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"Sin prisa pero sin pausa"


Ph.D Research Thesis: Trajectory Mission Design and Navigation for a Space Weather Forecast

Ph.D Research Thesis: Trajectory Mission Design and Navigation for Space Weather Forecast

Aerial view of Kennedy Space Center and Shuttle Landing Facility (Photo by Pedro Llanos)

Funding Source

Teaching Assistanships, USC

Young Student Researcher, JPL

Faculty Mentor at Research in Industrial Projects, UCLA


Dr. Gerald Hintz, USC

Dr. Martin W. Lo, JPL

James K. Miller, KinetX

Dr. Daniel Erwin, USC

Blue Origin's New Shepard 2.0 M7: First Suborbital Test Flight

 Dec 12 2017

Photo by Blue Origin

Current Research

Support the first Cell Research Experiment In Microgravity (CRExIM) onboard Blue Origin's New Shepard 2.0 Suborbital Flight.
Press Release

There is experimental evidence suggesting that microgravity alters many cellular processes in immune cells. Previous in-vitro and in-vivo studies investigating microgravity effect on the immune system demonstrated a variety of alterations in murine and human cells, such as apoptosis, changes in proliferation, cytokine production. Although our understanding of the microgravity effect on the immune system is expanding, however, the molecular pathways mediating this effect have not been completely delineated. Furthermore, due to the lack of proper experimental controls, previous studies yield inconsistent results. Therefore, building upon previous research, the goal of this study is to investigate the effect of microgravity on the murine immune cells during suborbital flight. We used three experimental conditions:
1) T-cells primed with the cytokine IL-2;
2) T-cells primed with the cytokine IL-12, and
3) control cells, not primed with any cytokines.
These cytokines play a critical role in cell immunity and are known to enhance immune cells behavior in a very short period of time. Therefore, we hypothesize that we will see the difference in cellular processes of these cells during suborbital flight.
Scientific Objective 1: Evaluate major immune cells populations including CD4+, CD8+.
Scientific Objective 2: Assess the cell surface antigenic markers using monoclonal antibodies by flow cytometric assays.
Scientific Objective 3: Assess cells functionality.

Funding Source
Applied Aviation Sciences Department, ERAU
Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC)
University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio (UTHSCSA)
Mechanical Engineering Deparment, ERAU

Funding Amount
Funds from various universities

Project Duration
December 2015-2021

Principal Investigator
Dr. Pedro Llanos

Industrial Partners
Blue Origin

Other Collaborators
Kristina Andrijauskaite, UTHSCSA/MUSC
Dr. Sathya Gangadharan, ERAU
Dr. Mark Rubinstein, Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC)

Nikita Amberkar, Master Student in Mechanical Engineering (2022)
Justin Nafziger, Undergraduate Spaceflight Operations (2022)

Nikita Amberkar, Undegraduate Aerospace Engineering (2020)
Vijay Duraisamy, Doctoral Student in Mechanical Engineering (2021)
Chris Hays, Undergraduate Aerospace Engineering (2019)
Christopher Nguyen, Undergradute Commercial Space Operations (2018)

Francisco Pastrana, Undergraduate Aerospace Engineering (2018)
Joel Vela, Undergradute Commercial Space Operations (2018
Collin Topolski, Undergraduate Aerospace Engineering (2018)
Cynthia Stockton, Undergradute Commercial Space Operations (2018)

Reece Lindsquist, Undergradute Commercial Space Operations (2018)
Nicholas Cheri, Undergradute Commercial Space Operations (2018)
Abdiel Santos, Undegraduate Aerospace Engineering (2018)
Fergi Idrovo,
Undergradute Commercial Space Operations (2016)

Award for Artistic Merit at The American Society for Gravitational and Space Research 2017 Combustion Art Competition

Research Images

Multiple Clusters of Cells after two days in the incubator

Single Cluster of Cells after two days in the incubator

Student Advising

Graduate and Undergraduate Student Advising

  1. Nikita Amberkar, Senior Melisa Mastroliberti, Senior Jana Alaslani, Sophomore Izzy Halphen, Junior Prajwal Srikanth, Junior Vijay Duraisamy, "Fabrication of Rocket and Payload Bay Area", First Prize Group Award, Discovery Day, April 2020.

  2. Francisco Pastrana et al.  "Level 3 Rocket as a Payload Testing Platform", Third Prize Award, Discovery Day, April 2018.

  3. Vijay Vishal, Francisco Pastrana, Collin Topolski, Kristina Andrijauskaite, "Design, Development and Testing of a Suborbital Nanolab Research Experiment in Microgravity", 2017.

  4. Joel Vela, Reece Lindsquist, Nicholas Cheri, "Operations and Testing of a Suborbital Research Payload", 2017.

  5. Collin Topolski, Francisco Pastrana, Ankit Rukkaijar, Joel Vela, Reece Lindsquist, Nicholas Cheri, "ERAU's First Suborbital Payload for Cell Research", First Prize Award, Discovery Day, Daytona Beach, 2017.

  6. Christopher Nguyen, "Lessons Learned with the XCOR Lynx using the Suborbital Space Flight Simulator and Mission Control Center", Discovery Day, Daytona Beach, 2017.

  7. Christopher Hays, Nihal Pradhan, Nicholas Musielewicz, "Flight Operations Quality Assurance Analysis for
    Contingency Scenarios of SpaceShipTwo using ERAU's Suborbital Space Flight Simulator", ERAU Honor Students.

  8. Fergie Idrovo, "Human Factors Overview of Past and Present Manned Suborbital and Orbital Spaceflights", McNair Student of the Year 2016. McNair Scholar Report, ERAU 2016.

  9. Henry Lax, "Commercial Crew Program Analysis", ERAU, 2016.

  10. Sarah Beattie, "Repurposing Suborbital Technologies to Assist in Debris Mitigation and Orbital Launching Capabilities", South West Research Institute,

  11. Abdiel Santos, John Ford, "Reaching High-Earth Orbits and the Moon's Vicinity from the ISS with CubeSat Technolgy", ERAU's IGNITE 2015.

At West Texas Launch Site preparing a T-cell payload to fly aboard New Shepard

Photo by Blue Origin

Rehearsing Science Experiment at Payload Processing Facility, WTLS

Photo by Blue Origin

Rehearsing Instrument Integration in the NanoLab at Payload Processing Facility, WTLS

NASA Student Projects Adviser



NASA Student Opportunities Research Airborne (SOAR) aboard WB-57 aircraft at Ellington Field, Houston -More research/info to come! (Co-Principal Investigator and Faculty Adviser)


NASA's WB-57 Flight

 Dec 1 2017

"Embry Riddle Aeronautical University constructed a universal test bed to host their three experiments, which included a payload to study and better understand ADS-B technology, Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast, a surveillance technology in which an aircraft determines its position,an experiment to assess the performance of science-grade global navigation systems on a moving platform as well as a third biological experiment to investigate the effects of high altitude radiation on T-cells"-NASA

Photo by NASA

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