 Aero-Astro courses published on the site. With 50,551 visits, AA ranked seventh in traffic volume out of 34 departments. OCW estimates that each visit results in approximately nine page views. Based on that, they estimate Aero-Astro has received nearly a quarter-million views in seven months. Perhaps not surprisingly, 16.00, being billed as an introduction to our field, received the most visits within the department. We are told that while, as expected, most visits are via ISPs that cater to private and small-business accounts (e.g. AOL, Comcast), Boeing, Raytheon, Navy, Air Force, and Army ISPs were among the top 100 ISPs used by site visitors. Thanks to OCW Communications Director Jon Paul Potts for providing the stats.


Recognizing the critical role that intensive computation now plays across all engineering and science disciplines, the School of Engineering has launched an interdisciplinary Master of Science degree program: Computation for Design and Optimization. The CDO curriculum addresses the need to train future engineers and scientists in the formulation, analysis, and critical application of computational approaches to designing and optimizing engineering systems. The core subjects cover numerical solution of partial differential equations, optimization methods, and numerical linear algebra. The program's first 17 students are enrolled this semester.

While the CDO faculty is drawn from several engineering and science departments, Aero-Astro is particularly well represented. AA's five CDO-affiliated faculty members include David Darmofal, Karen Willcox, and Jaime Peraire from the Aerospace Computation Design Lab, as well as Raul Radovitzky and Olivier de Weck. Jaime Peraire, along with Robert Freund (Sloan) is a CDO co-director. For more information about the program, visit


Congratulations(!) to the following recent award recipients:

Dr. George T. Schmidt, Director of Education at Draper Laboratory and an Aero-Astro Lecturer, has been awarded the 2005 NATO Research and Technology Organization von Karman Medal. The medal is symbolic of the gold medal presented to Prof. Theodore von Karman in 1962 on his retirement from NATO. It's awarded for "outstanding contributions to defense science and technology, and to the enhancement of progress in scientific and technological cooperation carried out in conjunction with NATO activities." Dr. Schmidt is teaching 16.322 this semester.

Professor Moe Win is the co-recipient (with Professor Robert A. Scholtz of USC) of the 2006 IEEE Eric. E. Sumner Award. The IEEE Eric E. Sumner Award is presented annually for outstanding contributions to communications technology. The citation for Prof. Win's award reads: "For pioneering contributions to ultra-wide band communications science and technology."

Aero-Astro Professor of the Practice and manager of Boeing's Blended Wing Program Robert Liebeck has been selected by AIAA to receive its 2005 Aircraft Design Award. The award is presented "to a design engineer or team for the conception, definition, or development of an original concept leading to a significant advancement in aircraft design or design technology." AIAA is recognizing Dr. Liebeck for lifetime achievement in aerodynamics, advanced aircraft development and conceptual design, specifically the innovative wing designs for the Boeing Condor, Aerovironment Helios, and the blended wing-body approach airliner.

Professor Richard Battin was recognized on the occasion of his 80th birthday this year when the Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics published a special issue in his honor. All papers presented in the issue (Vol 28, No.2) relate to guidance, navigation, or control representing areas of Professor's Battin's 60 years of pioneer research and teaching. Many of the papers specifically reference Battin's contributions. In the introduction to the issue, editor-in-chief George Schmidt writes of Battin's "dedication to excellence" and "the respect he has received from his colleagues (and the) gratitude of his students."

Ph.D. student Nicholas DuLac has been named a recipient of the AIAA Foundation's Orville and Wilbur Wright Graduate Award. DuLac has been working with Aero-Astro Prof. Nancy Leveson in an ESD group initially formed to study safety culture issues related to the Space Shuttle Columbia accident The award is bestowed annually to graduate-level students participating in research endeavors as part of their graduate studies.


16.62x projects have been the primary source of high quality presentations by MIT students at the AIAA Northeast Student Regional Conferences (held every April), and Senior Lecturer Col. Pete Young has summarized how Aero-Astro students' 16.62x projects fared over the last few years.

Spring 2005: 1st place undergraduate, Taymour El Chammah and Jean-Marc Freuler - "Local Aerodynamic Load Sensing for Active Flap Control."

Spring 2003: 1st place undergraduate: Tim Pigeon and Ryan Owen - "Analysis of Near-Vacuum Hall Thrusters."

