Alumnus Kevin Disotell recognized by NASA Engineering and Safety Center

Posted: August 26, 2021
Image of the head shot of Kevin Disotell
Kevin Disotell

Alumnus Kevin Disotell has been honored as part of a team that recently received a 2020 NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC) Group Achievement Award. The recognition comes about from his participation on the ground-floor of the team during his time as a postdoctoral researcher at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

Disotell, who graduated from The Ohio State University Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, earned his bachelor and doctoral degrees in aeronautical and astronautical engineering in 2010 and 2015. In June of 2021 Disotell returned to Ohio State as a research scientist in experimental aerodynamics, where he works in the Aerospace Research Center.

The NESC Group Achievement Award was given to Disotell’s team – the Commercial Crew Program Launch Vehicle Ground Wind Loads Assessment Team – which he served on during his tenure as a postdoctoral researcher in the Flow Physics and Control Branch at NASA Langley. The team received the NESC award “in recognition of outstanding technical achievement in the evaluation of the Ground Wind Loads and Wind-Induced Oscillation for Commercial Crew Program launch vehicles.” The mission of the NASA Engineering and Safety Center is to perform value-added independent testing, analysis and assessments of NASA’s high-risk projects to ensure safety and mission success.

Project launches – the backstory

At NASA Langley, Disotell’s home branch received a request from colleagues in the Aeroelasticity Branch to contribute their expertise to the design of a turbulence generator system. The system would provide needed test capability to support the structural design and validation of space launch vehicles in the NASA Transonic Dynamics Tunnel (TDT).

Image of the inside of a yellow and white metal wind tunnel
Photo of turbulence-generating spires installed in the TDT with instrumentation rake in the foreground, looking upstream

The TDT is a large wind tunnel facility, capable of flight-representative test conditions for aircraft and space launch vehicles. The team’s goal was to mimic the atmospheric wind profile and turbulence that interact with a stationary space launch vehicle on the ground pad. These conditions can lead to wind-induced oscillations that if not accounted for in the structural design, could cause the vehicle to break apart.

Typically, testing done for ground wind loads in large facilities is based on uniform wind approaching the test model. However, Disotell’s team was interested in more realistic conditions, tailoring turbulence and pressure to be similar to those seen at various launch sites at different altitudes. This non-uniform wind testing is more commonly done in smaller wind tunnels. It’s believed that conducting these kinds of tests with the challenges of large-scale models had never been done before.

Disotell, who was working on fundamental experiments for turbulence modeling, helped design the turbulence generator devices and measure their performance. After designing these devices and putting them through a one-of-a-kind test, Disotell was pleased to see the results matching the design estimates.

“After building these large turbulence-generating devices and troubleshooting their own structural response in the tunnel, it was really satisfying to see the measured wind data hugging the target curves,” Disotell said.

“Being able to contribute as a member of the team to add capability to a historic facility like the TDT, which has been involved in major aircraft and space-launch vehicle test programs since the early 1960s, was truly a privilege.”

Taking flight in 2021

Disotell has since translated his work at NASA to the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. He brings his experience from being part of the planning, coordinating, executing and reporting phases on two large-scale NASA test programs to Ohio State.

“It’s the work I’m doing every day as a researcher at OSU, with each project being its own version of that environment, and also integrating the education and training mission with student involvement in research,” said Disotell.

Disotell said he is still awestruck by the ability to measure and calculate forces and sounds due to moving air, as he continues his work at Ohio State, now in the areas of automotive aerodynamics and aeroacoustics in the Computational Aerodynamics and Flow Physics Lab.

Original story republished from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Categories: AlumniStaff