USU Student Recognized at Space Conference


Each year, Utah State University and the Space Dynamic Laboratory (SDL) sends students, faculty and SDL employees to the American Astronautical Society’s Guidance and Control Conference in Breckenridge, Colorado.

They’re sent to represent USU and present papers they’ve offered in respect to aerospace engineering. The conference took place from Feb 3-8.

Simon Shuster, a SDL student employee, was recognized for best student paper. It was titled “Uncertainty Analysis for Initial Relative Orbit Determination using Time Difference of Arrival Measurements.”

Shuster’s paper explores and presents equations dealing with time difference of arrival measurements, which allows scientists to find a satellite in orbit by comparing the arrival time of intercepted signals from the satellite through two receivers. Furthermore, it explains how those measurements can be improved using uncertainty analysis, a process of narrowing down the satellites possible trajectory through additional measurements.

One of the possible applications for Shuster paper’s equations, is in the defense department, where the Air Force or another organization can accurately track foreign and enemy satellites.

In response to winning this award, Shuster said, “I was honored… I still don’t know why I won. I showed that those equations are accurate, and even though this technology might be years away from being implemented, what I showed could be useful.”

Shuster began working on his paper May 2016 as an intern at the Air Force research base. During the first week, Shuster and the other interns struggled to find projects to keep them productive.

“My mentor suggested that I work on this project as it needed more work,” Shuster said. “I had some previous material to work off of, this isn’t something that I completed conceived on my own…I took it and ran with it.”

Along with Shuster, four other people represented USU at the conference — doctorate aerospace student Rachit Bhatia, SDL student employees Nick Ortolano and Aaron Avery, and David Geller, a SDL employee and USU associate professor.

Overall, the group presented three papers. One by Shuster, another by Ortolano, and a third presented by Geller, Ortolano and Avery.

“When I take my students, to not only this conference but other conferences or the Air Force Research Base, I’m always proud to take my USU students,” Geller said. “They are immediately recognized as responsible, respectable, mature graduate students, which you don’t always find in graduate students. We have this reputation of having honest, mature, reliable, good engineers. The character of our students is the best.”

Besides the educational value that the conference offers, attendants find a certain benefit in networking.

Geller has been attending the conference, almost every year for 13 years. He said each year he sees old associates from his time at NASA/Johnson Space Center and the Charles Stark Draper Lab. The first thing he does is introduce his students to these associates and potential employers.

This give the students the opportunity to talk about their research and network for jobs.

Geller said, “That’s about half the value of going to the conference. We have these informal meetings before the official presentations and after, where we just sit around and (make those connections).”

Bhatia said the group’s main purpose is to represent USU and meet people.

“Having a paper is icing on the cake,” he said.

Bhatia said he was able to meet other researchers at the conference who are interested in his research.

Shuster also mentioned the benefits from the conference and the recognition for his paper.

“This really starts my network,” he said. “Now I have a few contacts. It puts me on the radar for the people that were there.”

Though Shuster’s paper is different from his current thesis research, this recognition is certain to give him a boost in his future endeavors.




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