SOCORRO, NM (KRQE) – Students from New Mexico Tech are working on a project for NASA and the International Space Station that will hopefully make space travel safer and cheaper.
“This payload has been about developing a structural health monitoring package for the International Space Station that will hopefully improve the safety and reliability of space structures in the future,” said John Sanchez, a graduate student at NMT working on the project.
Professor Andrei Zagrai has been overseeing the project for the last two years. He said the payload will essentially be the eyes and ears of the Cygnus NG12 SpaceCraft being sent to the International Space Station early next month and will detect any issues that might arise.
“There is something going on in there, some condition, and like cracks and loose bolts because we’re trying to prevent a catastrophic event, and also, we are trying to reduce the cost of maintenance,” said Zagrai.
Zagrai said over the years there have been several catastrophic incidents and missions that had to be aborted. They hope this will provide more warning so that missions will be able to be corrected before they become catastrophic.
“Astronauts had to escape, there was an escape capsule that has to go on because something went into the rocket, so we’re trying to add technology to make it safer,” said Zagrai.
Zagrai and his students have been working on this for two years, and now that hard work is paying off.
“It’s definitely been interesting working with so many different people. It’s been a very big challenge at times, but it’s definitely been rewarding,” Sanchez.
NASA gave the team a $75,000 grant to fund their project. The launch is scheduled for November 2 at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.