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THE USC ADVANCED SPACECRAFT PROPULSION AND ENERGY LABORATORY

Founded in August 2018, the Advanced Spacecraft Propulsion and Energy
(ASPEN) Laboratory at USC started as the nation’s only student-led research group
focused on modeling nuclear-based spacecraft propulsion systems. Initially comprised of eight undergraduate students, the team has grown to include various undergraduates from across engineering disciplines. We are a multi-disciplinary and driven team with a shared passion for advanced propulsion concepts. In the fall of 2022 ASPEN expanded and, under the advisement of Dr. Lubos Brieda, began working on the Asteria Thruster on top of our previous research in nuclear propulsion (the Hyperion-I Campaign). This project focuses on producing a solid-fuel adamantane thruster to be fitted on a satellite design. 

The Asteria Thruster is ASPEN's newest project, starting in 2022. The goal of this project is to produce a solid-fuel adamantane plasma thruster to be implemented on a satellite design. The overview of this project can be divided into four main stages of modeling and hardware testing . A small plasma thruster will be constructed and placed in a vacuum chamber to produce a plasma bloom. We hope to run a numerical study to increase the efficiency of the thruster, research the effectiveness of adamantane as a fuel source, and eventually produce a full-scale working propulsion device.

Initial Testing & Stage 1 Thruster Design

Fall 2022 & Spring 2023

Direct Thrust Measurements & Final Thruster Design

Spring/Fall 2023

Multi-Thruster Design & Thrust Validation

Spring/Fall 2024

Satellite Design & Implementation

Spring/Fall 2025

Hyperion-I is ASPEN’s first engine modeling a solid-core nuclear thermal rocket engine using an inductively heated, additively manufactured metallic core. An overarching view of the development campaign for Hyperion-1 includes three Phases of modeling and hardware testing. Experimental data from each phase will be compared to corresponding linked multiphysics models in ANSYS. Three test articles, starting with a single tube and ending with a full printed core, will be tested with gaseous nitrogen while in an inductive heating environment used to model the nuclear fission that occurs in true solid-core nuclear thermal engines.

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PHASE I

Fall 2019

PHASE II

Spring 2021 - Spring 2024

PHASE III

Fall 2024

Home: Overview

TEAM

Get to Know Us

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MAX 
WU

Operations Lead

mxwu@usc.edu

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KAYDEN ELMER-SCHURR

OLIVIA
KUKAR

KAYDEN
CUTCHINS

JONATHAN
FISCHER

Hardware Lead

fisherjr@usc.edu

General Engineers

 Nicholas Pardo | Ava Norrell | Colin Spiridonov | Malcolm Eady | Nawaf Abualsaud | Breece Phipps  | Robert Schick | Hannah Snow  | Josh Zhou | Lucy Shi | Bradley Martin | Abdulah Kahn | Samantha Lynch | Griffin MacRae | Casey Boatman |  Eashan Sarkar | Jennah Saqib | Cecil Franklin | Brad Barakat

FACULTY ADVISORS

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DR. LUBOS BRIEDA

Lecturer of Astronautical Engineering

  • Ph.D., Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, The George Washington University

  • M.S., Aerospace and Ocean Engineering, Virginia Tech

  • B.S.,Aerospace and Ocean Engineering, Virginia Tech

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DR. MATTHEW GILPIN

Senior Lecturer of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering

  • Ph.D., Aerospace Engineering, University of Southern California

  • M.S., Aerospace Engineering, University of Southern California

  • B.S., Aerospace Engineering, University of Southern California

Home: Team Members
Image by SpaceX
Home: Clients

SPONSORS

Valued Partnerships

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