Universities to discuss future of propulsion at UAH workshop

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (Dec. 3, 2013) - The future of academic rocket propulsion research will be discussed when academic leaders in propulsion attend the second National Institute of Rocket Propulsion Systems (NIRPS) workshop at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) Dec. 16-17.

University representatives from across the nation will discuss what government needs and wants when it invests in universities for academic propulsion research and how universities can support the workforce needs of the field.

The NIRPS workshop is co-chaired by Dr. Robert Frederick, director of the UAH Propulsion Research Center and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Shankar Mahalingam, dean of the UAH College of Engineering and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. It is sponsored by the UAH Office of the Vice President for Research, the UAH Office of the Provost, the UAH College of Engineering, and the UAH Propulsion Research Center.

"The idea is that we are very closely affiliated with the National Institute of Rocket Propulsion Systems, and one of the things that NIRPS is doing right now is trying to assess the health of all the infrastructure in the country that is keeping rocketry going," said Dr. Frederick. "It's a time to sharpen the pencils and rethink how we are doing business with each other, as well as developing the workforce that can do the job. We want to make sure that 10 to 20 years from now we have people who know how to do this and can meet the research challenges that enable the nation to achieve space and missile systems goals."

Academics from 10 universities doing major propulsion research will formulate metrics for the health of university research programs and will work to gain a better sense of what it takes to keep the propulsion workforce viable and establish a framework to measure the health of the programs.

"We're asking all the universities to communicate clearly the measurable items that allow the government to clearly assess the health of university propulsion research," Dr. Frederick said. "This will provide information to the governmental agencies and industries involved in propulsion work to put together a national strategy for propulsion, and how universities can best plug into that."

The metrics developed will provide a yardstick by which the government can measure the health of academic propulsion programs, he said.

"UAH has basically taken a leadership role on this and called in some of the leaders from around the country to take a look at this and how various capabilities can be best connected to the customers," said Dr. Frederick. "One of the strengths for UAH that President (Robert) Altenkirch has outlined is a strategic focus in aerospace and systems engineering."

Dr. Dale Thomas, director of NIRPS, will give university leaders an overview of future challenges that the government sees for space propulsion. "The other thing they're going to do is give a presentation on the overall grant challenges they see in the future, and they will ask our workshop for our observations of it," Dr. Frederick said.

UAH hosted the first NIRPS workshop two years ago to outline university inputs for grand challenges for propulsion in the future.

For more information, contact:
Dr. Robert Frederick


Jim Steele


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