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Jill Davis, a PhD student in Aerospace Engineering, has received a prestigious 2019 Amelia Earhart Fellowship from Zonta International Foundation. Jill, who is advised by Dr. Hank Pernicka, is one of the 30 recipients of this award from all over the world in 2019, which is given to women of any nationality pursuing a Ph.D./doctoral degree who demonstrate a superior academic record in the field of aerospace-related sciences or aerospace-related engineering.
Ms. Davis’s PhD research focuses on the development of novel small satellite navigation techniques to enable deep space and cislunar (near the Moon) formation and swarm missions. As humanity again pursues the exploration of space beyond low Earth orbit, there is a need for advanced manned mission support systems. Small satellites have shown great promise in accelerating the development of space systems while decreasing the overall associated costs, and as technologies mature, SmallSat mission portfolios can expand to operate with increased functionality beyond Earth orbit. Groups of rapidly developed spacecraft with lowered launch costs operating in a swarm can reduce the need for the typical monolithic spacecraft that take years to develop and launch.
Currently, Ms. Davis’ research seeks to develop vision-based sensor suites that enable relative position and orientation estimation between cooperative members of a spacecraft swarm. This work will explore the use of advanced cooperation mechanisms, such as LEDs or QR codes attached to the spacecraft that enhance the accuracy of the sensor suites. The project will also incorporate learning algorithms to facilitate spacecraft identification and tracking, as well as investigate a variety of swarm/sensor configurations and architectures that will be analyzed using a design optimization approach.
After analyzing candidate designs, prototypes will be tested in Missouri S&T’s Space Systems Engineering lab. Further tests of the system will likely include campus high-altitude balloon flights to assess system performance in a dynamic near-space environment. The solution set provided by this research will help expand the ever increasing SmallSat mission capabilities and potentially help propel humans to the Moon, Mars, and beyond!
More information on the Amelia Earhart fellowship can be found on the fellowship website https://foundation.zonta.org/Our-Programs/Educational-Programs/Amelia-Earhart-Fellowship. According to this website, the Amelia Earhart Fellowship was established in 1938 in honor of famed pilot and Zontian, Amelia Earhart. The US $10,000 Fellowship is awarded annually to 30 women pursuing Ph.D./doctoral degrees in aerospace-related sciences or aerospace-related engineering. Previous recipients of this award include fellows, who have gone on to become astronauts, aerospace engineers, astronomers, professors, geologists, business owners, heads of companies, even Secretary of the US Air Force in their careers.