Aerospace, Physics and Space Sciences

Aerospace, Physics and Space Sciences

Aerospace, Physics And Space Sciences - Research

Aerospace Engineering

Orbital Robotics Interaction On-Orbit Servicing and Navigation (ORION) Laboratory: The ORION laboratory is equipped with a unique combination of Cartesian robot and air bearing flat-floor for study of dynamics and kinematics of relative motion and contact dynamics of space/air/underwater vehicles.

Aerospace Structures Laboratory: Laboratory facilities for the mechanical testing of aerospace structures and materials include a MTS 100 kN servohydraulic testing machine with hydraulic wedge grips, other uniaxial load frames, a Dynatup 8250 falling weight impact test machine, an Unholtz-Dickie T206 vibration test device and related instrumentation.

Flight Aircraft: The experimental four-seat Piper Warrior is equipped with an angle-of-attack and sideslip boom. The six-seat Piper Cherokee has a carry-on Data Acquisition System and a 1,500-pound useful load. The flight test engineering program also has a partnership with the Technical University of Munich involving their fly-by-wire “Optionally Piloted” Diamond DA42 research aircraft. 

Physics & Space Sciences 

Current research in physics includes experimental high-energy physics, experimental and theoretical condensed matter physics, instrumentation development, theoretical and observational studies of the solar/heliospheric energetic particles and cosmic rays, physics of energetic radiations from thunderstorms and lightning, auroral and magnetospheric physics, astrophysics, engineering physics, and physics education.

Current research activity in space sciences includes the physics of supermassive black holes and galaxy evolution, massive stars, astrophysical jets and accretion phenomena, exoplanets, planetary science, observational cosmology, cosmic ray modulation/propagation and its interactions with the interstellar medium, energetic radiation from terrestrial and planetary lightning discharges, solar wind-magnetosphere interactions and energetic particle observations and human space exploration research.

Facilities that are currently available to students include the following laboratories.

Astronomy, Astrophysics, and Astrobiology Research

Supermassive Black Holes | Human Space Exploration | Active Galactic Nuclei | Massive Stars | High-Contrast-Ratio Imaging 

The Astronomy, Astrophysics and Astrobiology group at Florida Tech is concerned primarily with astrobiology, stellar astrophysics, the physics of galaxies and active galactic nuclei, and in the development of advanced instrumentation. Astrophysicists and students work on a wide variety of topics, including high-energy astrophysics, accretion phenomena, the physics and evolution of active galactic nuclei and their jets, observational cosmology, tests of the large and small-scale structure of our universe, compact objects, the nuclear black holes of normal and active galaxies, massive stars, binary stars, solar and stellar atmospheres, ultraviolet spectroscopy and astronomical instrumentation.

Research is conducted over a variety of different wavebands from the radio to gamma-rays, including observations with the Hubble Space Telescope, James Webb Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory, and XMM-Newton Observatory, as well as a wide variety of ground-based telescopes that include the 10.4-m Gran Telescopio Canarias, the Gemini Observatories, the Karl F. Jansky Very Large array and many others. Members of the group are involved in the development of instrumentation for the 10.4-m Gran Telescopio Canarias and the development of high-dynamic range imagers for future use in space observatories. Members of the group are involved with the Juno, Parker Solar Probe, and Voyager missions. Resources include two research labs (Astro Lab A and B) that are outfitted with Linux and Macintosh computers, astronomical data reduction packages, as well as a wide variety of programming languages.

SARA Telescopes: Florida Tech is the founding institution for the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy (SARA). We have a 15% share in a network of three 1-meter class telescopes on the Canary Islands, at Kitt Peak National Observatory, and Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory. 

Ortega 0.8-m Telescope: This large research telescope forms the heart of the F.W. Olin Observatory. Installed in 2007, it sits on the rooftop of the F. W. Olin Physical Sciences Center. Equipped with a large-format CCD imaging system, lucky imager and spectrograph, it is available for student and faculty astronomy and astrophysics research projects as well as monthly public open nights as part of the . 

Faculty:  Dan Batcheldor, Sam Durrance, Saida Caballero-Nieves, and Eric Perlman 

Atmospheric Electricity Research

Lightning Physics, Detection, and Protection| Transient Luminous Events | Terrestrial Gamma Ray Flashes | Atmospheric Electricity in Planetary Atmospheres | Electromagnetic Field Propagation Effects | Meteorological Applications of Lightning Data

The Atmospheric Electricity and Electromagnetics group in the Geospace Physics Laboratory (GPL) works on measurements and modeling of electrical discharges and energetic radiation in the Earth’s atmosphere, sensing technology development, electromagnetic wave propagation effects, lightning interaction with airborne vehicles and space launches, power lines, wind turbines and other tall objects, lightning protection, and meteorological applications of lightning data. This group also collaborates with the University of Florida on X-ray measurements of natural and rocket-triggered lightning which are performed at the UF-FIT International Center for lightning Research and Testing (ICLRT) at Camp Blanding, FL. Work also includes theoretical investigations of terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs), lightning initiation processes, runaway breakdown, and thunderstorm electrification on Earth and other planets.

Faculty:  Amitabh Nag, Hamid Rassoul, and Jeremy A. Riousset

Experimental High Energy Physics and Nuclear Physics Research

Dark Matter | Higgs Boson | Top Quark | AI in Particle Physics | Upgrade of CMS Muon Detector and Hadron Calorimeters at CERN | Micropattern Gas Detectors | Grid Computing | Electron-Ion Collider Detector | Muon Tomography | Nuclear Non-Proliferation | Radiation Effects in Semiconductors

The work of the experimental High-Energy Particle Physics (HEP) group is centered on the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) located at CERN, the European Center for Particle Physics in Geneva, Switzerland. This experiment is conducted by a large international collaboration of scientists making precision measurements of the laws governing the known elementary particles and the fundamental forces between them. In this area, the FIT HEP group currently focuses on measurements of fundamental top quark properties, such as cross sections, mass, etc., utilizing new machine learning algorithms in addition to standard data analysis techniques. CMS also searches for new physics phenomena; here the FIT HEP group is searching for long-lived dark matter particles and heavy top quark partners. On the instrumentation side, the group is involved in two major CMS upgrades to prepare the experiment for running at the high-luminosity LHC (HL-LHC), the next phase of the LHC that is scheduled to begin operations in 2026. The group is contributing to the development of a high-granularity calorimeter bringing its experience with the fabrication of fast electronics and precise calibration of ADC ASICs to bear. In a second effort, we are building and commissioning large GEM detectors for the CMS muon upgrade drawing on our experience with advanced gaseous particle detectors, such as GEM and mRWELL detectors. The group is investigating these micro-pattern gas detector technologies also for tracking detectors to be employed at the new Electron-Ion Collider (EIC). The group operates a Tier-3 site on the Open Science Grid for CMS users and other grid users. Members of our group are often stationed at Fermilab near Chicago or at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland to conduct their research.

As an application of HEP technology outside of fundamental science, we operate a muon tomography station based on GEM detectors for detecting shielded high-Z materials. Our activities in applied nuclear physics support the US Air Force’s nuclear treaty monitoring mission through a cooperative research agreement (CRADA) with the US Air Force. We simulate production, fate, transport, and trace level detection of radionuclides pertinent to the monitoring mission.

Faculty:  Marc Baarmand, Marcus Hohlmann, George Rybicki, and Francisco Yumiceva 

Laser Physics Research

Laser filamentation | Atmospheric propagation | High power ultrashort laser pulses Laser-matter interaction | Laser ablation | Supercontinuum generation | Polarization control | LIDAR | Beam engineering | Transient waveguides | Free-space optical communication

Laser Physics at FIT is a brand new area of research currently revolving around high- power ultrashort laser pulses, the fundamentals of their propagation in the atmosphere and their interaction with matter. These studies are the basis to the development of new paradigms in stand- off sensing (relying on polarization-controlled supercontinuum generation), free-space optical communication (utilizing beam engineering to create transient waveguides), remote laser ablation and laser filamentation at the kilometer scale.

Faculty:  Shermineh Rostami Fairchild and Martin Richardson 

Planetary Science and Space Physics Research

Planetary Atmosphere | Space Weather | Solar Wind | Comparative Planetology | Atmospheric Dynamic | Cloud Physics | Impact Event | Asteroid | Comets | Exoplanet | Space Plasma | Hybrid Model | MHD Model

The Planetary Science Research group works in the Atmospheric Models & Plasma Simulations (AMPS) lab and Astronomy and Astrophysics Research lab at Florida Tech. Current research topics include numerical modeling of atmospheric dynamics, cloud physics, and weather processes in planetary atmospheres of terrestrial, giant, and exo-planets. The Planetary Science Group also studies the atmospheric response to asteroid and comet impacts, severe stellar wind variations (e.g., ICME) and electrical discharges (e.g., lightning and TLEs), to provide insights into the formation and evolution of the Solar System and support missions aimed at its exploration.

The Space Physics Research group works in the Geospace Physics Laboratory (GPL) at FIT. Current research topics include studying the Solar-Earth magnetospheric and ionospheric interactions, cosmic ray propagation from their source in the galaxies to the interplanetary system (NASA), relativistic charged particle propagation from the Jovian magnetosphere, development of a meriodinal array of magnetometers up the East coast of the United States. The Space Physics Group also designs and fabricates particle and high-energy radiation detectors.

Faculty:  Sam Durrance, Csaba Palotai, Jean-Carlos Perez, Hamid Rassoul, Jeremy A. Riousset, and Ming Zhang