Daniel Engel: summer 2022 internship Q & A


Debra Levey Larson

What did you do last summer?

This is part of a series of Q&As with aerospace graduate students who had summer internships.

Daniel Engel
Daniel Engel

Daniel Engel, B.S. ’20, M.S. ’22, is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Aerospace Engineering. His adviser is Zach Putnam. This past summer, he had an in-person internship at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

What did you do?

DE: Over the summer, I implemented and tested a control algorithm I developed in my research at Illinois into the Program to Optimize Simulated Trajectories II for a simulation of a human-scale Mars entry vehicle with aerodynamic flaps. I also compared aerodynamic models I have used in my research to wind tunnel data performed at NASA Langley. Lastly, I continued some of the research I had been working on last spring on optimal trajectories for Mars entry vehicles.

What did a typical day look like for you?

DE: I spent most of my time working on the various tasks/projects I did throughout the summer. Many days also included facility tours or seminars on various aspects of entry, descent, and landing systems.

Who were your mentors on the project?

DE: I worked with Soumyo Dutta, who is my NASA research collaborator.

What was the most challenging aspect of the summer internship?

DE: The most challenging aspect of the summer was debugging and getting my control algorithm to work in POST2.

What was the most rewarding aspect?

DE: The most rewarding aspect of this summer was finally getting to meet mentors and engineers in the Atmospheric Flight and Entry Systems Branch at Langley, who I have known for several years but had never met in person until this summer.

What did you learn about science?

DE: I realized that it is more difficult to use aerodynamic flaps for entry-from-orbit at Mars than it is for direct hyperbolic entries. This is due to the lower entry velocities associated with entering from orbit, resulting in a lower dynamic pressure, and hence decreased flap control authority.

What did you learn about yourself?

DE: I learned how much I enjoy in-person work experiences. I found it really neat to see all of the facilities at NASA Langley and take in all of the important history there.