A University of Central Florida aerospace engineering doctoral student is beginning a year-long project that could lead to a better design of space station systems, including Gateway, the planned lunar outpost that will serve as a vital component of the Artemis program.

She joins the ranks of multiple UCF students and faculty who have been working on research projects that support the Artemis program.

The student, Taylor Peterson, will complete her research through the James A. Abrahamson Space Leader Fellowship, which is sponsored by the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory through the Center for Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS). The fellowship is designed to introduce undergraduate and early-stage graduate students from underrepresented groups to space research and technology development. She is one of three students from across the U.S. who were selected to participate.

Each fellow receives a $5,000 stipend and is paired with a mentor from CASIS as well as a subject matter expert from their field of study. In collaboration with the mentor and expert, each fellow will complete a research project of their choosing that aims to advance the mission of the ISS National Lab.

Peterson’s research will focus on the boiling effect of super-cooled cryogenic propellant in microgravity. Her advisor at UCF is Assistant Professor Michael Kinzel, who runs the Computational Fluids and Aerodynamics Lab within the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

The goal of my research will be to study the behavior of this boiling with computational fluid dynamics and structural responses and relate them to systems used on the International Space Station,” Peterson says. “With the Artemis program gaining traction, this data will be critical in understanding how to better design our systems, especially in spots where the fluid flow becomes extremely complex.”

Peterson says her interest in aerospace engineering was sparked in her early college days. She studied physics at a small college in Wisconsin but had the opportunity to work on multiple engineering projects, some of which journeyed to space on Blue Origin flights.

“The hands-on engineering aspect is what I loved about these projects,” Peterson says. “I had no formal engineering coursework, but because of my involvement and dedication to the projects, I learned many of the necessary skills that come with engineering.”

Peterson says she looks forward to working with the researchers at the ISS National Lab as well as gaining new skills that will be relevant to her career. She will present the results of her research at the ISS Research and Development Conference next year.