Project Title: Bifurcated Fiber Optic Cable System for Orion Spacecraft Heat Shield Spectrometer

Team 16022 Members:
David Greif, mechanical engineering
Laura Haferkamp, materials science and engineering
Giuseppe Lo Voi, electrical and computer engineering
Kyel Powell, systems engineering
Andrew Rocha, optical sciences and engineering (team lead)

Sponsor: NASA

Unbreakable Fiber Optic to Test Orion Reentry Capabilities

Team 16022 members with the 6-meter fiber optic cable that they'll use for building the UFO system.Team 16022 is working on a UFO for NASA – an Unbreakable Fiber Optic, that is. The custom fiber optic cable assembly is intended for the upcoming NASA Exploration Mission 1 to test Orion spacecraft reentry capabilities.

The UFO system will be attached to Orion’s heat shield to propagate spectral data through a sapphire rod for spectrometer analysis on the ground. The data will provide information about the chemistry of ionized gases and ablated heat shield material.

American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Recognition

Team UFO has already gained renown beyond the UA campus. Team lead Andrew Rocha joined with Laura Haferkamp and Giuseppe Lo Voi for a second place-winning presentation in March at the AIAA Region VI Student Paper Conference at San Jose State University. The paper, which was co-authored by all five team members, earned a $300 prize.

The trio’s visit to San Jose included meeting astronaut Dan Bursch, a veteran of three space shuttle flights and service on the International Space Station, and visits to NASA’s Ames Research Center and the Intel Museum.

This is the first group to be invited to present a paper during the school year, said Doug May, the team’s Engineering Design Program mentor.

Testing and Construction

Laura Haferkamp shows how Team 16022's custom-designed and machined clamps will interface with the Unbreakable Fiber Optic cable.The prototype, which will be on display May 1 during Design Day 2017, consists of a bifurcated, space-rated and verified broadband transmission optical fiber that uses two loose outer jackets. The cable is supported by student-designed aluminum clamps lined with silicone foam. Each of two cable legs terminate in spectrometer ports.

Vibration and shock testing is being performed at Orbital ATK in Chandler, and heat, humidity and pressure testing at the UA’s Arizona Materials Laboratory.

NASA, which is designing and building its own system, expects to have a final version of the alternate designs installed in Orion’s mid-bay area, between the crew cabin and the thermal protection area.