Spring 2002: 1st place undergraduate: Ben Ingram and Emily Crapparo - "Design and Testing of a Micro-Sized Ornithopter Wing," 3rd place undergraduate: Todd Oliver and Dave Bennett -"Testing of a Wing Grid, A New Approach to Reduce Induced Drag."

Spring 2000: 1st place undergraduate: Erin Noonan and Brian McElwain, "Design and Evaluation of a Micro Launch Vehicle Propellant Tank," 2nd place undergraduate: Chris Gouldstone and Ryan Peoples, "In Situ Testing for Low Temperature Mechanical Properties of Composite Materials."

1st place Regional winners are invited to present their papers at the AIAA Aerospace Sciences conference. "This is an outstanding record of performance," says Young.


An MIT Aero-Astro team led by Dept. Head Wes Harris, visited the University of Pretoria Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Dept. this month to flesh out details of a cooperative agreement to work on joint projects involving research, public service, and educational initiatives. The public service aspect of the program may initially take the form of a student/industry project to develop and use UAVs to monitor wildlife and environmental conditions in African game parks. Educational initiatives, which will see some crossover with public service, will be accomplished through the two schools' participation in the international CDIO Initiative. Research opportunities are in discussion; some potential areas include work in noise, vibration, heat transfer, and materials. While in Pretoria, the MIT representatives visited a number of S. African aerospace companies, several of which indicated strong interest in supporting the partnership. Prof. Harris also addressed an assembly of all department students. Team members on the visit included Col. Pete Young and graduate student Danielle Adams, who will work on the public service projects; and Aero-Astro and CDIO Communications Director Bill Litant, who is coordinating the educational initiatives and the overall partnership. U. Pretoria is the CDIO Regional Center for South Africa.


An Aero-Astro student group is reviving the MIT Flying Club - a venerable MIT organization that traces its roots to the early days of the 20th century. The club "seeks to motivate, encourage, and facilitate affordable, hands-on experience in full-scale flying for the academic community." Graduate students Chris Sequeira and Amy Brzezinski have been selected as the new president and treasurer, respectively. They, and other students, are writing a white paper and applying for recognition by the MIT Association of Student Activities. For more information, email the club at


Department Personnel Manager Anne Maynard provides a list of comings and goings. New postdocs include Alvar Saenz-Otero (Prof. Miller, supervisor), Enlie Wang (Prof. Cummings, supervisor), Cuong Nguyen (Prof. Peraire, supervisor), and Karen Marais (Prof. Weigel supervisor). New academic staff include visiting professors Aaron Cohen and Nicholas Cumpsty, Lecturer Gustaf Naeser, and McNair Visiting Professor Geoff Landis. New research staff include Jinho Jang and Matt Silver. Beth Martin Marois is the new support staffer in the Student Services Office. Research affiliate additions include Antonio Miravete (with Prof. Lagace) and Jeffre Pasqual (with Prof. de Weck). Folks who have moved on since summer include J.P. Clarke, Eric Feron, Patrick Cousot, Geilson Loueiro, Natalia Sizov, and Yannis Anagnostikas.


If you're still calling Student Services to determine meeting and classroom availability, you're among a dwindling number of faculty, staff, and students – according to office staff, most in the department are checking the new Tech Time online room schedules prior to making a reservation. As part of the department effort to increase and improve Aero-Astro online information resources, room scheduling diaries with their pencilled-in reservations were retired this summer, and the scheduling moved to Tech Time, MIT's customized version of Oracle Calendar. This enables any member of the Aero-Astro community to check on Building 33 room availability from any computer with network/internet access. Rooms scheduled in this manner include 33-116, 202, 206, 218, 308, 319, 418, 419, and 422. Once it is determined that a room is available, reservations may be made by calling Beth Martin Marois ext. 30043, or emailing If you need help/instruction in using Tech Time for this purpose, contact Beth or Phyllis Collymore


Copies of the department's annual publication "Aero-Astro" are available to anyone who would like to inform colleagues, business associates, and others about the great work we are doing in Aero-Astro. The review, which features a cover photo of SPHERES project research aboard NASA's zero-g aircraft, includes articles about faculty research, department educational initiatives, people profiles, and reports from the labs. Copies have been sent to faculty, students, parents, and alumni, as well as numerous aerospace industry and government leaders. A number of Aero-Astro faculty have obtained extra copies to leave behind when visiting industry and other schools. If you would like one or more copies, please email


Please share your news with the rest of the Aero-Astro community by contributing to the e-news. Awards, events, new research - it's all of interest. Send your suggestions to

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