By Sumant Sharma December 14, 2014
Last week, the distinguished Prof. Kyle T. Alfriend, the research chair of the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University visited Space Rendezvous Lab (SLAB) and conducted a two part lecture series titled, “Spacecraft Formation Flying: Physics, Navigation, and Control”. These two lectures served as a very apt denouement to the Fall 2014 course on Distributed Space Systems (AA 270). The course, a one of its kind in the country, equips students to tackle dynamics, control, and navigation of the relative motion problem in the light of recent and future spacecraft formation flying missions.
Prof. Alfriend’s lectures were also rewarding experiences for student researchers in SLAB who are developing, validating, and embedding cutting-edge enabling technologies for formation spaceflight. These lectures were gripping descriptions of Texas A&M’s work in the field of spacecraft formation flying and were infused with accounts from his extensive experiences with the industry and the government. This was also a trip down memory lane for Prof. Alfriend, he earned his MS in Engineering Mechanics from Stanford in 1964.
Prof. Alfriend later visited the Space Rendezvous Laboratory to engage students and to provide feedback to their current work. Expressing his delight after his rendezvous, Mark James, a graduate student in the Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics said, “Dr. Alfriend’s lectures expanded our knowledge about spacecraft formation flying and gave us practical and firsthand insights into the applications of the theories and technology. He repeatedly stressed the importance of understanding the underlying physics, and he reiterated this point by recounting examples of modern simulations gone awry that were only corrected through the thorough and extensive knowledge of equations of spacecraft formation flying.”