For AE students who are itching for hands-on experience in the field, JPL mechanical engineer (and AE Ph.D. ’13) Christopher Tanner has some good news.
“I’ve only been out for about two years, and I’ve already done some exciting work,” Tanner told a group of AE students on Thursday morning.
“And I’ve had to use a lot of stuff I learned here in class, like high-speed aerodynamics. So, thing is: pay attention.”
Tanner and his JPL colleagues will return to campus on October 23 and 24 to interview select AE students for positions at the storied Pasadena, CA laboratory. But only those who uploaded their resumes onto CareerBuzz by October 4 were eligible.
In a brief presentation before Prof. Lakshmi Sankar’s High-speed Aerodynamics Class, Tanner regaled students with accounts of his work on the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator project which deployed a full-scale supersonic test flight in June.
"This was a test-as-you-fly experiment where we tested three advanced decelerator technologies in conditions that are similar to those experienced during a Mars landing," he said.
LDSD supersonic flight test pre-launch at dawn in Kauai, HI. For Christopher Tanner, this is what work looks like. Sometimes.
“We can’t test everything computationally or at at subscale sizes, so testing them at full-scale in an environment similar to Mars is how we get the absolute best data.”
Tanner said two of the technologies – the Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (SIAD) and the Supersonic Ballute (half balloon, half parachute) – did amazingly well, performing just as the project had planned.
The third technology, a 100-foot diameter supersonic parachute, experienced an anomaly; it tore apart when deployed at Mach2.
“The reasons behind the parachute’s failure are complex, but the thing is, they are changing how we think about supersonic parachutes for Mars in general, which is incredible,” he said.
“Looked at that way, the test as a whole was a resounding success. We learn so much from failures that we are constantly encouraged to dare to do mighty things.”
Ever the engineer, Tanner said he was excited about attacking those design flaws for a redeployment next summer. By that time, there might be some additional GT-AE grads working alongside him.
Seniors and graduate students who would like to be considered for a position at JPL should upload their resumes to CareerBuzz by Oct. 4
LDSD rocket sled at 300 mph at the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake