University of Maryland (UMD) Department of Aerospace Engineering alumna Grace Zimmerman (M.S. ’23) won first place in the 2023 Clark School Dean’s Research awards in the master’s category for her work exploring aeroassisted maneuvers for missions to the ice giants Neptune and Uranus.

Zimmerman, who graduated earlier this year with her M.S. from the department, is currently a part of the Astrodynamics and Control Systems Group at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. There she supports the Parker Solar Probe and New Horizons missions.

While at UMD, Grace was a part of Associate Professor Christine Hartzell's Planetary Surfaces and Spacecraft Laboratory and was also a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow.

Zimmerman’s thesis, which contributed to her winning work for the Dean’s award explored aerogravity-assisted trajectories for aerocapture at the ice giants, Neptune and Uranus.

Neptune and Uranus are two candidates for an aerocapture maneuver in which a spacecraft is captured into a bound orbit through a single atmospheric pass, explained Zimmerman.

Another aeroassisted maneuver, the aerogravity-assist (AGA), uses an atmospheric pass to increase the turn angle around a planet, thus enabling large changes in a spacecraft’s heliocentric velocity. As both maneuvers require high arrival velocities and thermal protection system technologies, it may be beneficial to execute both maneuvers on a single mission.

To investigate the possible benefit of an AGA trajectory for setting up an aerocapture maneuver at the ice giants, Zimmerman developed a two-layer optimization approach to investigate the trajectory space. Trajectories are identified for both Uranus and Neptune that increase the number of feasible launches as compared to traditional gravity-assisted (GA) trajectories. In addition, her study identifies a new family of periodic high-altitude AGA trajectories to Uranus that are feasible using existing vehicle technologies.

Zimmerman received her B.S. in Physics at the University of Central Arkansas. She has also completed multiple internships with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and NASA Langley Research Center, where she worked on Uranus mission instrumentation, guidance and control for on-orbit robotics, and a guidance system for touch-and-go operations on small bodies.

She hopes to one day support a flagship mission to one of the ice giant planets.

Related Articles:
Garbulinski Receives USMSC GSG Outstanding Student Leader Award
Morcos Recognized with Graduate School Outstanding GA Award
Three UMD Students Named Among Aviation Week Network’s Class of 2024 20 Twenties
Six Clark School Faculty Receive 2024 DURIP Awards
Alumna Rose Weinstein Receives NASA Early Career Achievement Medal
Department Welcomes New Faculty Member John Martin
Ashwani Gupta Named Royal Academy of Engineering Fellow
UMD's 40th Annual Convocation Honors Engineering Staff, Faculty
Colleen Murray Wins Award at Regional SAMPE Symposium
UMD Takes Second at VFS Design-Build-Vertical-Flight Competition

December 19, 2023

«Previous Story  



Current Headlines

Two UMD Students Win Spots in SAMPE University Research Symposium

UMD Team Wins Spaceport America Cup

Designing for Moon Mission

Ph.D. Student Receives Best Paper Award at VFS 80th Annual Forum

Maryland Engineering: Top 10 Among Public Graduate Programs, Six Years Running

Roving Reporter

Students with Entrepreneurial Curiosity: Launch Your Business Idea at Maryland

Congratulations to our 2024 Honors and Awards Recipients

Engineering Students Fabricate Tomorrow’s Solutions Today

Alum Appointed Space Domain Lead for AIAA

Back to top  
CORE Home Clark School Home UMD Home Aerospace Engineering