Just one year after the resurrection and restructuring of MAE’s Bruin Spacecraft Group, the student organization is realizing their far-reaching goal: going to space.

During Summer 2017, Bruin Space added a fifth project to its list of ongoing engineering efforts. Called Project Endeavor, the goal is to expand the groups efforts into scientific enquiry and research. To kick-start the new project, 3rd year Physics student Alexander Gonzalez teamed up with Emily Hawkins, a Space Physics PhD student in the Department of Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences (EPSS), to propose a microgravity experiment. At the start of fall quarter 2017, it was announced that their experiment titled “Magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) Pump Behavior in Microgravity”, had won the Ken Souza Memorial Student Spaceflight Research Competition, and would be given a spot to fly on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket in 2018.

“I wanted to create an experiment that had real-world application,” says Gonzalez. “I had learned about the life support systems on the International Space Station and how there are issues with mechanical pumps. I wondered if MHD pumps might be a suitable replacement.” The simple design takes advantage of the Lorentz force to push a conductive fluid through a tube. If the experiment is successful, this type of pump may prove useful in a number of space applications.

Since the announcement, Bruin Space has formed a small team of student engineers to develop a 2U CubeSat form-factor bus to help carry the pump to space. Under the supervision of MAE Professor Richard Wirz, the team will spend the next 6-8 months designing the experiment and bus system, now named Blue Dawn, to withstand the journey to space and back.

“This is an incredibly exciting opportunity to send a student designed and built payload past the Karman line and into space,” said Bruin Space’s current President, Andrew Evans (2nd year, Aerospace Engineering). Looking forward, the organization hopes this is the first of many projects to leave Earth.


 UCLA Samueli Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering