AE to honor astronaut Steve Nagel in major Talbot Lab instructional laboratory expansion


Aerospace Engineering at Illinois will honor the late Steven R. Nagel, an astronaut and alumnus, as the department gains instructional laboratories for composite manufacturing and nano-satellite development in a major Talbot Laboratory expansion.

The three-story addition will be built on the south side of Talbot Laboratory, the current location of the AE Department. The basement will hold the Composite Manufacturing Laboratory. The Nano-Satellite Laboratory, which will be named the Advanced Research for the Exploration of Space (ARES) Center, will be located on the second floor. The ARES Center's Missions Operation Center will be named for Nagel, who died in 2014.

Steve Nagel
Steve Nagel

“Steve really loved to interact with students; the way he connected with our students was truly remarkable” said AE Department Head Philippe Geubelle. “His dedication to AE@Illinois was amazing. In addition to his many trips back to Illinois to talk to the students, he served as a long-time member of the AE Alumni Board, and gave valuable input on our curriculum and educational activities. It is fitting that this new educational facility that will impact the education of generations of Illinois students be named after him.”

The Nagel Missions Operations Center will be one of the most unique facilities available in higher education. It will be a dual-use room, serving as both the control room for multiple satellite missions and as an educational classroom. It will be equipped with state-of-the-art teleconferencing capabilities, enabling remote lectures by renowned guests for the enrichment of AE students. Also being established will be a new Mission Operations course, in which students engage directly in experiments on in-orbit assets that the University of Illinois owns.

The ARES Center’s key experimental facilities and highly visible control room will bring AE’s CubeSat program to a level comparable to and, in most cases, surpassing that of other leading nano-satellite facilities around the country. These new experimental facilities will bring unique opportunities to AE undergraduate and graduate students in the three strategic areas of aerospace engineering: satellite and mission design; mission operations; and manufacturing and assembly, integration and testing of spaceflight hardware. The laboratory’s Satellite Design and Testing Facility will be the premiere Midwest small satellite testing facility, with full vertical integration: from initial computer-aided design to fabrication and testing, to the final flight worthiness certification capabilities.

The Composites Manufacturing Laboratory will serve as the hub for all composite manufacturing activities on the Illinois campus. It will allow students to learn about and use a wide range of composite manufacturing techniques and technologies, including hot press, vacuum-assisted resin transfer molding (VARTM), filament winding, etc. With more than 4,000 square feet, the new facility will triple the space currently available for composite manufacturing in the basement of Talbot Lab, and will be organized around the following functional areas:

  • Fabric preparation
  • Resin storage and preparation
  • Pre-preg fabrication and storage
  • Hand layup, resin transfer molding (RTM) and VARTM manufacturing
  • Thermal processing
  • Filament winding
  • Post-processing
  • Mold making and additive manufacturing

“With the increased importance of composite materials in aerospace applications, educating our students in composite manufacturing techniques is critical,” said Geubelle. “This unique facility will not only impact the on-campus experience of AE students, but also that of engineering students across the College who are taking part in courses and extra-curricular projects that involve composite materials.”

The addition’s first floor will be used as laboratory space by Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering, which shares Talbot Laboratory with AE.

Construction on the addition is projected to start in Summer 2017 and be completed within a year’s time.