March 12, 2012
Metropolitan State University of Denver
Aerospace students will soar with NASA software
By Cliff Foster
Two seemingly unrelated events combined to give the Department of Aviation and Aerospace Science the opportunity to use NASA-developed software that will give students a powerful simulation tool for space flight analysis.
At the center of both events is affiliate professor José Lopez, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel who worked in the aerospace industry for 35 years.
Lopez was helping a student who was analyzing orbits to determine the probability of space junk re-entering the atmosphere and hitting an airplane.
At about the same time, Lopez attended the Colorado Space Roundup, a meeting of contractors and government officials where there was talk about building suborbital, rocket-powered vehicles that take off and land like airplanes.
Reflecting on the student’s project and the space meeting discussion, Lopez realized that the department’s cutting-edge simulation tool, Satellite Tool Kit, had some holes relating to suborbital atmospheric re-entry analysis, or getting back to Earth without turning into ash.
But those holes could be filled with NASA’s SAPE—software that analyzes planetary entry, descent and landing, considering a vehicle’s geometry, trajectory, aerodynamics and thermal protection, among other characteristics.
“I started making phone calls and doing inquiries and found out how to get a copy of it,” he said.
Once Lopez himself learns to use the software, he’ll pass the knowledge along to students.
“They’re going to be so far ahead of everybody else,” Lopez says. “They’re using NASA software, the Satellite Tool Kit, which is industrial software, to solve real-time problems.”