Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering



The Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Florida Tech is among the top national programs engaged in cutting-edge advanced propulsion research for both rockets and air-breathing engines. Partnerships for funded research projects are in place with NASA-KSC, NASA-MSFC, U.S. Air Force, Space Florida, Masten Aerospace, Environmental Aerospace Corporation, and the Advanced Magnet Laboratory, as well as collaborations with other top national universities. A new partnership for research on micro-scale air-breathing engines is currently being established with Florida Turbine Technologies and a collaboration for gas turbine technologies studies for power generation has recently been put in place with Seimens.

Florida Tech is also the premier university for student designed and built rocket projects, with our pinnacle accomplishment being the first university to even have a student designed and built rocket successfully launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Currently there are several solid and hybrid rocket projects underway, including an attempt to launch a solid rocket to the edge of space (57 miles). Students are also participating in the deisgn of cryogenic liquid rocket propellant experiments that will be flown on the ZeroG aircraft in 2007.

A direct benefit of our propulsion research collaborations has been to help place our students in leading aerospace companies and laboratories including various NASA centers, Pratt & Whitney, General Electric, Boeing, the United Space Alliance, and Space Florida.

Daniel Kirk, Ph.D.

Tel: 321-674-7622, email:

Research Interests

Air-Breathing Propulsion for High Thrust-to-Weight Aircraft. Investigation and modeling of turbine combustion processes for the design of high specific thrust aircraft engines. Experimental and numerical investigation of the augmentation in surface heat flux due to interaction of residual freestream combustor fuel with film-cooled turbine surfaces. Reduced order analytical models and governing non-dimensional parameter framework for film-cooling prediction and design in the presence of near-wall reactions.

Analysis, design and testing of MEMS-scale, liquid bi-propellant micro-rocket systems. Fluid, thermodynamic and heat transfer analyses of various system components, including turbo-pump assemblies, valve control of propellants, cooling methods, thrust chamber and nozzle design. Development of transient models to predict governing time scales in rocket starting processes, including time scales for ignition, supercritical behavior of propellants, cooling performance, and thrust versus time dependence. Experimental performance investigation of micro-servo valve assemblies for design of fluidically-actuated micro-valves, with application to aerospace, mechanical and biological systems.

Current Research Projects

Upper Stage Liquid Propellant Stratification Modeling (NASA-KSC)

Development of analytical and CFD models to predict temperature and time history of stratification layer within upper stage liquid hydrogen and oxygen tanks of modern rockets. Modeling of reduced gravity environment, non-uniform heating, rotation, nucleate boiling, and diffusion.

The Effect of Iosgrid on Boundary Layer Profiles (NASA-KSC)

Computationally and experimentally investigating the behavior of the free convection and rotational boundary layers within cryogenic rocket propellant tanks.

Reduced Gravity Propellant Slosh Experimentation and Two-Phase CFD Predictions (NASA-KSC, Sierra Lobo)

This investigation performs correlation of CFD methodologies through reduced gravity testing of a simulated liquid propellant tank. The experimental data will facilitate validation of the predictions of low gravity propellant behavior in spacecraft and launch vehicles. This experiment will fly on the ZeroG aircraft in 2007.

An Investigation of a High-Power Density Grooved-Ring Nuclear Thermal Rocket Reactor Core Concept (NASA-MSFC)

Conducted performance assessment and optimized design of a novel, grooved-ring nuclear thermal rocket reactor core geometry capable of improved specific impulse, thrust-to-weight, ease of fabrication,a nd longevity.

Design of a Nuclear Thermal Rocket Environmental Simulator (NASA-MSFC)

Designed high temperature specimen holders for a chamber capable of simulating the conditions inside a nuclear thermal rocket reactor core. To achieve power levels comparable to nuclear fission, utilized RF induction heating which eliminates nuclear radiation. The test articles are subjected to flowing hydrogen and non-intrusive optical pyrometers are employed to make surface temperature measurements on the test article.

Universal Control Analysis Tool (UCAT) (NASA-KSC)

The NASA Launch Services Program's UCAT is used to analysze the flight performance of a series of specific launch vehicles. A series of non-propietary, generic launch vehicles have been simulated ranging from a relatively simple single-stage, solid propellant sounding rocket to a more complex two-stage liquid rocket. The generic models span a broad range of rockets classes and are slected to highlight various features of the UCAT modeling tool. New features and capabilities, including a propulsion module, have been added to the UCAT modeling suite.

Development of a Quadra-Axial Solid Rocket Motor Thrust Stand (Space Florida, Masten Aerospace, U.S. Air Force)

Work focuses on development of a thrust measurement system to accurately characterize a broad range of solid rocket motors for flight certification, including measurement of axial and off-axis thrust components, as well as generated torque for prediction of motor-induced spin stabilization.

Spacecraft Shielding Using Superconducting Magnetic Fields (Advanced Magnet Laboratory)

Spacecraft traveling on missions to various destinations in the solar system will be exposed to cosmic particles for extended periods of time. Recent advances in superconducting magnet technology suggest the possibility of using high-strength magnetic fields to repel charged particles. This research examines the possibility of surrounding a spacecraft with low mass toroidal coils to deflect hazardous particles.

Electric Energy Storage for Space Propulsion Using Forced-Reduced Superconducting Coils (Advanced Magnet Laboratory)

Investigating the feasibility of using superconducting magnetic energy storage (SMES) for space applications based on force-reduced coils.

Electromagnetic Launching for Affordable, Agile Access to Space (Advanced Magnet Laboratory and U.S. Air Force)


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