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.
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.
Experimental research in physics is carried out in a variety of laboratories operated by the department, as well as at national and international research facilities. Facilities that are currently available to students include the following laboratories.
High-Energy Physics Laboratory (HEP): The HEP experimental efforts are centered on studying high energy hadron collisions using large particle physics experiments at major national (BNL) and international (CERN, Switzerland) accelerator facilities, as well as conducting basic detector technology research and development, and high-performance grid computing in laboratories on the Florida Tech campus. Presently, the group is involved in data-taking efforts with the CMS experiment at the CERN Large Hadron Collider and is performing physics analyses on these data. The Florida Tech group has responsibilities for calibration of the hadron calorimeters, Tier0-Tier2 data flow and validation for the B physics analysis group, operation of a Tier3 site on the Open Science Grid and a study of an upgrade of the forward muon detector with micro-pattern gas detectors. The physics analyses are initially focused on measurements of the properties of the top and bottom quarks and search for new gauge bosons. With new higher luminosities, the physics program helped the successful searches for the Higgs boson and is now focusing on more exotic phenomena at multi-TeV energy scale. Another main research area is the development and construction of a muon tomography system for detecting high-Z materials hidden in cargo, based on advanced micro-pattern gas detectors such as Gas Electron Multipliers. The HEP laboratory houses a Linux-based computing cluster with 180 CPU cores and 100TB of mass storage that is used for muon tomography detector simulation and data analysis and serves as a Tier3 site on the Open Science Grid for CMS data analysis. The group conducts research and development on advanced particle detector technology for the Super-LHC upgrade programs and participates in the RD51 detector development collaboration at CERN. In addition, Florida Tech is a member of the PHENIX experiment at BNL’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, which is investigating a new state of matter dubbed the quark-gluon plasma.
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.
Experimental research in space science is carried out in a variety of laboratories operated by the department, as well as at national and international research facilities. Facilities currently available to students include the following laboratories:
Astronomy and Astrophysics Laboratory: 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 in the laboratory also includes planetary science, with a focus on planetary geology, impact cratering, orbital dynamics, planetary magnetospheres and lightning, and astrobiology.
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 including IRAF, AIPS and CIAO, as well as a wide variety of programming languages.
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.
SARA 0.9-m Telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory, 0.6-m Telescope at Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory and 1.0-m Telescope at the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos: Florida Tech is the founding institution for the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy (SARA).
Geospace Physics Laboratory (GPL): This facility is a collection of three major laboratories that host all of Florida Tech’s space physicists, planetary scientists and their students’ research projects. These labs are outlined below (GPL-A-C). In a joint operation with UCLA of California, Florida Tech is hosting a 10-site meridional array of magnetometers along the east coast of the United States (the MEASURE array) from Florida to southern Canada. The array observations, and particle and field measurements from various satellites are used for studying the geospace environment during magnetic storms and substorms. We also have joint operational custody (with the University of Florida) of the International Center for Lightning Research and Testing (ICLRT) that is located at Camp Blanding Army National Guard Base near Starke, Florida, where airspace can be controlled for rocket-triggering.
Lightning and Instrument Development Laboratory (GPL-A): A series of recent theoretical breakthroughs and experimental detector development by our team working at both this lab and the ICLRT has led to the discovery of x-ray emission from lightning and its possible central role in understanding the lightning plasma processes. Exploring the implications of this discovery is one of the main goals of this research lab. At the ICLRT, lightning is artificially triggered using small rockets trailing wires; in effect telling the lightning when and where to strike. This allows detailed observation and theoretical investigations to help us better understand how terrestrial (and planetary) lightning works and how to better protect lightning-vulnerable assets.
Cosmic Rays and Space Weather Laboratory (GPL-B): This lab uses a network of workstations to study the energetic particle environment in the solar system. Some of the particles are cosmic rays from the galaxy, while some are produced by the sun during solar flares. By studying these particles, we try to understand the energetic phenomena in the galaxy or on the sun that affect the radiation environment at Earth. Gaining such understanding is one of our main goals to protect astronauts working in space and the electronic components on satellites. In addition, analysis of the COSPIN experiment on Ulysses and several other spacecraft datasets (Wind, SOHO, SAMPEX, ACE and RHESSI) in support of investigating the energetic particles environment with the solar system are conducted in this lab.
Space Exploration Research Laboratory (GPL-C): This lab supports a research program focused on enabling sustained human space exploration and on the origin, distribution and future of life in the universe. The lab includes imaging systems, optics, calibration and test equipment, a large clean room, and other hardware used to support the development of space instrumentation. It has a high-performance computing system for modeling and simulation, and a ground control system to receive data and send commands to the International Space Station. Some of the laboratory activities are housed in the new Space Life Sciences Laboratory at the Kennedy Space Center, where atomic force and laser confocal fluorescence microscopes optimized for bioimaging, small-animal research hardware, and other equipment supports research into the hazards associated with long-term human exposure to the space environment, such as radiation damage, loss of bone mass, muscle atrophy and cardiovascular de-conditioning.