Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC)
Aug. 2020 – Dec. 2020
Goals of your project/s:
The project that I was working on is called EXCLAIM. EXCLAIM is a balloon launched instrument that will use an intensity mapping approach to study the formation of stars and galaxies. The section of EXCLAIM that I worked on is called the receiver. This component focuses light onto the sensors within the receiver as well as houses various other related components such as magnetic shielding and cryogenic coolers. Most of the design work on the receiver had been completed when I started my internship, so my main goal was to finalize parts of the receiver. This included getting parts to a state where they are ready to be manufactured as well as bringing the design of the receiver overall to a state that is more ready for a critical design review.
Describe what you did during the internship:
A lot of the work that I did was analysis of the current design. This includes adding fasteners to the CAD model to check for interference and hole alignment as well as making sure that there is room for washers and staking. There was a significant amount of work related to this task as many components had to have slight modifications to accommodate for fasteners. I also worked on tolerancing parts within the receiver. There were requirements for tolerances between a lens and the sensors in the receiver that needed to be met. This was done by tolerancing all the individual components in between the lens and sensor so that if they were all added up the total tolerance would meet the requirements. However, there were many components between the sensor and lens which meant that the individual components had to have very tight tolerances that were infeasible to manufacture. To fix this problem, I created an assembly jig that removed some of the tolerance stack from these components. The addition of the jig to the design increased the tolerances to an amount that was feasible to manufacture. Another major area of work that I did was Finite Element Analysis (FEA) to determine if components within the receiver met the structural requirements set by NASA. There were some components that had large displacements or stress concentrations that needed to be removed, so I also did some redesign work on these components to ensure that they met the structural requirements. I also worked on updating the optics within the receiver based on a new optics model. There were several components that needed to be redesigned to accommodate the new optics model as well as some spacing between components needed to be changed as well.
Did you achieve your goals? What were the results and conclusions?
I think that I did achieve the goals of my internship. Many components within the receiver are now ready to be manufactured and the overall design of the receiver is now in a state that is more ready for a critical design review. I also feel that I personally have gained from this internship experience. Prior to this internship, I did not have any experience with FEA analysis. After working with FEA software and learning how to interpret the results, I feel that I now have a basic level of knowledge on how to use this software and I know that this will benefit me in the future. I also learned a lot from working with existing CAD models. Before this internship, most of the CAD work that I had done was making models from scratch. However, after working with existing models, I have learned some new methods and techniques for creating CAD models that I know will be useful in the future.
Describe positive lessons learned from this experience:
Over the course of this internship, I have learned a lot about working on real world engineering projects. One of the things that I did during my internship was give weekly presentations on the work that I had been doing to my mentors and occasionally the EXCLAIM team as a whole. I learned through the course of this internship how to better prepare and present information for these meetings as well as be prepared for any follow up questions. I also learned a lot about technical things like FEA and CAD as mentioned in the previous section.
Describe negative lessons learned from this experience:
The most difficult part of this internship was working from home. I have had some experience working from home as an undergraduate researcher at Iowa State, but that was only part time. Working full time was difficult with all of the distractions around me. I found that setting up a specific place to work did help to remove some of these distractions so I could focus on working. I also found that with this being a virtual internship and e-mail being the primary form of communication, things moved rather slowly. There wasn’t much I could do about this other than finding other things that I could work on while I was waiting for a response. However, I think that my internship went well overall and I was able to make a meaningful contribution to the EXCLAIM project.