Author Archive | Denise Stefula

KSC team delves into wearable tech in space

KSC Delves in Wearable Tech

In the image above,  NASA engineers Delvin VanNorman, Michael McDonough, Kelvin Ruiz, David Miranda and Allan Villorin in the lab experimenting with Epson and Vuzix smart glasses. (Photo: Malcolm Denemark/FLORIDA TODAY)

On his “smart” watch, David Miranda checks e-mail and appointments, dictates text messages and performs Google searches, among other tasks.

The accessory makes the Kennedy Space Center engineer an early adopter of “wearable technology” that one leading consumer electronics company predicts will emerge as a hot workplace trend this year .

But in “wearables” like the LG watch or Google Glass eye wear, Miranda and a group of colleagues see the potential for something more visionary: helping KSC workers do their jobs more safely and efficiently, and maybe someday also astronaut explorers.

“Whether they’re walking on the Martian surface or on an asteroid, this could give them a lot of critical information to help them be successful,” said Miranda, 31, of Orlando.

Miranda leads an eight-person team of young engineers who this month are beginning a two-year project to develop a prototype headset that works something like a Google Glass for space operations.

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X-Rays: Next-Gen Way to Travel and Talk in Space?


NASA scientists say they have figured out a way to use X-rays to both communicate with long-distance spacecraft, as well as navigate as they sail past the outer limits of the solar system.

They say that using X-rays is faster than existing radio wave communications, can carry more information and won’t be blocked when spacecraft enter a planet’s thick atmosphere.

“While we are using X-ray navigation to guide us to Pluto, we might also use X-ray communication to talk back to Earth,” said Keith Gendreau, principal investigator at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

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World’s First 3D Printer in Space Will Launch This Month

Above: Mike Snyder and Jason Dunn of Made In Space work on construction of the 3D printer in the company’s cleanroom. Credit: Made In Space

The first 3D printer ever to fly in space will blast off this month, and NASA has high hopes for the innovative device’s test runs on the International Space Station.

The 3D printer, which is scheduled to launch toward the orbiting lab Sept. 19 aboard SpaceX’s unmanned Dragon cargo capsule, could help lay the foundation for broader in-space manufacturing capabilities, NASA officials said. The end result could be far less reliance on resupply from Earth, leading to cheaper and more efficient missions to faraway destinations such as Mars.

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NASA Completes Successful Battery of Tests on Composite Cryotank

NASA has completed a complex series of tests on one of the largest composite cryogenic fuel tanks ever manufactured, bringing the aerospace industry much closer to designing, building, and flying lightweight, composite tanks on rockets.

“This is one of NASA’s major technology accomplishments for 2014,” said Michael Gazarik, NASA’s associate administrator for Space Technology. “This is the type of technology that can improve competitiveness for the entire U.S. launch industry, not to mention other industries that want to replace heavy metal components with lightweight composites. These tests, and others we have conducted this year on landing technologies for Mars vehicles, show how technology development is the key to driving exploration.”

The demanding series of tests on the 18-foot (5.5-meter) diameter tank were conducted inside a test stand at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Engineers added structural loads to the tank to replicate the physical stresses launch vehicles experience during flight.

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NASA Selects Proposals for Advanced Energy Storage Systems

The Scarab lunar rover is one of the next generation of autonomous robotic rovers that will be used to explore dark polar craters at the lunar south pole. The rover is powered by a 100-watt fuel cell developed under the Space Power Systems Project under Game Changing Development program. Supported by NASA, the rover is being developed by the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University. Image Credit: Carnegie Mellon University

NASA has selected four proposals for advanced energy storage technologies that may be used to power the agency’s future space missions.

Development of these new energy storage devices will help enable NASA’s future robotic and human-exploration missions and aligns with conclusions presented in the National Research Council’s “NASA Space Technology Roadmaps and Priorities,” which calls for improved energy generation and storage “with reliable power systems that can survive the wide range of environments unique to NASA missions.” NASA believes these awards will lead to such energy breakthroughs.

