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Higher Purpose

Professor Farruk Alvi
Professor Farrukh Alvi (right) is FCAAP's executive director.

Since its creation by the Florida Legislature in 2008, the Florida Center for Advanced Aero-Propulsion (FCAAP), a statewide center of excellence, has been conducting research into how to get airplanes to fly more efficiently, with less pollution and less noise. Now, with the coming transformation of NASA's role in space travel, horizons are widening for the Tallahassee center.

The aero-propulsion center's new place in space research stems from its lead role in the new Air Transportation Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation launched by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The new Air Transportation Center's focus will include space launch operations, launch vehicle systems, commercial human space flight and space commerce. Besides FCAAP, members include the Florida Institute of Technology, the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Stanford University, the University of Colorado and the University of Texas, plus Space Florida and NASA's Kennedy Space Center and several commercial space-oriented enterprises.

FCAAP executive director Farrukh Alvi, a professor with the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, says NASA's shift to commercial space transportation presents significant new technology challenges.

"There's a big transition from aircraft taking off to an aircraft being launched,'' says Lou Cattafesta, an aero-propulsion center associate director and University of Florida professor in mechanical and aerospace engineering.

Meanwhile, the aero-propulsion center's ongoing research is showing promise in power generation and in other technologies designed to reduce aircraft drag and noise and increase lift, says Alvi. Scientists are also working with commercial energy partners to develop ways to replace traditional jet fuel with biofuel, says Jay Kapat, aero-propulsion center associate director and University of Central Florida engineering professor.

Also on Tap for the Aero-Propulsion Center

Aero-Propulsion Center
Rendering: Center's new home

» The National Science Foundation in September awarded the center nearly $3.3 million for development of a next-generation polysonic wind tunnel, which will test aircraft flight capability by putting a model in the tunnel, rather than testing in actual flight.

» A move into FSU's $22-million aero-propulsion, mechatronics and energy building, now under construction in Tallahassee's Innovation Park, is scheduled for late 2011.