Student Helped NASA Prepare for Deep Space Exploration

By Drew Menard, October 11, 2017

Each story in this special feature section demonstrates a tenet of the “We The Champions” Declaration, part of a university-wide project that aims to tell the world how Liberty is fulfilling its mission of Training Champions for Christ.

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Over the summer, senior computer engineering student Matthew Russell interned at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, working with the spacecraft software development team supporting the forthcoming Orion Ascent Abort 2 mission, an unmanned launch slated for 2019. Russell’s team also tested the spacecraft’s emergency launch abort system in preparation for a manned Orion mission around the moon in 2021.

“One thing that I really enjoyed about working at NASA was how you can trace everything back to the end goals,” Russell said. “No matter how small the piece of the project that I worked on was, I could directly trace it to the mission that (NASA) will launch in 2019. That launch is basically going to show that the system is ready for manned flight and will lead to Exploration Mission 2 (in 2021) when we get people back into space and around the moon.”

This wasn’t Russell’s first impressive internship. After his freshman year, he interned at the University of North Dakota (UND), developing software for UND’s OpenOrbiter nanosatellite program. His work has been published in the International Journal of Computers and Applications. After his sophomore year, he interned with the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) Center for Cyberspace Research in Ohio. AFIT serves as the graduate school for the Air Force. At AFIT, Russell developed computer models to simulate a new type of quantum cryptography system (which uses individual photons of light to create a secure password generation system) with future applications for the highest levels of security. His research was presented last fall at the annual QCrypt Conference and is being published in a conference paper.

Another Liberty engineering student, junior Madison Melton, is currently interning at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

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