Mario Santos receives NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship to work on Deployable Re-Entry Technologies

Mario Santos, a PhD student in Aerospace Engineering at Missouri S&T has recently received a prestigious NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship (NSTRF), which is awarded to a select group of graduate students every year in the United States who show significant potential to contribute to NASA’s goal of creating innovative new space technologies for our Nation’s science, exploration and economic future. 

Mario’s research under this fellowship will focus on identification and validation of multi-fidelity modeling methods for computationally efficient but accurate modeling and simulation of the hypersonic flow, aerodynamic heating, and thermal response of deployable re-entry technologies. These tools will then be used in the analysis, design, and reliability assessment of re-entry technologies under uncertain operating environments. The deployable re-entry technologies to be investigated by Mario will include the Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) and Adaptable, Deployable Entry Placement Technology (ADEPT) concepts. These technologies are being developed by NASA to be able to land large payloads on Mars, Venus and any other planet with an atmosphere, which is not possible with the current re-entry capsules with rigid aeroshells. A more detailed description of Mario’s research can be found on the following NASA link: https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/strg/nstrf_2017.

“The eventual goal will be to use the deployable re-entry technologies for sending humans to Mars and this further emphasizes the importance of Mario’s research under this fellowship” says Dr. Serhat Hosder, associate professor of Aerospace Engineering at Missouri S&T, who is the PhD advisor of Mario and will serve as the principal investigator for Mario’s NSTRF project.  Mario started to work with Dr. Hosder during his senior year as an undergraduate student and was supported by a NASA Missouri Space Grant Consortium (MOSGC) internship. He also received a NASA MOSGC graduate fellowship in his first year as a graduate student.

The fellowship award is intended for three years with renewal every year. The award includes stipend, tuition allowance, faculty advisor allowance and on-site NASA Center experience allowance for the student each year. Mario will his spend his summers at the Vehicle Analysis Branch of NASA Langley Research Center during the fellowship to collaborate with Dr. Thomas West, his NASA mentor, and other researchers working on deployable re-entry technologies.  

Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) (left) and Adaptable, Deployable Entry Placement Technology (ADEPT) (right) concepts as deployable re-entry technologies (Pictures courtesy of NASA).