Space Enabled UROP Dinuri Rupasinghe Awarded AeroAstro Doolittle Prize


Dinuri Rupasinghe

Dinuri Rupasinghe

by Alessandra Davy-Falconi

May 25, 2023



MIT Aero/Astro

Longtime Space Enabled undergraduate researcher Dinuri Rupasinghe was awarded the Doolittle Prize by MIT's department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.  The General James H. Doolittle Prize is given for "outstanding achievement in the design, construction, execution and reporting of an undergraduate experimental research project." Specifically, Rupasinghe was awarded "for playing a leading role in the fabrication and testing of an experiment for a lunar rover that serves as a passive thermometer based on the melting point of wax and other alkanes." 

Space Enabled's nomination read in part:

"Dinuri started working as an undergraduate research assistant in the Space Enabled Research group in summer 2021. Space Enabled designs space systems that promote accessibility and sustainability in the orbital environment around earth. One of our major projects is to study the behavior of candle wax and beeswax as potential ingredients for space systems. One line of work is studying the performance of wax as a fuel for satellites in orbit. Another line of work is designing systems that could potentially serve as passive dust collectors for gathering lunar soil on a rover. Dinuri contributed to both of these aspects of our work. Through the experience since starting as a first year student, Dinuri has grown in maturity and leadership within our team. Dinuri is now the most senior student in this part of our team and mentors less experienced students who join our wax study. Here are examples that highlight Dinuri’s strong performance as a researcher and community contributor. Dinuri played a key role in the design, manufacturing and testing for our team’s first lunar experiment, which includes a Passive Lunar Regolith Sampling system and Passive Wax Thermometer. Dinuri took leadership in designing and operating a lab-based testing system in our laboratory to measure the amount of lunar soil that is captured in the collector. Dinuri worked in multiple iterations of the system and gradually increased the validity. Dinuri worked with team members to measure lunar soil simulants captured in our device using optical information from photographs, similar to what we hope to do for a mission to the moon that will operate next month. Dinuri used MATLAB coding skills and mechanical engineering skills in these projects. Dinuri was also a key team member in the manufacture and testing of a system called the Passive Wax Thermometer. Dinuri personally fabricated the final version that is currently traveling to the moon as part of an international mission. This process involved developing a method to carefully apply small amounts of wax into aluminum cavities and cover them with sapphire covers to make them air tight. Dinuri showed and continues to show great maturity while working with major responsibility for space missions."

Learn more about the lunar experiment from Team Space Enabled here.

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