“NASA’s advanced space technology development doesn’t stop with hardware and instruments for spacecraft,” said Michael Gazarik, associate administrator for Space Technology at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “New energy storage technology will be critical to our future exploration of deep space — whether missions to an asteroid, Mars or beyond. That’s why we’re investing in this critical mission technology area.”

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First LDSD Test Flight a Success

Hours after the June 28, 2014, test of NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator over the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range, the saucer-shaped test vehicle is lifted aboard the Kahana recovery vessel. Image Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech

Hours after the June 28, 2014, test of NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator over the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range, the saucer-shaped test vehicle is lifted aboard the Kahana recovery vessel. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA representatives participated in a media teleconference this morning to discuss the June 28, 2014 near-space test flight of the agency’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), which occurred off the coast of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.

A high-altitude balloon launch occurred at 8:45 a.m. HST (11:45 a.m. PDT/2:45 p.m. EDT) from the Hawaiian island facility. At 11:05 a.m. HST (2:05 p.m. PDT/5:05 p.m. EDT), the LDSD test vehicle dropped away from the balloon as planned and began powered flight. The balloon and test vehicle were about 120,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean at the time of the drop. The vehicle splashed down in the ocean at approximately 11:35 a.m. HST (2:35 p.m. PDT/5:35 p.m. EDT), after the engineering test flight concluded. The test vehicle hardware, black box data recorder and parachute were all recovered later in the day.

“We are thrilled about yesterday’s test,” said Mark Adler, project manager for LDSD at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “The test vehicle worked beautifully, and we met all of our flight objectives. We have recovered all the vehicle hardware and data recorders and will be able to apply all of the lessons learned from this information to our future flights.”

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International Space Station Being Used As A Technology Test Bed

The International Space Station is critically important to NASA’s future exploration missions. The orbiting outpost provides a platform to test technologies in a long-duration weightless environment; conditions which are impractical to replicate on Earth. NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate is utilizing the space station as a test bed for multiple game-changing technology demonstrations.

“The International Space Station is our national laboratory for foundational space technology development,” said Dr. Michael Gazarik, Associate Administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate. “The new technologies we fly and test on the station will help create the new capabilities needed for our Asteroid Initiative and our Evolvable Mars Campaign. The International Space Station is an innovation incubator for the advanced space technology that will get us to Mars, and beyond.”

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Robots Will Pave the Way to Mars

The first robot capable of building anything including a replica of itself, might cost a fortune to develop; the billionth copy would be as cheap as dirt. Send some of them into space and they could build new armies out of planetary rubble and dust, then go on to construct enough spaceships and refueling stations to carry the human race to other planets and, eventually, other stars.

That’s the scenario laid out some 35 years ago by a team of academics and NASA engineers meeting at the University of Santa Clara, in California. They envisioned robotic factories that would cover the moon and exploit the asteroid belt, extracting the resources needed to build more and better versions of themselves and also vast orbiting telescopes, space colonies, and other structures too big to launch from Earth. Over time, the researchers wrote, these bots could “produce an ever-widening habitat for man throughout the Solar System” and beyond it. The approach could become so successful, they warned, that we might have to worry about robotic population control.

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NASA Langley part of new space tech research

April 17, 2014 | By Tamara Dietrich,


The technologies needed to get humans deeper into space and safely on another planet are continuing apace, and will take financial commitments for years to come, a NASA official says.

But NASA’s partnerships with industry and academia to develop and hone those technologies will also reap benefits on this planet, as well, he said.

“A deep-space exploration mission is, in some ways, imminent,” Michael Gazarik said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters to give updates on developing technologies and upcoming missions that will eventually enable manned exploration — to an asteroid, Mars or the moon of another planet.

Gazarik is the associate administrator for space technology at NASA headquarters. The broad umbrella of his Space Technology Mission Directorate includes the Game Changing Development Office at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, headed up by Steve Gaddis.

