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image of Enceladus

Cassini finds Enceladus is a powerhouse

Heat output from the south polar region of Saturn’s moon Enceladus is much greater than was previously thought possible, according to a new analysis of data collected by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. The study was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research on March 4.

Data from Cassini’s composite infrared spectrometer of Enceladus’ south polar terrain, which is marked by linear fissures known as “tiger stripes,” indicate that the internal heat-generated power is about 15.8 gigawatts, approximately 2.6 times the power output of all the hot springs in the Yellowstone region, or comparable to 20 coal-fueled power stations. This is more than an order of magnitude higher than scientists had predicted, according to Dr. Carly Howett, lead author of the study, who is a postdoctoral researcher at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., and a composite infrared spectrometer science team member.

A possible explanation of the high heat flow observed is that Enceladus’ orbital relationship to Saturn and Dione changes with time, allowing periods of more intensive tidal heating, separated by more quiescent periods. This means Cassini might be lucky enough to be seeing Enceladus when it is unusually active.

The new, higher heat flow determination makes it even more likely that liquid water exists below Enceladus’ surface, Howett noted.

Recently, scientists studying ice particles ejected from the plumes discovered that some of the particles are salt-rich, and are probably frozen droplets from a saltwater ocean in contact with Enceladus’ mineral-rich rocky core. The presence of a sub-surface ocean, or perhaps a south polar sea between the moon’s outer ice shell and its rocky interior would increase the efficiency of the tidal heating by allowing greater tidal distortions of the ice shell.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The CIRS team is based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., where the instrument was built.

Contact Howett at (303) 546-9670 or


Photo of Terry Alger, Ph.D.

Alger receives SAE’s Forest R. McFarland Award

Dr. Terry Alger, manager of the Advanced Combustion and Emissions Section in the Engine, Emissions and Vehicle Research Division at Southwest Research Institute, has been selected to receive the Forest R. McFarland Award, presented by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).

The award was established to honor the late Forest R. McFarland for his many contributions to SAE. The award is given for outstanding contributions to the SAE Engineering Meetings Board. SAE recognized Alger for being “instrumental in establishing a forum through SAE to foster improved discussions on high-efficiency internal combustion engine technologies.” To this end, “he has organized and moderated several SAE panel sessions that have led to energetic discussions and exchanges of ideas on technologies spanning fundamental combustion concepts to engine-system integration and strategy.” Alger received the award in Detroit at the April 2011 SAE World Congress.

Alger joined the SwRI staff in 2003 following employment at the Ford Motor Company. Alger specializes in combustion research and optical diagnostics. His current research concerns improving engine efficiency and emissions through in-cylinder combustion processes and advanced engine technologies. He also manages SwRI’s HEDGE® II Consortium, which focuses on improving gasoline engine efficiency through the use of cooled exhaust gas recirculation, advanced ignition systems and other technologies.

Alger holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the United States Military Academy, a master’s degree and doctorate in mechanical engineering from The University of Texas at Austin, and a master’s degree in business administration from The University of Texas at San Antonio.

Alger has authored more than 40 published papers and holds seven U.S. patents.

Contact Alger at (210) 522-5505 or


Photo of Charles Roberts Jr., Ph.D.

Roberts elected Fellow of the Society of Automotive Engineers

Dr. Charles Roberts Jr., an Institute engineer in the Engine, Emissions and Vehicle Research Division at Southwest Research Institute, has been elected a Fellow of the Society of Automotive Engineers.

Fellow is the highest grade of membership in the SAE and recognizes long-term members who have made a significant impact on the society’s mobility technology through leadership, research and innovation. The distinction is bestowed on about 20 recipients each year. Roberts is recognized for his leadership and “for individual technical accomplishments in advanced gasoline and diesel engine combustion and emissions control.” He received the award this April during the SAE World Congress.

At SwRI, which he joined in 1997, he has developed a variety of engine and emissions technologies while acting as project manager for numerous internal and client-supported projects. He specializes in engine research, combustion systems and combustion chemistry. He is manager of the SwRI Clean Diesel program, one of the world’s longest-running and largest diesel engine cooperative research consortia, consisting of more than 35 client-companies from around the world. Additionally, Roberts previously managed the SwRI HEDGE® cooperative research program, where cooled exhaust gas recirculation and turbocharging technologies were researched toward widespread application in the gasoline vehicle industry.

He has authored more than 25 technical papers on subjects including diesel and gasoline engine development, engine simulation, combustion chemistry, ring pack and piston design, variable valve mechanism control, and methods for reducing oxides of nitrogen emissions, unburned hydrocarbons and particulates from diesel and spark-ignited engines. He holds 20 patents in the areas of engines and emissions technology.

Roberts holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Texas A&I University and a doctorate in mechanical engineering from The University of Texas at Austin.

Contact Roberts at (210) 522-5521 or


Photo of space

SwRI signs contracts for suborbital flights aboard reusable launchers

Southwest Research Institute has announced pioneering agreements to send three scientists as payload specialists aboard eight suborbital flights — some to altitudes greater than 350,000 feet, above the internationally recognized boundary of space.

No other organization has yet concluded contracts to fly its researchers in space aboard next-generation suborbital spacecraft. Also unique is the number of payload specialist researcher seats involved — eight at a minimum, with options up to 17 high-altitude or space flights.

