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Nuclear thermal propulsion study by UAH researcher earns international award

HUNTSVILLE – The awards just keep coming for the nuclear thermal propulsion research  at the University of Alabama in Huntsville by Saroj Kumar.

Kumar is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
and mission designer for advanced propulsion systems in the Propulsion Research Center at UAH,. His latest accolade comes from the International Astronautical Federation’s 73rd International Astronautical Congress Interactive Presentation Competition in Paris, France.

Saroj Kumar (Michael Mercier/UAH).

His interactive presentation “Spacecraft Integrated System Model for NTP Powered Planetary Science Missions” was selected by judges as the best IP in Category C, which is
dedicated to Space Technology.

Overall, Kumar was one of just five total winners globally in the IAC 2022 IP Competition, and the honor comes with a grant of 500 euros (about $495 U.S.).

“The space technology track, in which I was the winner, included papers from a wide range of topics such as astrodynamics, materials and structures, space power and space systems,” Kumar said. “I am really happy to have won many awards in recent times, with the total being five throughout my doctoral research.

“This clearly indicates the cutting-edge research we are doing in the development of the nuclear thermal propulsion system at the Complex Systems Integration Laboratory and the Propulsion Research Center.”

The recent award adds to others Kumar has received, including being named to the global top 20 outstanding young space and satellite professionals under the age of 35 by the Space and Satellite Professionals International this year; the best paper award at the Nuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space Conference in 2021; and being named graduate student of the year by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Greater Huntsville Section in 2021.

The award from the IAF conference, hosted by the French space agency Centre national d’études spatiale, was unique, Kumar said.

“Winning the best IP award among more than 800 presentations at the conference was a
really special feeling,” he said. “There was enormous interest in my research, with many conference attendees asking me more about the work we are doing and how they can implement the same on their projects.

“I was glad to have had the opportunity to present my research at the world’s biggest conference on the space sector with more than 9,000 attendees from all over the world.”

Unfortunately, due to a delay in processing his visa, Kumar was not able to attend.

“My co-author Dr. Dale Thomas and lab-mate Samantha Rawlins, who attended the
conference, helped me with presenting my research to the judges,” he said. “I am happy
that my work was appreciated by the judges.”

Thomas, a UAH professor and eminent scholar of industrial and systems engineering, advises Kumar along with Dr. Jason Cassibry, a UAH professor of mechanical and aerospace
engineering.

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