Florida Tech Graduate Student Earns Funding for Global Space Activities

MELBOURNE, FLA.—Michael Vergalla, a master’s degree student in aerospace engineering at Florida Institute of Technology, will attend the International Astronautical Federation’s 61st International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Prague, Czech Republic, Sept. 27-Oct. 1. He is sponsored by the NASA Education Office to report on the current progress of Florida Tech’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering’s fuel slosh research.

Also, representing the NASA Teacher Development Program in a pre-conference event, he will present “Robots Explore,” a professional development workshop for secondary school educators on Sept. 25. Vergalla and a teammate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology will discuss the role of robots in the major accomplishment of building the International Space Station, repairing satellites in space and space exploration.

Vergalla is currently attending the International Space University’s (ISS) Space Studies Program in Strasbourg, France. This trip is funded through an 11,000 euro scholarship from the ISU and additional support from Florida Tech.

At the ISU, Vergalla and his international team won first place in the robot competition. Also while there, he made professional visits to DLR Laboratories in Stuttgart, German, to the company’s rocket engine test facility and to CERN, the world’s largest particle colliding facility. Here he viewed the calibration of the alpha magnetic spectrometer, which is the final planned space shullte payload for STS-134.

The slosh research he will discuss at the IAC is about the fluid dynamics of cryogenic fuel in upper-stage rockets. The work is important to ground, parabolic flight and in-orbit experiments for the International Space Station. The goal is to validate computer simulations with a matrix of experiments in different environments, geometries, fluids and configurations.

Vergalla is in his second year as a member of the NASA Student Ambassadors Virtual Community. The main puprpose of this is to educate and inspire future generations to paraticipate in science, technology, engineering and mathematics activities. He is one of a few welected annually from among NASA interns.


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