The variety of student research topics and projects in the UND Space Studies Graduate program is only rivaled by the variety and immensity of space itself. The unique interdisciplinary nature of the program allows students to explore all aspects of space studies while working closely with a world class and international faculty. There are many opportunities for students to both work with faculty on funded research and obtain their own funding.
Past Student Research
Current Research Projects:
The UND Observatory primarily supports broadband photometric research projects for asteroids and variable stars, as well as stellar visible-λ spectroscopic research. Long-term, institutional efforts to obtain, define, and characterize asteroid light curves is beginning and will complement near-infrared spectroscopic studies. The other primary goal of the UND Observatory is to support remote observers in support of their individual research projects. Observatory website
High Altitude Balloon Program
UND Space Studies’ student-led high altitude balloon program routinely launches helium-filled latex balloons into the stratosphere. The program focuses on integrating the engineering design process into the K-12 curriculum, reinforcing graduate students’ experiential and mission-based learning, and fortifying teamwork and communication skills. Some research has included, but not limited to: planetary science, astronomy, remote sensing, GIS, biology, and engineering experiments.
NDX-2 Spacesuit, Lunar Rover and Habitat
Many students are heavily involved with this NASA funded, three year project. Students have been involved with designing, building and testing a new planetary spacesuit, rover and habitat to potentially be used in any future lunar or planetary manned missions.
Near-Earth and Main-Belt Asteroid Spectroscopy
UND Space Studies has supported several research projects to study the surface mineralogy of both near-Earth and main-belt asteroids. Past research projects have included an M-asteroid spectral survey, study of the Baptistina asteroid family, a survey of near-Earth asteroids, study of asteroids along the 3:1 Kirkwood gap, and pyroxene calibrations as a method of studying asteroid pyroxene surface chemistries. Observations utilizing the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility on Mauna Kea, Hawai’i.
Planetary Industrial Operations
Within Space Studies, the basic premise is that living and working productively is fundamentally necessary to permanent human presence in space. Central to that premise is that the initial outposts on planetary surfaces will grow to population centers in which the functions of human life must be sustained by exploitation of in situ resources. Resources must be located, extracted, and refined to produce and distribute the products needed for sustainment and growth. The development of such integrated production systems is the focus of this research area. Technology concerns in this area include, among others, extraction, material handling, and processing plant design in hostile environments. Megaproject management, risk, governance, economics and policy are overarching concerns. Additionally, while in the early stages, several commercial interests are actively pursuing various mining concepts on the Moon and among the asteroids.
Recent student research projects have explored production system complexity, propellant depot location, and lunar oxygen production systems. Current research has turned to lunar excavation techniques and lunar infrastructure construction. Research questions abound in this area.
Space and STEM Education
As aerospace professionals, we understand the importance of inspiring the next generation of explorers. Research on effective strategies in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in higher education, K-12 levels, educator professional development, and informal education settings is paramount to the future of aerospace. STEM retention, with a focus on engagement of underrepresented minorities and female students is a goal of the UND Space Studies program and a pillar of NASA’s strategic plan. There are several ongoing projects and research opportunities in STEM education for UND students.
Space Law & Policy
Efforts in space science and engineering are undergirded and structured by the laws and policies that shape behavioral norms for governments, businesses, and other entities. Since the earliest days of space activities, humanity has worked to craft the rules and regulations necessary to ensure peaceful and successful activities in space. Laws have been created both at the international and national levels, and the United Nations has provided the Outer Space Treaty, sometimes termed the Magna Carta of space, as the primary guide for nations’ actions in space. Domestically, the United States has passed a multitude of laws, policies, and regulations, all aimed to address various key facets of U.S. national goals. Space Studies students will have an opportunity to study and research these areas, as well as posit their own views on issues ranging from the role of government in space exploration, to the legal issues associated with private industry operating in space.
Spacesuit Research/Planetary Surface Habitation
Many students are heavily involved in a variety of topics, with this NASA funded project. Students have been involved with designing, building and testing of new planetary spacesuits, rovers, robotic systems and planetary surface habitats with applications to future lunar and Mars human missions.
More information about our research can be found at www.human.space.edu or at spacesuitlab.blogspot.com .
For research funding opportunities, visit the North Dakota Space Grant Consortium website .
Mission Design Tools
The UND Department of Space Studies can make available software mission design tools to qualified Space Studies students for educational purposes. These tools include Systems ToolKit (STK) from AGI.