Dragonfly Student & Early Career Investigator Program Cohort 3- Background Research for DrEAM Aeroscience Experiment

SES - Space Exploration Sector


Brief Job Description:

MENTOR: Dr. Aaron Brandis, NASA Ames Research Center

BACKGROUND: The Dragonfly Entry Aerosciences Measurements (DrEAM) is an instrumentation suite imbedded in the Thermal Protection System (TPS) around the aeroshell that products the Dragonfly lander during entry into Titan’s atmosphere. DrEAM will provide data about the aerothermal and aerodynamic environment during the Dragonfly entry at Titan. DrEAM will make measurements of the TPS temperature, pressure and heat flux, and these measurements will be used to validate NASA aeroscience modeling tools and potentially prompt model updates.

DESCRIPTION: This project focuses on several aspects of DrEAM, related to Concept of Operations (ConOps), calibration and data compression. Similar data has been taken at Mars as part of the MEDLI-2 instrumentation package that flew on Mars 2020. Analyzing the data returned as part of that effort could inform DrEAM ConOps, such as, how long does it take for sensors to equilibrate when turning on after arrival at Titan?  The cruise to Titan will take seven years – are there ways we can understand the impact of this long cruise time through space on the instrument calibrations? Compression of data before sending it back to Earth will be important to maximize DrEAM’s science value, so estimating the data compression ratio for the various DrEAM sensor types, and impact on science return, is needed. The student will work closely with DrEAM engineers to help provide insights into ConOps, sensor calibration and data compression.

TASKS: Depending on the student's interest and experience, project duties may include:

  • Analyzing available MEDLI-2 measurements to see if there is something from that data set that can inform DrEAM ConOps;
  • Determining methods to track sensor calibration changes during cruise;
  • Evaluating data compression estimates of (and/or a variable data schedule for) various DrEAM sensor types

OUTCOME: This project will contribute to one or more of the development of the DrEAM ConOps, a methodology for tracking any changes in sensor calibration and/or an estimate of the data compression ratio for various DrEAM sensor types.

More information on the Dragonfly mission and instruments can be found in the videos at https://dragonfly.jhuapl.edu/Gallery/#Gallery





Academic Discipline Desired:

Pursuing a graduate degree in Mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, systems engineering, computer science, or programming. Must start MS or PhD by Fall 2022

Required Skills:

This project requires a background in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, systems engineering, computer science, or programming, and the ability to work both independently and in a team environment.  

Desired Skills:

Courework in physics and chemistry is preferred but not required. 

APPLYING: When applying, each student should include in an attachment (1) a cover letter, (2) a curriculum vitae, CV, (3) the name and contact information for the prospective faculty advisor at their home institution, and (4) a 2-3 sentence statement from the prospective faculty advisor in which (s)he agrees to support the student, should they be selected to work on Dragonfly.

ELIGIBILITY: An intent of this program is to broaden mission participation; thus, it is intended for students who are not affiliated with, and whose faculty and/or research advisors are not involved with, Dragonfly or other spacecraft missions. Students who do not have a background in planetary science, the geosciences, atmospheric science, or their associated subfields are encouraged to apply.

  • Eligible students will have a 3.0 GPA
  • Eligible students must be U.S. citizens pursuing a master's or doctoral degree in the physical sciences, biological sciences, computer sciences, mathematics or engineering at a U.S. institution.
  • Applicants must have demonstrated ability to conduct independent research or development
  • Applicants must have excellent organizational and communication skills (written and oral)
  • In addition to identifying a mentor on the Dragonfly team, applicants must identify a faculty member at their home institution who can serve as a faculty mentor for the 2-year duration of their participation in the program
  • Can demonstrate that you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. To ensure the safety and well-being of the community, APL has established a policy requiring that all staff be vaccinated against COVID-19. All staff members must provide proof of full vaccination or have an approved medical or religious accommodation by their start date.

 Why work at APL?

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) brings world-class expertise to our nation’s most critical defense, security, space, science, and educational challenges. While we are dedicated to solving complex challenges and pioneering new technologies, what makes us truly outstanding is our culture. We offer a vibrant, welcoming atmosphere where you can bring your authentic self to work, continue to grow, and build strong connections with inspiring teammates. At APL, we celebrate our differences and encourage creativity and bold, new ideas.  APL’s campus is located in the Baltimore-Washington metro area. Learn more about our career opportunities at www.jhuapl.edu/careers.







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