3-2-1…blast off! COE students use ARC-TS HPC clusters for rocket design

By | Educational, General Interest, Great Lakes, Happenings, HPC, News
MASA team photo

The MASA team has been working with the ARC-TS and the Great Lakes High-Performance Computing Clusters to rapidly iterate simulations. What previously took six hours on another cluster, takes 15 minutes on Great Lakes. (Image courtesy of MASA)

This article was written by Taylor Gribble, the ARC-TS summer 2020 intern. 

The Michigan Aeronautical Science Association (MASA) is a student-run engineering team at U-M that has been designing, building, and launching rockets since its inception in 2003. Since late 2017, MASA has focused on developing liquid-bipropellant rockets—which are rockets that react to a liquid fuel with a liquid oxidizer to produce thrust—in an effort to remain at the forefront of collegiate rocketry. The team is made up of roughly 70 active members including both undergraduate and graduate students who participate year-round.

Since 2018, MASA has been working on the Tangerine Space Machine (TSM) rocket which aims to be the first student-built liquid-bipropellant rocket to ever be launched to space. When completed, the rocket’s all-metal airframe will stand over 25 feet tall. The TSM will reach an altitude of 400,000 feet and will fly to space at over five times the speed of sound.

MASA is building this rocket as part of the Base 11 Space Challenge which was organized by the Base 11 Organization to encourage high school and college students to get involved in STEM fields. The competition has a prize of $1 million, to be awarded to the first team to successfully reach space. MASA is currently leading the competition, having won Phase 1 of the challenge in 2019 with the most promising preliminary rocket design.

Since the start of the TSM project, MASA has made great strides towards achieving its goals. The team has built and tested many parts of the complete system, including custom tanks, electronics, and ground support equipment. In 2020, the experimental rocket engine designed by MASA for the rocket broke the student thrust record when it was tested, validating the work that the team had put into the test.

The team’s rapid progress was made possible in-part by the extensive and lightning-quick simulations using the ARC-TS Great Lakes High-Performance Computing Cluster.

The student engineers are Edward Tang, Tommy Woodbury, and Theo Rulko, and they have been part of MASA for over two years.

Tang is MASA’s aerodynamics and recovery lead and a junior studying aerospace engineering with a minor in computer science. His team is working to develop advanced in-house flight simulation software to predict how the rocket will behave during its trip to space.

“Working on the Great Lakes HPC Cluster allows us to do simulations that we can’t do anywhere else. The simulations are complicated and can be difficult to run. We have to check it, and do it again; over and over and over,” said Tang. “The previous computer we used would take as long as six hours to render simulations. It took 15 minutes on Great Lakes.”

A computer simulation of Liquid Oxygen Dome Coupled Thermal-Structural

This image shows a Liquid Oxygen Dome Coupled Thermal-Structural simulation that was created on the ARC-TS Great Lakes HPC Cluster. (Image courtesy of MASA)

Rulko, the team’s president, is a junior studying aerospace engineering with a minor in materials science and engineering.

Just like Tang, Rulko has experience using the Great Lakes cluster. “Almost every MASA subteam has benefited from access to Great Lakes. For example, the Structures team has used it for Finite Element Analysis simulations of complicated assemblies to make them as lightweight and strong as possible, and the Propulsion team has used it for Computational Fluid Dynamics simulations to optimize the flow of propellants through the engine injector. These are both key parts of what it takes to design a rocket to go to space which we just wouldn’t be able to realistically do without access to the tools provided by ARC-TS.”

Rulko’s goals for the team include focusing on developing as much hardware/software as possible in-house so that members can control and understand the entire process. He believes MASA is about more than just building rockets; his goal for the team is to teach members about custom design and fabrication and to make sure that they learn the problem-solving skills they need to tackle real-world engineering challenges. “We want to achieve what no other student team has.”

MASA has recently faced unforeseen challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic that threaten to hurt not only the team’s timeline but also to derail the team’s cohesiveness. “Beaucase of the pandemic, the team is dispersed literally all over the world. Working with ARC-TS has benefitted the entire team. The system has helped us streamline and optimize our workflow, and has made it easy to connect to Great Lakes, which allows us to rapidly develop and iterate our simulations while working remotely from anywhere,” said Tang. “The platform has been key to allowing us to continue to make progress during these difficult times.”