Gaddis helped spotlight some of those game-changing technologies Tuesday when Sen. Tim Kaine visited the center for an informational tour. There, Kaine said he was committed to NASA’s proposed $17.5 billion budget for fiscal year 2015, and even to see it increased in future. Read more (+)

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A Step Up for NASA’s Robonaut: Ready for Climbing Legs


Getting your “space legs” in Earth orbit has taken on new meaning for NASA’s pioneering Robonaut program.

Thanks to a successful launch of the SpaceX-3 flight of the Falcon 9/Dragon capsule on Friday, April 18, the lower limbs for Robonaut 2 (R2) are aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Safely tucked inside the Dragon resupply vehicle, R2’s legs are to be attached by a station crew member to Robonaut’s torso already on the orbiting outpost.

R2’s upper body arrived on the space station back in February 2011 during the last flight of the space shuttle Discovery. That event signaled the first human-like robot to arrive in space to become a permanent resident of the laboratory.

Jointly developed by NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations and Space Technology mission directorates in cooperation with with General Motors, R2 showcases how a robotic assistant can work alongside humans, whether tasks are done in space or on Earth in a manufacturing facility.

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NASA’s space station Robonaut finally getting legs

By MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Writer | April 19, 2014


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs.

For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot — now stuck on a pedestal — is going mobile at the International Space Station.

“Legs are going to really kind of open up the robot’s horizons,” said Robert Ambrose from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

It’s the next big step in NASA’s quest to develop robotic helpers for astronauts. With legs, the 8-foot Robonaut will be able to climb throughout the 260-mile-high outpost, performing mundane cleaning chores and fetching things for the human crew.

The robot’s gangly, contortionist-bending legs are packed aboard a SpaceX supply ship that launched Friday, more than a month late. It was the private company’s fourth shipment to the space station for NASA and is due to arrive Easter Sunday morning.

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Astronaut Ready to Take 3D Printing Into the Final Frontier

Above: A 3D printer developed by Made in Space will fly to the International Space Station. IMAGE CREDIT: Miriam Kramer/

One NASA astronaut launching to the International Space Station in May is ready to 3D print in space.

Astronaut Reid Wiseman, bound for the station in May, is eager to use the first 3D printer in space this summer. Wiseman, flying into space for the first time as a member of the Expedition 40/41 crew, thinks that the implications for 3D printing in space are exciting and far-reaching.

“Imagine if Apollo 13 had a 3D printer,” Wiseman said in a news conference this month. “Imagine if you’re going to Mars and instead of packing along 20,000 spare parts, you pack along a few kilograms of ink. Now, you don’t even need to know what part is going to break, you can just print out that part. Let’s say your screwdriver strips out halfway to Mars and you need a screwdriver, print out a screwdriver. Really, I think for the future, that’s pretty fascinating. I really like that and it’ll be fun to play with that on orbit.” Read more (+).

See the video: Space Station 3D Printer Slated To Launch This Summer.

See the photo gallery: 3D Printing In Space: A New Dimension.

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NASA’s Super Guppy Makes a Special Delivery

NASA’s Super Guppy, a wide-bodied cargo aircraft, landed at the Redstone Army Airfield near Huntsville, Ala. on March 26 with a special delivery: an innovative composite rocket fuel tank. The tank was manufactured at the Boeing Developmental Center in Tukwila, Wash. The tank will be unloaded from the Super Guppy, which has a hinged nose that opens and allows large cargos like the tank to be easily unloaded. After the tank is removed from the Super Guppy, it will be inspected and prepared for testing at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The composite tank project is part of the Game Changing Development Program and NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate. Image credit: NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given

NASA’s Super Guppy, a wide-bodied cargo aircraft, landed at the Redstone Army Airfield near Huntsville, Ala. on March 26 with a special delivery: an innovative composite rocket fuel tank. The tank was manufactured at the Boeing Developmental Center in Tukwila, Wash. The tank will be unloaded from the Super Guppy, which has a hinged nose that opens and allows large cargos like the tank to be easily unloaded. After the tank is removed from the Super Guppy, it will be inspected and prepared for testing at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The composite tank project is part of the Game Changing Development Program and NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.
Image credit: NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given

