Professor Ryan Caverly Receives 2022 NASA Early Career Faculty Award

September 16, 2022  — Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics Assistant Professor Ryan Caverly was recently awarded a NASA Early Career Faculty award. The award aims to support outstanding faculty researchers early in their careers, with a focus on driving researchers to explore ideas and approaches that could benefit the future of science, space travel, and exploration. The selected research projects receive up to $600,000 over three years to advance their proposed technology.

Prof. Caverly's award targets NASA's desire to develop advanced technologies for solar sail control, which could enable future science missions for heliophysics and other deep space science. An unsolved challenge in the design of solar sails is ensuring their attitude and momentum can be controlled accurately and reliably using technology that scales up to the size of large, next-generation solar sails. Prof. Caverly's proposed solution comes in the form of the Cable-Actuated Bio-inspired Lightweight Elastic Solar Sail (CABLESSail), which leverages lightweight cable-driven actuation to achieve controllable elastic solar sail deformations that induce an imbalance in solar radiation pressure and generate large, scalable control torques in all three axes.

Diagram of the Cable-Actuated Bio-inspired Lightweight Elastic Solar Sail (CABLESSail).

Caverly says, "I'm really excited to get to work on our CABLESSail concept. This project will span all areas of my research group, including dynamic modeling of flexible multi-body systems, robust control, estimation, simulation, and experimental validation. In addition to the research, my graduate students will contribute to this work, I'm also thrilled that I'll be able to work with undergraduate researchers and senior design teams on this NASA project. I'm hoping that it will showcase to the students the important role dynamics, control, and estimation play in the design of next-generation space systems."

Prof. Caverly joined the department in 2018. His research interests include the dynamic modeling and control of aerospace, mechanical, and robotic systems. In particular, he is interested in theoretical developments related to input-output stability, as well as optimal and robust control of linear and nonlinear systems. His applied research focuses on accurate yet computationally efficient, dynamic modeling of systems with structural flexibility, such as flexible aircraft, spacecraft, and robotic manipulators, as well as the use of new and existing theories to control these systems.

To read the announcement entitled, "NASA Awards Help Universities Advance Next-Generation Space Tech," visit the NASA website.