Past SPUR Projects

2015 SPUR Projects

  • Astrodynamics and Control Systems Group:

    Students worked on the Solar Probes Plus program in guidance and control, helping with analysis of the SPP attitude control system and performing dry-run test scripts on G&C test bed. They also assisted with implementation of models of spacecraft attitude dynamics, models of flight environment, and software algorithms for attitude control, and refined models for sensors and actuators such as star trackers, Sun sensors, reaction wheel, and thrusters. They performed simulations of attitude-related spacecraft activities such as turns and thruster maneuvers to alter spacecraft trajectory.

    Astrodynamics and Control Systems Group:

    Student learned the fundamental theory behind the low-thrust trajectory optimization tool, currently in development at APL.  After learning the theory, students added additional capability to the tool, such as engine models and power models. Finally, they utilized the software (with his or her enhancements) to solve trajectory design problems that are of key interest to APL, such as mission concepts that are under current investigation as well as validation cases to demonstrate the accuracy of the code. This project enhanced the student’s understanding of cutting edge astrodynamics theory and provided valuable input to the project.
    (Continuing work of a previous SPUR intern).

    Space Technologies and Applied Research Group:

    The size and velocity distribution of small particles less than 100 μ m is very difficult to assess, and often can only be determined with witness plates in simulated experiments. For applications ranging from micrometeor impacts on satellites (such as Solar Probe Plus) spallation results from impacts in LEO objects, knowledge of this distribution is required for the design of better sensors for the detection of impacts as well as protection materials. Optical methods such as phase Doppler interferometry have the potential to provide such information, and potentially can be expanded into sensors for, e.g. space debris measurements for cubes at missions. While such systems exist for the measurement of slow moving droplets, the goal of this project is to determine the feasibility of phase Doppler interferometry as a potential stand-alone instrument for particle size/velocity distribution for velocities up to 10 km/s and particles between 1 and 100 μ m. For these feasibility experiments, APL has a system, developed to investigate the impact of ice micro droplets on aircraft engines, that can generate ice particulates in this size ranges with reasonable, if somewhat smaller, velocities. Students had the opportunity to work with the PI to set up the sensor system, design experiments for different experimental parameter, perform these experiments and the analysis of the experimental data. Students in this internship had a working knowledge of either LabView or MATLAB, as well as backgrounds in in Math, Physics, and/or Electrical Engineering. Familiarity with experimental systems, optics, and laser systems as well as design of experiments and data processing also was helpful.

  • Intelligent Systems Group:

    Students developed 2D/3D perception algorithms for identifying common household object position and orientation in 3D workspace and autonomous control algorithms for moving the Modular Prosthetic Limb (MPL) to desired location. They developed algorithms that automate grasp selection based on geometric properties of the object. Investigate on board sensors for grasp confirmation and slip events.

    Biological Sciences & Engineering Group:

    Robotic prosthetics development and clinical support interns supported development of and clinical fielding of robotic prosthetic systems. Systems include APL’s Modular Prosthetic Limb as well as other commercially available robotic manipulators. Students expanded on current capabilities in software and hardware interfaces, provide device development support, and support clinical experimentation.  Additionally, students became aware of current research and clinical work in the field of prosthetics.  Staff members at APL offered guidance and direction in development, and also encouraged candidate to develop and explore their own ideas. Day to day work involved software programming, CAD design for packaging of hardware interfaces, clinical support, and reading academic publications and discussing ideas and approaches.

    Microelectronics & Microsystems Group:

    Students aided in the development of anti-fouling coatings for undersea optical windows. Undersea optical windows are a particular challenge, because an anti-fouling coating must not impact the optical properties of the window; the current state of the art in preventing fouling of such windows is that they are frequently cleaned. This prevents optical sensors from being used in undersea applications where access for cleaning is difficult. Interns worked on testing the durability of coatings expose to abrasion and water flow; testing the effectiveness of coatings against growth of algae and barnacles in test tanks; and exploring other potential applications for coatings we have already demonstrated to be effective in port anti-fouling.

    Multifunctional Materials & Nanostructures Group:

    APL/REDD has a strong and growing R&D initiative to pursue innovative energy and thermal management technologies in order to support the ever-increasing energy, power and thermal demands in both national security and commercial applications. The technologies APL is developing encompass photovoltaics, heat-to-electric thermoelectric devices, wave energy and other cutting-edge concepts, where we explore various ‘out-of-the-box’ and game-changing ideas and realize their feasibility through working prototypes in a laboratory. Research interns pursued a range of projects in this growing area under the supervision of APL staff members and had a rare opportunity to experience a lifecycle of R&D projects in a real-world environment – from ideation to deployment in the field. Interns interacted with well-known scientists and talented engineers of APL and were involved in learning how they meet customer needs. They also had the opportunity to participate in research leading to publications with their original and unique contributions to the ongoing R&D effort in this area.


  • Missile System Branch Office Group:

    Students conducted experimentation, data collection, and analysis involving various sensors and applications such as, but not limited to, EO/IR and mmW sensors, lasers and other light sources, integrated photonics devices, robotics.

  • Special Concepts & Engineering Development Group:

    Students assisted in developing 3D avatars for use in the virtual environment of a submarine weapons system trainer. This trainer is similar to a modern 3D video game and is used by US Navy sailors to learn the operation and maintenance of a critical US defense system. Tasks included refining avatar motion animations using 3D development software, integrating avatars into the virtual environment using programming languages, and testing the accuracy and reliability of their movement in gaming scenarios.

    Systems Group:

    Interns conducted research to develop a robust controller for the Micro-Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) project.  Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) is an all-weather, day-and-night remote sensing modality. SAR provides its own illumination source and, at certain frequencies, it will image through clouds and some light weather systems. Most SAR systems are expensive and heavy. Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU APL) has been developing an inexpensive, light-weight SAR system suitable for use on a small remote control aircraft. A BeagleBone Black, an inexpensive microcontroller with a real time programmable unit, controls this system, called the “MicroSAR”.

    This SPUR project provided interns the opportunity to acquire the knowledge of SAR imaging principles, and to build hardware and software modules of the system. Candidates were interested in the broad aspects of the SAR system and helped further the development of this cutting edge technology. They had software experience in C, C++ or Python, and felt comfortable working with a team of APL staff members. They also had a basic understanding of signal processing. Candidates integrated a BeagleBone Black onto the current instrument and coded up the data acquisition and motion tracking modules. Additionally, they learned how the ARM Cortex-A8 Programmable Real-Time Unit (PRU) worked and coded the Data Acquisition module. This coding was done in the native ARM assembling language, or using an available binding in C or Python. Finally, interns worked with the system engineer to select a suitable Geo-Positioning/Inertial System (GPS/INS) unit for the instrument, integrate it onto the payload, and then coded it to work seamlessly with the data acquisition module.

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