› Alternate view #1
› Alternate view #2
› Flickr: Super Guppy and Cryotank

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LVAC: Advancing the Technology Readiness Of SLS Adaptive Controls

NASA Armstrong’s highly modified F/A-18A Full Scale Advanced Systems Testbed aircraft No. 853 validated the effectiveness of the Adaptive Augmenting Controller developed by NASA Marshall engineers for the Space Launch System.
Image Credit: NASA / Carla Thomas

Can a rocket maneuver like an airplane?

And can an airplane act as a surrogate for a maneuvering rocket?

NASA engineers demonstrated just that when they used a NASA F/A-18 aircraft recently to simulate a rocket in its early flight phase to test adaptive software for NASA’s new rocket the Space Launch System (SLS), the largest, most powerful launch vehicle for deep space missions.

The tests are helping engineers working on the development of the SLS at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., ensure the rocket can adjust to the environment it faces as it makes its way to space. Read more (+)

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Collaboration Key to Successful Technology “Push”

Bill Farr

Above, former DSOC Project Manager Bill Farr in his lab at NASA’s JPL. Credit: NASA

The Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration (LLCD) mission made history in October 2013 when it succeeded in transferring data at 622 Megabits per second, a rate six times that of comparable radio frequency systems, like going from dial up to a high-speed Internet connection. But this technological achievement in laser communications was at risk had it not been for the “push” researchers experienced when an important component, a photodiode detector, failed to perform as necessary during testing.

In the world of emerging technologies, a “push” is any activity attempting to expand on advancements to current challenges or limitations. Within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), projects like Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) seek to do just that. When LLCD was faced with the detector failure, a potential replacement was identified—one with a challenge: it was still under development with DSOC.

The LLCD experiment, now well known for its achievement, launched onboard the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on September 6, 2013. A series of LLCD experiments began in late September with the first successful downlink from LADEE on September 28, just before LADEE reached lunar orbit. LLCD mission operations began in mid-October, and by October 21 six links were successfully completed.

Getting to that successful point, however, was not a straightforward path and required numerous collaborative efforts among individuals and organizations across NASA and industry.

The Lunar Lasercom Ground Terminal at White Sands, New Mexico. Credit: MIT

The Lunar Lasercom Ground Terminal at White Sands, New Mexico. Credit: MIT

Early in the mission life cycle, it became evident that there was a high probability of limited or no communications link opportunities for the LADEE launch due to clouds or inclement weather during the monsoon season at the optical ground station at White Sands Center in New Mexico. NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) Office stepped in by funding a back-up ground station at the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Optical Communications Telescope Laboratory. The JPL back-up ground station project is referred to as LLOT, or the Lunar Lasercom OCTL Terminal. The JPL ground station has a telescope specifically designed for space optical communications experiments. The back-up station project required a demonstration only at the lowest downlink rate of 39 Mb/s. During early testing of that capability, the baselined commercial intensified photodiode detector failed to adequately detect data at 39 Mb/s.

The need to overcome this limitation was clear; fortunately the answer was already in the works.


The optical module of the Lunar Laser Communication Demo’s Space Terminal aboard LADEE during environmental testing. Credit: NASA

Back in the summer of 2011, under SCaN funding, Bill Farr and Jeff Stern of JPL had begun WSi detector development in collaboration with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, building on what Farr described as NIST’s “ground-breaking achievements.”

“This naturally flowed into STMD’s Game Changing Development DSOC project starting in the fall of 2011,” said Farr. “Our DSOC project goal has been to make large arrays of WSi detectors to go behind 5- to 12-m diameter telescopes. We are presently fabricating 64-pixel arrays. At an interim step we fabricated the 8- and 12-pixel devices, which were suitable for use behind a 1-m telescope, such as at the JPL ground station.”

