Constellation Education


Visit the Constellation Program education page, your online source for Constellation-related educational materials and information.

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Constellation Outreach

Constellation Outreach

From speaking to school-age kids to exhibiting at your local state fair, NASA wants to share the story of America's new launch vehicles.

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Stars of Constellation

    Meet the Faces Behind the Hardware of NASA’s Constellation Program

    NASA’s Constellation Program isn’t just about building the next generation spacecraft, but launching explorers that will help us learn more about our world. Discover the faces behind the hardware that will send humans to the moon and beyond.

Constellation University Institutes Project - Purdue University

    In the Footsteps of Giants

    Yen Yu

    Title: Our Place in Space: Propulsion at Purdue
    Origins: Constellation University Institutes Project - Purdue University

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    NASA’s Constellation Program is tapping into some pioneering resources to test technology for their new rocket systems: college students. An aspiring group of students from Purdue University aims to follow in the footsteps of fellow alumni and astronauts Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan. All it takes is a little rocket science.

    The students are participants in the Constellation University Institutes Project (CUIP). CUIP is a consortium of 24 universities working with NASA to develop innovative ideas on how to test Constellation’s new rockets, the Ares I and Ares V. Ares I will launch the Orion crew exploration vehicle to the International Space Station and on to the moon, while Ares V provides heavy lift capabilities for large payloads. CUIP is cultivating the next generation of engineers that could take NASA on this journey, and these students are rising up to the challenge.

    “In addition to performing research that addresses critical Constellation needs, another of CUIP’s objectives is to expand the nation’s talent base in aerospace disciplines,” said Dr. Jeff Rybak, deputy manager of CUIP. “When you listen to these students talk about their work, it is immediately apparent that we are meeting that objective,” Rybak said.

    One of these students, doctoral candidate and aspiring rocket scientist Yen Yu is part of a CUIP team performing thrust chamber assembly research. Her team’s goal is to investigate instabilities that occur in rocket combustion chambers as a part of a technical task called the Combustion Stability Experiment. Yu’s job is to develop an improved, cost-efficient analytical model for combustion stability.

    “When a rocket engine experiences high frequency combustion and instability it will make a high pitched screeching noise,” Yu said. “If you don’t do anything about it, the engine might blow up and cause a space mission to fail. My job is to understand what causes instability and find ways to avoid it.”

    There is still work to be done, but she has already made some major accomplishments. In addition to an analytical model, Yu has developed a validating experiment to provide benchmark data for combustion stability modelers. While this project provides much needed data for Constellation, Yu sees the opportunity for collaboration as an added bonus.

    “I am fortunate to be involved in a CUIP project that allows experimentalists and modelers to work hand in hand,” Yu said. “The cooperation gives the two disciplines each other’s perspectives and allows for a deeper understanding of problems that arise.”

    Someone who also sees the benefits of this partnership is Yu’s teammate, doctoral candidate Randy Smith. Smith performs computer simulations that are modeled after the experiments that Yu develops.

    “This collaboration is very valuable for my work because the experiment results provide guidance and validation for my computations,” Smith said.

    While Smith appreciates the program’s direct benefits, he also sees the bigger picture.

    “It is nice to work on research that will lead to advances in future space exploration,” Smith said. These advances are just what CUIP strives to accomplish.

    With NASA’s goals of returning to the moon and going beyond in the near future, the CUIP students at Purdue have a direct line to the engineers at NASA who develop the new technologies that will get us there. Their progress shows that following in the footsteps of Cernan and Armstrong is just within their grasp.

    For more information on CUIP and university teams, please visit:

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