UTEP Opens Digital Engineering Facility at NASA Johnson Space Center

Category: News
Published: 2023-06-02
UTEP Opens Digital Engineering Facility at NASA Johnson Space Center

EL PASO, TX – The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) announced that it will now have a home at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, thanks to a new agreement with NASA.

At a joint groundbreaking event held in both Houston and El Paso, UTEP and NASA formally announced the operation of a Digital Engineering Design Center (DEDC) – led by UTEP – at the Johnson Space Center. Individuals working at this location will focus on pioneering NASA missions, such as establishing human settlement on the Moon.

“Building strong partnerships with agencies like NASA is one of the best ways to develop needed talent,” said UTEP President Heather Wilson.

Digital engineering is the process of using computer and software tools to accelerate and improve the design, production, testing, evaluation, modification and maintenance of systems. UTEP noted that this type of engineering can speed up the system design process, reduce unnecessary costs, and enable smoother collaboration between engineers.

Drs. Mahamudur Rahman and Afroza Shirin, professors of engineering at UTEP, will lead the DEDC at NASA. The new center will hire talented students from disadvantaged areas of the Houston community to work on NASA’s goal of establishing permanent settlements on the Moon.

Seven student researchers from the University of Houston-Clear Lake and the University of Texas at Tyler are already working at DEDC; five new students will be hired this summer. Similar models of skills development through research already exist at the UTEP Aerospace Center’s digital engineering design centers in El Paso, Texas; Youngstown, Ohio; and Huntsville, Alabama.

Sustainable lunar colonies will have to rely on lunar resources for construction and fueling. To prepare for this challenge, the Johnson Space Center DEDC team will work to design a fully digital production system that can transform lunar surface material into oxygen for use as rocket fuel. The digital representation will undergo design, integration and testing to ultimately help maintain human bases on the Moon and other worlds.

In addition to working with the students, UTEP Aerospace Center engineers will train two NASA engineers, as the agency intends to further integrate the digital engineering paradigm into its own design and development processes.