Farr and Stern fabricated and began testing their first WSi devices at the start of March 2012.

“In collaboration with NIST, by the end of April 2012 we had a record setting 93-percent system detection efficiency with single-pixel devices, and under the DARPA-funded InPho program performed a record setting 13-bits per photon demonstration using pulse-position-modulation (the preferred deep-space optical communications modulation format) with one of these devices,” Farr said of the testing results.

In September 2012, after the critical nature of issues with the commercial photodiode detector was deemed insurmountable, the challenge was firmly set. The LLOT project found that to succeed, it would be necessary to switch to the WSi detector and moving forward was review-board approved.

With that approval, the push was now truly on.

Farr’s own words best describe the dynamic collaborative efforts:

“I knew a local vendor, Photon Spot, Inc., (Monrovia, Ca.) starting a business in superconducting nanowire detectors. The LLOT project worked with Photon Spot to quickly assemble and lease a cryostat that would achieve the required 1-K operating temperature for the WSi detectors.

“The cryostat was delivered to JPL in April 2013. Matt Shaw and Kevin Birnbaum at JPL then led the effort under the LLOT project to get the detector array installed into this cryostat and then interfaced to the data acquisition system, which was originally selected to operate with the photodiode detector. Kevin came up with a novel interface using only off-the-shelf electronic modules in order to meet the tight project schedule and budget.”

By June, the LLOT project demonstrated error-free communications and successfully completed compatibility testing of the WSi-based LLOT receiver with the Lunar Lasercomm Space Terminal engineering unit.

“An amazing 2-month integration effort by Matt and Kevin and the rest of the LLOT team,” said Farr.

John Rush, director for the Technology and Standards Division of NASA’s Space Communications Office, visited the JPL ground station for a final check before the LLCD experiment started. Discussions included the list of challenges the team faced in getting ready on time. “The biggest challenge was the detectors where everyone agreed that the original detectors would not have worked. But the tungsten silicide detectors that STMD invested in saved the day,” Rush said.

“The new detectors now hold the world record for efficiency at 93 percent and for a mind-boggling 13 bits per photon,” Rush added. “This is an excellent example of how working together we can achieve things that we can’t achieve by ourselves.”

Denise M. Stefula
NASA’s Langley Research Center

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NASA, Virginia Come Together to Talk Aerospace


Photo credit: NASA/David Bowman
Article by Denise Lineberry, NASA’s Langley Research Center

Amid the hustle and bustle on the nine floors of the Virginia General Assembly building in Richmond, about 75 representatives from NASA and the aerospace industry spoke to every single member during a two-day awareness campaign called Aerospace Day 2014.

In small teams, they moved from office to office, expressing thanks and noting the impact of the aerospace industry in Virginia: $36.4 billion, 28,110 high-paying jobs, $57.5 million in state tax revenues and a highly skilled workforce.

“There’s only one word we can use to describe the impact that Wallops and NASA have had, it’s ‘Wow.’” said Sen. John Cosgrove. “It’s just amazing … we’re just so excited. We take pride for being in your corner and supporting you.”

View the photo gallery here.

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NASA Langley part of ISS ‘fluid slosh’ experiment

NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins holds a plastic container partially filled with green-colored water which is used in the free-flying satellites known as Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES - Slosh experiment. Credits: NASA

NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins holds a plastic container partially filled with green-colored water which is used in the free-flying satellites known as Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES – Slosh experiment. Credits: NASA

By Tamara Dietrich, The Daily Press

January 8, 2014

When a liquid-fueled rocket vaults into space, there’s a whole lot of sloshing going on inside those fuel tanks.

A better understanding of how that liquid behaves in zero gravity could help engineers build a better, safer rocket — one that could enable humans to explore asteroids, Mars, the moons of outer planets and, eventually, even deeper into space.

Now NASA expects that one of the many science experiments aboard the Cygnus commercial space freighter set to launch Wednesday from Wallops Island to the International Space Station will help toward that goal.

