Tulane NASA Challenge

By: Tulane University

The challenge was to create a spacecraft tug and the spacecraft needed to be big enough that I could move large cargo and in order to be that big it needed to be launched in multiple rockets. So because of that we needed to assemble it in space. Together, we designed a spacecraft we call the Sunflower. It has a 272 kilowatt solar electric propulsion system comprised of twelve excitingly symmetric modules. We knew going in that there were many different aspects of this challenge and we really tried to find people that could fill specific roles in the team. So on this team alone you know we have people from engineering physics, biomedical engineering physics, architecture, economics. We're able to see a lot of these different perspectives and we're able to sort of avoid a lot of the pitfalls of our own majors, the place where you might have a blind spot just because we have people with expertise and knowledge in so many different areas. Taking this large surface of solar panels and folding it down to the more manageable size that can be fit inside a rocket payload is really what we were going for. To get energy to the engines, this craft needs an enormous surface area of solar panels to power itself.

To get it in this small rocket payload, it needs to be folded several times and any different number of configurations. We presented to a panel of NASA engineers and they were very nerve-racking because you know these are some of the most brightest minds in the nation, even the world. A lot of other teams had really complex designs, with detailed components and complicated engineering techniques and we just really went through a simple design process to find a simple solution to the problem. We knew that we are either going to be first by far or in dead last and when they did say Tulane University and they said called our names I remember looking around for a split second and just seeing all of our jaws dropped. Oh gosh, I can't, that's... it's just absolutely incredible, you can't even really describe.

It's just one accomplishment that I, I'm going to really treasure for the rest of my life. We hope the Sunflower will contribute to the next generation of space flight. Thank you.

Tulane NASA Challenge

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