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NASA STMD Awards $2.5M Project to NASA Ames Aeronautics Early Career Engineers


Haley Cummings, Principal Investigator for ROAMX

Ms. Haley Cummings and her early career team-mates have been selected for a NASA FY21 Space Technology Mission Directorate Early Career Initiative Project entitled “Rotorcraft Optimization for the Advancement of Mars eXploration” (ROAMX). The ROAMX project builds off the successful NASA Ames Aeromechanics Office collaboration with JPL that led to the Mars Helicopter Technology Demonstrator Ingenuity that is scheduled to fly on Mars in 2021.

Computational Fluid Dynamics simulation of optimized airfoil. (Koning, W. J., Romander, E. A., and Johnson, W., 2020, “Optimization of Low Reynolds Number Airfoils for Martian Rotor Applications Using an Evolutionary Algorithm,” AIAA SciTech 2020 Forum, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Orlando, Florida.)

The ROAMX Project will significantly enhance rotorcraft capabilities on Mars, thereby enabling a vast expansion of science experiments and exploration of the surface and atmosphere of Mars. The work proposed will lead to an optimized rotor using novel unconventional airfoils and rotor blades for use in future-generation advanced Mars rotorcraft which significantly increase payload capacity, speed, and range. To accomplish these goals, the focus of this research is to mature optimization of airfoils and blade geometries for advanced Mars rotorcraft and to experimentally validate and demonstrate rotor performance improvements.

Advanced Mars Helicopter with optimized blades and larger resulting payload capacity compared to Ingenuity

ROAMX Project Team will be led by Ms. Haley Cummings, Principal Investigator, from the Ames Aeromechanics Office. Core team lead members include two Science and Technology Corporation early career engineers: Ms. Natalia Perez Perez, Experimental Lead, and Mr. Witold Koning, Computational Lead. Other NASA civil servant members of the ROAMX Team include Ms. Lauren Wagner (Experimental Aerodynamics), Ms. Dorsa Shirazi (Computational Rotor Aerodynamics), Ms. Shannah Withrow (Rotorcraft Systems Lead) and Ms. Sarah Conley (Mechanical Systems), all from the Aeromechanics Office. All NASA civil servants are current or former Pathways Interns in the Aeromechanics Office and all ROAMX team members are former NASA Aeromechanics university interns. AeroVironment is an external partner providing rotor blade design and fabrication technology. Formal NASA Ames ROAMX Senior Advisors include Mr. Larry Young and Dr. Wayne Johnson from the Aeromechanics Office. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Senior Advisors are Dr. Bob Balaram (Chief Engineer for Ingenuity) and Mr. Theodore Tzanetos (Flight Test Conductor for Ingenuity). Project Management Senior Advisor is Ms. Susan Gorton, the Revolutionary Vertical Lift Technology Project Manager of the ARMD Advanced Air Vehicle Program.

Natalia Perez Perez, Experimental Lead for ROAMX, assembling hardware in preparation for testing at Mars flight conditions at NASA Ames Research Center

Ms. Cummings was a NASA Aeromechanics Intern in Summer 2014 conducting photogrammetry experiments on wind tunnel test stands. She returned to NASA Ames as a Science Mission Directorate Sally Ride Internship Fellow in the Aeromechanics Office in Spring 2016 and designed the first helicopter rotor wind tunnel test stand for the Aeolian Wind Tunnel in the Ames Planetary Aeolian Laboratory in N-242. She was selected into the NASA Pathways Employment Internship Program in 2017 while a graduate student at Northern Illinois University (NIU) where she was a member of the NIU Division I women’s soccer team. After graduating in June 2018, she converted from the Pathways Program to a mechanical engineering position in the Aeromechanics Office. She currently serves in the Aeromechanics Mechanical Systems Team and leads the Laser Scanning and Photogrammetry Team. She is the Lead Design Engineer for the new NASA Side-by-Side Urban Air Mobility 7- by 10-Foot Wind Tunnel model. She recently first authored a paper on measuring the as-built geometry of the NASA/Army XV-15 Tilt Rotor Aircraft currently on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. She has participated in helicopter wind tunnel tests at Mars atmospheric densities and has co-authored several papers on conducting Mars science using rotorcraft.

Witold Koning, Computational Lead for ROAMX, using Computational Fluid Dynamics to optimize airfoils for flight on Mars

There were 22 STMD ECI proposals from 8 different NASA Centers considered. Reviews were performed by NASA general technologists and subject matter experts. Five projects were selected for funding. The two-year ROAMX Project will receive a $2.5M total budget.

ROAMX Proposal Video