Tommy Woodbury is a senior studying aerospace engineering. Throughout his time on MASA he has been able to develop many skills. “MASA is what has made my time here at Michigan a really positive experience. Having a group of highly-motivated and supportive individuals has undoubtedly been one of the biggest factors in my success transferring to Michigan.

This image depicts the Liquid Rocket Engine Injector simulation.

This image depicts the Liquid Rocket Engine Injector simulation. (Image courtesy of MASA)

ARC-TS is a division of Information and Technology Services. Great Lakes is available without charge for student teams and organizations who need HPC resources. This program aims to enable students access to high-performance computing to enhance their team’s mission.

Eric Parish, Aero Ph.D student, wins Von Neumann Fellowship from Sandia National Labs

By | Happenings, News, Research

Eric Parish

Eric Parish, who will graduate this spring with a Ph.D in Aerospace Engineering, is the 2018 recipient of the prestigious John von Neumann Postdoctoral Research Fellowship from Sandia National Laboratories (SNL). The highly competitive fellowship offers the opportunity to establish his own program at SNL to conduct innovative research in computational mathematics and scientific computing on advanced computing architectures.

Parish came to U-M from the University of Wyoming, and has developed innovative methodologies of computational math and physics with Prof. Karthik Duraisamy.

Parish said two of his accomplishments in his doctoral work have been developing data-driven solutions to computational physics problems using the NSF-funded ConFlux computing cluster, and bringing together ideas from statistical mechanics to develop efficient numerical solutions of complex partial differential equations.

“It was bridging a gap between communities,” he said of the latter effort.

“Eric came up with a particularly clever way of generalizing concepts from physics to develop a foundation to solve complex equations at a low cost in a mathematically rigorous fashion,” Duraisamy said. “He is one of the rare students who commands an exceptional grasp of applied mathematics, computing and physics, while being well-rounded in his organizational and communication skills. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with him.”

Parish said this research could eventually help usher the next generation of flight, for example, “hypersonic” aircraft that can travel at speeds of Mach 8-10. To help get there, his work moves the field toward a better understanding of the underlying physical phenomena via accurate numerical simulations.

At Sandia’s labs in Livermore, Calif., Parish said he plans to continue the work he started at U-M to develop “reduced order models”, which can process past simulation data to greatly reduce the computational cost of future simulations.

Parish said that conducting research at U-M, with the availability of high performance computing resources and a community of computational scientists to bounce ideas off of, helped push his research to a higher level.

“Within Aero, there are five or six very strong computational groups, which really helps me understand the fundamental aspects of what we’re doing, and what the addition of my small little delta means,” he said. “It’s very exciting to do computational research in that environment; it motivates me to come up with better code.”

In 2016, Parish received a $4,000 fellowship from the Michigan Institute for Computational Discovery and Engineering (MICDE). He used some of the funds to attend the International Workshop on Variational Multiscale Methods in Spain last year, where he met a few dozen people from around the world working on similar problems.

“It was fantastic to network and learn from them,” he said.

Parish grew up in Laramie, Wyo., before attending the University of Wyoming, where he played Division 1 golf. He said there was a small but active computational science community at U-W.

“For its size, there was a lot of good computational stuff there,” he said, adding that 10 years ago he would never have predicted the current direction of his career.

Golf played a significant role in his development as well, Parish said: “Being a successful student-athlete takes an extraordinary amount of work. The successes and failures I had … played an integral part in the development of my work ethic, time management skills, mental attitude, and overall growth as a person…I believe that the experience I gained as a student-athlete gave me a unique perspective and skill set that I was able to use to my advantage.”

As far as his future goes after Sandia, Parish said he plans to either continue in the national lab environment or to explore faculty positions so that he can teach and motivate students as his professors at Wyoming and Michigan did for him.

“I’m grateful for everyone’s help,” he said. “The doors that Michigan can open and the quality of people here are very apparent.”

A simulation of magnetohydrodynamic turbulence done on the ConFlux cluster with roughly 1 billion degree of freedom computation generating about 4TB of data.