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NASA Planning for Mission To Mine Water on the Moon

RESOLVE, shown during testing on Canada's Artemis Jr. rover, is intended to pave the way toward incorporating the use of space resources into mission architectures. Credit: NASA photo

RESOLVE, shown during testing on Canada’s Artemis Jr. rover, is intended to pave the way toward incorporating the use of space resources into mission architectures. Credit: NASA photo

Irene Klotz | Jan. 28, 2014

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — Following a series of reconnaissance missions that found hydrogen and then water on the Moon, NASA is laying the groundwork for a lunar rover that would scout for subsurface volatiles and extract them for processing.

The heart of the proposed Resource Prospector Mission (RPM) is the Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen & Lunar Volatile Extraction (RESOLVE) payload, a technology development initiative that predates its official start two years ago in NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division.

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NASA’s Robot Astronaut Now Has Bendy, $15M Legs for Crawling Around the ISS

PHOTO DATE: 11-13-13 LOCATION:  Bldg. 32 - Robonaut Lab SUBJECT: High quality, production photos of new Robonaut legs in the Robonaut Lab. PHOTOGRAPHERS:  BILL STAFFORD AND RON SYKORA

PHOTO DATE: 11-13-13
LOCATION: Bldg. 32 – Robonaut Lab
SUBJECT: High quality, production photos of new Robonaut legs in the Robonaut Lab.

Having a skeleton crew aboard the International Space Station means forcing PhDs to pull double-duty as janitors, and sometimes to undertake dangerous space walks. NASA’s solution? Robonaut, or R2 as it’s called by shipmates on the International Space Station. Conceived of in 1997, the goal was to create a robot that would take on jobs that are too dangerous, or dull, for humans. It has been an engineering marvel: Engineers equipped R2 with arms and hands that can carry 40 pound payloads; 350 sensors feeding into 38 processors give it the ability to carefully manipulate a control panel, or even send a text message from an iPhone.

There was just one problem—it couldn’t move. R2 was either mounted on a pole or attached to a wheeled base, both non-starters in space. Now, NASA’s engineers have finally unveiled a bizarre-looking pair of legs that will help the robot crawl around.

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Getting to the Root of Debris Predictions with Terminal Velocity Aerospace

On October 28, Terminal Velocity Aerospace (TVA) signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA Ames Research Center to collaborate on evaluation, testing, and technology transfer of newly-developed thermal protection system (TPS) materials.

“The Space Act Agreement mechanism offers a great way for companies to partner with NASA,” said Dominic DePasquale, the company’s CEO. “I’m excited that we have an opportunity to collaborate with the premier TPS technologists at NASA to transition this TPS material out of the laboratory for use in real missions that deliver value.” Read more…(+)

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This Awesome Ad, Set to the Beastie Boys, Is How to Get Girls to Become Engineers

This is a stupendously awesome commercial from a toy company called GoldieBlox, which has developed a set of interactive books and games to “disrupt the pink aisle and inspire the future generation of female engineers.” The CEO, Debbie Sterling, studied engineering at Stanford, where she was dismayed by the lack of women in her program. Read more and watch the video by clicking here…(+)

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Researchers explore the potential of an exoskeleton patients can control with their brains


Robotics engineer Roger Rovecamp tries out the X1 exoskeleton as University of Houston professor Jose Luis Contreras-Vidal looks on. Image credit: University of Houston

Jose Luis Contreras-Vidal looked on as Roger Rovekamp, wearing a skullcap covered in electrodes, took halting steps, each leg moved by the robotic exoskeleton wrapped around his body.

Contreras-Vidal, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering, develops algorithms that read electrical activity in the brain and translate it into movement.

His Rehab Rex gained attention for its ability to help people with spinal cord injuries stand upright and “walk.” That project is now waiting for clinical testing to begin at Houston Methodist Hospital.

His newest project is a colaboration with engineers from NASA, and it could help patients with conditions such as stroke or Parkinson’s disease.

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What’s 3D Printing?