The program, supported by SwRI internal research and development funding, is led by SwRI Space Science and Engineering Division Associate Vice President Dr. Alan Stern.

At least two SwRI researchers will fly into space aboard the world’s first commercial crewed spaceship, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, which carries two pilots and up to six researchers above the internationally accepted boundary of space.

SwRI researchers will also fly at least six high-altitude missions aboard XCOR Corporation’s Lynx Mark I high-altitude rocket plane, which carries a pilot and a single researcher at altitudes up to 200,000 feet. Lynx I is currently in development, with test flights expected to begin in 2012.

On these flights, SwRI payload specialists will perform research using existing biomedical, microgravity and astronomical imaging experiments conceived and prepared for flight at SwRI. Both SpaceShipTwo and Lynx I are designed to offer robust data collection systems and allow researchers to conduct their experiments either inside a pressurized cabin environment or externally, giving instruments direct exposure to the upper atmosphere or, aboard Virgin Galactic’s Space- ShipTwo, outer space itself.

Contact Stern at (303) 546-9670 or


SwRI wins Swiss accreditation for evaluating diesel exhaust filters

The Swiss Federal Office for the Environment has granted accreditation to Southwest Research Institute to evaluate engine exhaust filters under stringent new solid-particle emissions standards for diesel engines sold in Switzerland. Since 2009, non-road diesel engines sold in Switzerland have had to meet the Swiss Federal Ordinance on Air Pollution Control (OAPC).

In addition to meeting European Union (EU) emissions regulations, engines sold in Switzerland must meet a stringent solid particle-number emission limit for particles in the range from 20 nanometers to 300 nanometers in diameter, according to Dr. Imad A. Khalek, program manager in SwRI’s Engine, Emissions and Vehicle Research Division.

For engines equipped with diesel exhaust particle filters, the OAPC requires a solid particle-number filtration efficiency of 97 percent or greater, or verification that the engine meets the Euro VI solid particle-number limit that will apply to onhighway diesels sold in the EU beginning in 2014.

“The OAPC is the most stringent particle emission regulation in the world. It requires special expertise in particle emissions science and technology,” Khalek said.

The Swiss accreditation was granted to SwRI on Oct. 13, 2010. In September 2008, the Swiss Federal Council amended the OAPC to set a Jan. 1, 2009 deadline for new construction machines with a power output of more than 37 kW to meet a specified maximum level of particle emissions or be equipped with an OAPC-approved particle filter system. For smaller machines and the retrofitting of older models, other effective dates apply according to output and age. The testing procedure specified in the OAPC for particle filter systems is based on Swiss standard SNR 277205, an official standard of the Swiss Association for Standardization.

Contact Khalek at (210) 522-2536, or


photo of Ken Chiang, Ph.D.

Chiang elected Associate Fellow of American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Dr. Kuang-Tsan (Ken) Chiang, a senior research scientist in Southwest Research Institute’s Geosciences and Engineering Division, has been elected as an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

AIAA Associate Fellows are individuals of distinction who have made notable and valuable contributions to the arts, sciences, or technology of aeronautics or astronautics. Chiang is one of 186 Associate Fellows who were honored in January 2011 during the 49th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting in Orlando, Fla.

Chiang joined SwRI in 2003 and currently conducts research on corrosion degradation of radioactive waste containment systems and concrete structures, and hightemperature corrosion of nickel-based turbine disk alloys. He has more than 20 years of experience in aerospace materials and processes and expertise in material properties, fabrication processes, high temperature oxidation and corrosion, and protective coatings.

Chiang holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan, a master’s degree in management of technology from The University of Texas at San Antonio and master’s and doctoral degrees in physics from the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of two book chapters and more than 70 technical papers in journals, conference proceedings and reports. He holds five U.S. patents with four additional patents pending.

In addition to the AIAA, he is a member of ASM International; The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS); American Vacuum Society; and NACE International.


photo of Dale A. Cope, Ph.D.

Cope elected Associate Fellow of American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Dr. Dale A. Cope, a program manager in Southwest Research Institute’s Mechanical Engineering Division, has been elected as an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

AIAA Associate Fellows are individuals of distinction who have made notable and valuable contributions to the arts, sciences or technology of aeronautics or astronautics. Cope is one of 186 Associate Fellows who were honored Jan. 4 during the 49th Aerospace Sciences Meeting in Orlando.

Cope has more than 20 years of experience in aircraft structures technology. Prior to joining the SwRI staff in 2007, he was a laboratory director at the National Institute for Aviation Research where he was responsible for conducting research related to the airworthiness of aging aircraft. Cope is also a retired U.S. Air Force officer with experience as an aircraft maintenance officer and aircraft structural engineer. At SwRI, he has conducted an internal research project for aircraft structural health monitoring, and he supports the Air Force’s Aircraft Structural Integrity Program for the T-38, A-10 and KC-135. He is currently serving as the technical manager for the destructive teardown evaluation of a KC-135 aircraft.

Cope holds a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Texas A&M University, a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology and a doctorate in aerospace engineering from Wichita State University. He is the author of 29 publications and presentations.

In addition to the AIAA, he is a member of the Air Force Association, Phi Kappa Phi, Tau Beta Pi and Sigma Gamma Tau.

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