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Name, Institution, Department
The VOrtex Ring Transit EXperiment (VORTEX) Get Away Special Project
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Authors: Dr. Luis P. Bernal, University of Michigan, Department of Aerospace Engineering
Sven G. Bilén, University of Michigan, Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences
A group of students at the University of Michigan is developing a small payload to fly on the Shuttle.
Although the project can be daunting at times, these students are united by their common interest in space
exploration and in developing future space-based technologies. Begun by the UM Students for the Exploration
and Development of Space (UMSEDS), the VOrtex Ring Transit EXperiment (VORTEX) will attempt to
answer some basic questions about liquid atomization- the process whereby a liquid is converted to small
droplets. Without the presence of gravity, the physics of this process can be examined as never before. The
data returned will hopefully lead to better methods for atomizing fuel (important in the operation of internal
combustion engines), producing metal powders of desired characteristics (powder metallurgy), and
manufacturing microdroplets for drug delivery.
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Aside from the important physics questions to be answered, the students are learning how to work with
industry, academia, and government. These students, who range from first year to graduate students in fields
ranging from engineering to liberal arts, are gaining valuable hands-on experience with a real-world
engineering project. The project is challenging, and with the challenge comes immense potential to learn. The
students work in teams to design and build the many different subsystems needed to run the self-contained
payload. All power, control, and data handling must be contained within the 5 cu. ft., 200 lbs. Get Away
Special (GAS) experiment carrier which will eventually be placed in the payload bay of the Shuttle. The
students also handle all management, fundraising, and technical aspects under the guidance of a Faculty
Advisor who acts as the payload customer and NASA contact person. This paper will summarize the
technical, educational, and programmatic aspects of the VORTEX project.
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