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Press Release 97-25

Lori J. Rachul
NASA Lewis Research Center
(Bus: 216/433-8806)

NASA ESTABLISHES NEW NATIONAL MICROGRAVITY CENTER

CLEVELAND, OH-- Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), Cleveland, OH, and the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) will partner with NASA's Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, OH, to advance microgravity research in fluid physics and combustion science through a new National Center for Microgravity Research on Fluids and Combustion, according to NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin. Administrator Goldin was at CWRU to sign a cooperative agreement among the three parties.

The new center, located at CWRU's Case School of Engineering, is the first national center dedicated to microgravity research. This research is critical for carrying the space program into the next century and achieving the promised scientific and economic payoffs from the International Space Station.

NASA will provide $17.8 million in funding over the next five years to support the center. The university-based science community will own and operate the center through USRA, a consortium of 80 colleges and universities which includes CWRU.

The center's principal responsibilities can be grouped into five areas -- fundamental research and technology development, science program outreach and development, scientific support to principal investigators, technology transfer to industry, and public education initiatives.

"The National Center for Microgravity Research on Fluids and Combustion represents a commitment to our goal to strengthen the partnership between NASA and our nation's research community in universities and industry so that together we can increase the scientific and economic payoffs from NASA's Microgravity Science Program," Goldin said.

The center will enhance the value of the nation's investment in microgravity fluid and combustion research. This research is essential for developing the knowledge base to generate technology for long-term space missions and human space exploration. It is also expected to lead to applications of new technologies that can be used on Earth to advance such things as more efficient power generation, pollution abatement, improved manufacturing processes, and biomedical innovations.

Simon Ostrach, the Wilbert J. Austin Distinguished Professor of Engineering at CWRU, and the recently named Director of the National Center, said "the center will be a catalyst for creating a knowledge base to advance our basic understanding of many of nature’s processes. It also will provide a better way to get that knowledge into the hands of those who can really apply it in order to benefit us all."

"Most industrial systems are empirically derived and a chasm exists between existing industrial systems and what the laws of nature dictate," he noted. "While we keep talking about the rubric of design, manufacturing, and marketing, we don’t have the basic knowledge needed to design better products and processes to operate in microgravity or on Earth."

In its effort to enhance the value of microgravity research, the center will: identify and nurture new research areas; transfer information, data, and technology to industry; provide technology for NASA's Enterprise for the Human Exploration and Development of Space program; and spur interest among tomorrow's young scientists through programs designed for students in kindergarten through grade 12.

The center also will develop a pool of highly-skilled microgravity investigators who can exploit the unique capabilities of the International Space Station to conduct world-class research that is impossible to study in ground-based laboratories.

Ostrach will direct a team of over 30 people consisting of senior staff scientists who will be members of the CWRU faculty, visiting professors, staff scientists located at Lewis, CWRU graduate students, and an administrative staff. They also will extend outreach efforts to the community to generate new research ideas and proposals.

Through their participation in the center, the researchers will have access to unique equipment and facilities, such as the drop towers at Lewis which test the effects of short-term microgravity on experiments. They also will establish an interactive network with other universities and industry to encourage their use of Lewis's capabilities and facilities.

Center researchers will provide scientific and engineering support to principal investigators conducting microgravity research. They also will contribute on-site scientific support to principal investigators and flight hardware developers during the design, development, and operation of flight experiments, and later during analysis and dissemination of their flight research results.

The Cooperative Agreement establishes a formal, long-term partnership between CWRU, USRA, and NASA which builds on the unique experience, expertise, and capabilities of each partner to achieve success, a success which is critical to seizing the vast opportunities and benefits made possible by microgravity research.

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97-25

 

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