Niki Werkheiser, lead investigator of the 3D printing in zero-gravity technical demonstration project at Marshall Space Flight Center, stands beside a protected 3D printer bound for the International Space Station in 2014. Image Credit: (Lee Roop/

Niki Werkheiser, lead investigator of the 3D printing in zero-gravity technical demonstration project at Marshall Space Flight Center, stands beside a protected 3D printer bound for the International Space Station in 2014. Image Credit: (Lee Roop/


Some call it “additive manufacturing,” and some call it “3D printing.” Whatever you call it, the technique of building things by layering material according to a 3D computer design is one of the hottest things going. People are doing it with plastics and metals and trying it with food and even human “tissue” in a race to build the perfect Star Trek replicator.

At Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center, NASA scientists and engineers from the company Made in Space are building the first 3D printer to send to space. It will go the International Space Station next year aboard a SpaceX rocket. In the 2:30 video below, watch the machine build a small plastic clip that’s used frequently on the space station.

Printing in space will allow astronauts to replace a variety of small parts that break and save NASA the trouble and expense of launching multiple spares of multiple parts.

Watch a 2-minute video on 3D printing in zero gravity by clicking here.

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Russia Is Building an Inflatable Space Module of its Own


A leading spacecraft developer in Russia reveals the design of an inflatable space station module, raising some eyebrows on this side of the Atlantic, where Bigelow Aerospace has been developing something similar.

RKK Energia, the manufacturer of the Soyuz spacecraft and the prime contractor on the Russian part of the International Space Station, quietly published in its annual report last week details on an innovative inflatable space habitat.

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Gazarik Introduces Bright Minds to Space Tech

Mike Gazarik

At NASA’s Langley Research Center, Mike Gazarik, the associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), reminded nearly 200 summer interns of the important role they play in space technology.

“Space tech is about building a community of people,” Gazarik said, “especially those in college … tapping into the brightest minds, and yes, you are the nation’s brightest minds, you’re going to be called that a lot in the years as you come out of college.”

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NASA Picks Small Spacecraft Propulsion Systems for Development

HAMPTON, Va. — NASA selected three proposals for the development of lightweight micro-thruster propulsion technologies that are small in size but have big potential.

NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate selected the miniaturized electrospray propulsion technologies to perform stabilization, station keeping and pointing for small spacecraft. NASA hopes these technology demonstrations may lead to similar position control systems for larger spacecraft and satellites as well.

NASA’s Game Changing Development Program, managed by the agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., sponsored this solicitation and will oversee the first phase of this technology development. Read more…(+)

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NASA, Industry Test “3D Printed” Rocket Engine Injector

Liquid oxygen/gaseous hydrogen rocket injector assembly built using additive manufacturing technology is hot-fire tested at NASA Glenn Research Center’s Rocket Combustion Laboratory in Cleveland.
Image Credit: NASA Glenn Research Center

NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne recently finished testing a rocket engine injector made through additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing.

This space technology demonstration may lead to more efficient manufacturing of rocket engines, saving American companies time and money. Read more…(+)

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3-D Printing: NASA’s Next Frontier

3-D printing in space will radically enable the space industry. Building parts, structures, and tools in space will not only reduce launch mass and size constraints, it will also enable the capability to build parts when needed, on-demand.
Image credit: Made in Space

NASA is looking to boldly take 3-D printing where no 3-D printer has gone before. As NASA plans ventures deeper into space, flights that already cost millions of dollars will become more expensive. NASA could defray those rising costs by enabling crew members in space stations to print tools, replacement spacecraft parts and, eventually, even structures in which they could live on alien planets.

The aeronautical agency next year will fly the first 3-D printer to the International Space Station, where crew members will conduct the first 3-D printing tests in near zero gravity. Read more (+)

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Supporting Local Communities by Building Capacity and Cutting Red Tape

President Barack Obama participates in the Presidential Daily Briefing in the Oval Office, May 6, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama participates in the Presidential Daily Briefing in the Oval Office, May 6, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

One year ago, the President established the White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) that established an innovative new model of federal-local collaboration dedicated to assisting communities get back on their feet and create jobs by helping them better leverage federal resources and form key partnerships to implement economic visions. Teams of federal employees are embedded with seven Mayors across the country to provide tailored technical assistance to cut through red tape, increase government efficiency, and build partnerships to help local leaders implement sustainable economic plans.

