Astrophysics research at Georgia Tech is focused on neutron stars, black holes, and other high-energy and violent phenomena in the universe. Georgia Tech students and faculty make use of ground-based and space-based observatories, massive supercomputers, and particle detectors buried in the Antarctic ice to investigate physical processes at temperatures, densities, and energies so extreme they would make Earth-based experiments impossible. This research is focused within the Georgia Tech Center for Relativistic Astrophysics.
Earth Science centers on the many complex and dynamic processes at work in and around the Earth’s surface, operating at time scales ranging from a few hours to millennia. Some of these processes are natural, while others are man-made; many have important environmental and societal consequences. Examples include the constantly evolving nature of ocean currents, the impact of melting glaciers on global sea level, the response of the atmosphere to increased levels of greenhouse gases, and the detection/prediction of natural hazards such as volcanoes and earthquakes. To better understand these processes, scientists rely on detailed measurements, including those made from space. These instruments and platforms must operate precisely in the harsh environment of space. To develop new and innovative measurement concepts, interaction among scientists and engineers is critical. The Earth Science group of C-STAR combines expertise in the interpretation and processing of Earth science data with the development of next generation instrument systems. Learn more about research in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.
Planetary Science is fundamentally interdisciplinary and requires a depth and breadth of expertise impossible to house in a single department. At Georgia Tech, our group spans several schools on campus, reflecting a crucial diversity of expertise. Planetary scientists are housed in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Chemistry, Physics, and Electrical Engineering, with research that spans from planetary interiors all the way out to the “edge” of a planet’s near space environment, including surface processes and magnetospheres. We use a wide range of methods, from modeling to spacecraft data analysis to laboratory and field work. Along with fundamental research programs, Georgia Tech faculty are heavily involved with NASA planetary science missions, including Juno, Dawn, Cassini, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Curiosity, JUICE, and Europa Clipper. Learn more about research in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.
Robotics is fundamental to enabling exploratory craft to navigate and function in space, on terrain, or underwater. C-STAR faculty are actively involved in developing state-of-the-art techniques to enable novel planetary science missions as well as measurement of hazardous environments here on Earth. Ongoing research by our faculty and research scientists includes intelligent localization methods for autonomously landing robotic explorers, design of robotic systems for exploring under glacial surfaces, and methods for human-robot interaction that enable teleoperated control of robotic assets. Learn more about robotics research at Georgia Tech.
Space Policy research explores a range of civil, military, and commercial space policy issues, examining the origins and evolution of space policy over time and its strategic role in international affairs. Georgia Tech space policy research addresses current challenges and strategies for human exploration, space debris, Earth observation, and commercial space. Our focus is to provide a better understanding of these complex issues for national and international policymakers. Learn more about space policy research at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs.
Space Technology research at Georgia Tech focuses on advancing the critical technologies needed to enable next-generation space missions. Core Georgia Tech space technology competencies include: Advanced space materials, Chemical and electric propulsion, Communication systems, Entry, descent, and landing systems, Formation flight, Proximity operations, Remote sensing, Robotics, Small satellites, Space access, Space situational awareness. Learn more about space technology research in the School of Aerospace Engineering.
Space Systems Engineering
Space Systems Engineering at Georgia Tech integrates multiple disciplines for the design, development, and operation of advanced space systems. Through projects, analyses, and system studies, space systems engineering is advanced at Georgia Tech in the following areas: Responsive Space concepts, architectures, technologies, and systems; Moon and Mars Exploration, concepts, architectures, technology, missions, and systems; Access to Small Bodies, feasibility studies, technology, and systems.
Flight projects provide undergraduate and graduate students with hands-on experience and the opportunity to apply theoretical foundations learned in the classroom and laboratory to the full lifecycle of real-world applications. Current space flight projects include: RECONnaissance of Space Objects (RECONSO) – a student-led participant in the 8th University Nanosatellite Program (UNP) competition, RECONSO will place an optical payload in low-Earth orbit to enable low-cost unqueued space object detection and tracking. Prox-1 -the winner of the UNP-7 competition, designed to demonstrate automated deployment of a CubeSat in low-Earth orbit. Scheduled for launch in 2018. LightSail – a Planetary Society project with the goal of demonstrating the effective use of solar sails for satellite control and movement. Learn more about space technology research in the Space Systems Design Laboratory.
Space weather refers to the dynamic response of the Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field to the energetic wave and particle flux from the Sun, including some serious disruptions on the ground.
These dangerous energetic outputs from the Sun are mostly deflected by the Earth’s magnetic field, but some do penetrate, and the deflection process causes magnetosonic reverberations much like an object in a wind tunnel. Some of the reverberations of space weather are quite beautiful, like the dazzling aurora at high latitudes. But others are downright scary, like radiation degradation of satellite electronics, high voltage charging, and increased drag. Astronaut safety can be threated, as well.
Even on the ground with the protection of the atmosphere above us, we are far from immune to these effects. Massive power outages can occur (and have previously occurred on a smaller scale), we can lose satellite communications, GPS and therefore everything reliant on it (including cell phone network, financial system, etc). And yet, our ability to forecast, letalone, mitigate, the inevitable major space weather storm remains in its infancy.
Today’s space weather research involves combining advanced theoretical modeling of plasmas and gas dynamics from the Sun’s interior all the way to the Earth, high-performance computing, advanced satellite constellation measurements, data science and machine learning. Learn more about research in the Georgia Tech Center for Relativistic Astrophysics.