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NASA JPL controls rover with Leap Motion, shows faith in consumer hardware


If you think using the Leap Motion controller for playing air guitar and typing without a keyboard was cool, try using it to control a NASA rover. Victor Luo and Jeff Norris from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab got on stage at the Game Developers Conference here in San Francisco to do just that with the ATHLETE (All-Terrain Hex-Limbed Extra-Terrestrial Explorer), which was located 383 miles away in Pasadena. As Luo waved his hand over the sensor, the robot moved in kind, reacting to the subtle movements of his fingers and wrists, wowing the crowd that watched it over a projected Google+ Hangout.

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NASA Plans to Capture Asteroid to Study and Find Ways to Deflect

The President’s 2014 budget recommendations for NASA last week included money to capture and explore an asteroid in a mission that could someday help protect the earth from impact. Charles Fishburne of WCVE Public Radio talks with Dr. Michael Gazarik, Associate Director of the NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate, about the purpose of the mission that may someday tame an asteroid headed towards earth.

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Gazarik: Getting to an Asteroid Takes Technology, Community

Imagine a house-sized asteroid floating along in deep space, minding its own business, when along comes a robotic spacecraft with large solar panels that unleashes a capturing mechanism to catch and carry the asteroid on a two-year journey into the Earth-Moon system. There, it will remain stable in orbit for astronauts to visit, explore and collect samples to bring back to Earth.

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Artist’s Concept of a Solar Electric Propulsion System


Image Credit: Analytical Mechanics Associates

Using advanced Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) technologies is an essential part of future missions into deep space with larger payloads. The use of robotics and advanced SEP technologies like this concept of an SEP-based spacecraft during NASA mission to find, rendezvous, capture and relocate an asteroid to a stable point in the lunar vicinity offers more mission flexibility than would be possible if a crewed mission went all the way to the asteroid.

NASA’s asteroid initiative, announced as part of the President’s FY2014 budget request, integrates the best of NASA’s science, technology, and human exploration capabilities and draws on the innovation of America’s brightest scientists and engineers. It uses current and developing capabilities to find both large asteroids that pose a hazard to Earth and small asteroids that could be candidates for the initiative, accelerates our technology development activities in high-powered SEP and takes advantage of our hard work on the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft, helping to keep NASA on target to reach the President’s goal of sending humans to Mars in the 2030s.

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Slideshow: Competitors Gear Up For DARPA Robot Challenge

Robotic Entry

The stage has been set for competitors to vie for a $2 million prize from the Department of Defense to develop a robot that could perform a number of physical tasks that might be required to respond to a disaster or an emergency as part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Robotics Challenge, which DARPA unveiled last October.

Research teams from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Drexel University, Boston Dynamics, NASA, SCHAFT Inc., Virginia Tech, and Raytheon are developing robots that might be used one day for perilous tasks, such as searching for earthquake survivors or driving a vehicle through rubble.

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Source*: DesignNews

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Cleveland’s RTA to unveil nonpolluting hydrogen-fueled bus

RTA will have use of this hydrogen-powered bus for up to a year. It's a no-cost loaner from United Technologies Corp., a Vermont-based company that makes fuel cells.

RTA will have use of this hydrogen-powered bus for up to a year. It’s a no-cost loaner from United Technologies Corp., a Vermont-based company that makes fuel cells. Credits: RTA

CLEVELAND, Ohio — RTA buses burn millions of gallons of diesel fuel yearly, their tailpipes belching nasty pollutants. But a potentially cleaner future is now on display, when a 40-foot coach fueled by hydrogen takes the road. Its tailpipe emits only water.

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