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Advanced Near Net Shape Technology (ANNST)

8-inch diameter proof of concept and 17-inch diameter sounding rocket cylinders

Objective

ISC mandrel and forming machine

ISC mandrel and forming machine. Credits: NASA

The objective of the Advanced Near Net Shape Technology (ANNST) project is to radically improve near net shape manufacturing of cryogenic propellant tanks using the Integrally Stiffened Cylinders (ISC) process. Under NASA’s Game Changing Development Program, the goal of ANNST is to develop innovative spin/flow forming technology that could revolutionize cryogenic tank fabrication by producing a net shape tank with internal stiffeners in one forming operation. ANNST is seeking to mature the ISC process technology/manufacturing readiness levels (TRL/MRL 5-6) to the point where they are viable candidates (TRL/MRL 7) for launch vehicles structures. The specific focus of the ISC process is for cryogenic tanks, however, other applications such as intertank and dry bay structures for commercial launch vehicles, along with sounding rocket and missile bodies are being explored.

History

10-foot diameter ISC completed May 29, 2017

10-foot diameter ISC completed May 29, 2017 Credits: NASA

The ISC process evolved from an automotive process used to make 8-inch diameter steel clutch housings with 0.0125 inch tall internal gear teeth. The first technology demonstration of the ISC process occurred in 2011 with the successful transition from forming with steel to forming with aerospace grade aluminum. This was performed in collaboration with Lockheed Martin, MT Aerospace and Leifeld Metal Spinning. Later in 2013, the ISC process was further developed to produce cryogenic scale stiffeners that were 1-inch tall and more widely spaced than gear teeth produced for the automotive industry. In 2015, the ISC process was scaled up to 17-inches in diameter with 1-inch tall stiffeners. During this effort, a 17-inch diameter ISC part was directly substituted for a smooth-walled sounding rocket section and flown on a technology demonstration flight at Wallops Flight Facility, taking the process from lab scale demonstration to flight in just four years. In 2017, the ANNST Project is partnering with Lockheed Martin, MT Aerospace, and the European Space Agency (ESA) to scale up the ISC process to 10-foot in diameter, which is directly applicable to numerous U.S. commercial launch vehicles. A series of 10 foot diameter ISCs were fabricated in May 2017 featuring 48 internal stiffeners up to 1 inch tall equally spaced about the circumference.

ISC Technology Benefits

Reducing launch costs is essential to ensuring the success of NASA’s visions for planetary exploration and earth science, economical support of the International Space Station, and competitiveness of the U.S. commercial launch industry. Reducing launch vehicle manufacturing cost supports NASA’s budget and technology development priorities. Manufacturing of the Shuttle external cryogenic propellant tank relied on multi-piece machined and welded construction using technology developed in the 1950’s. It was expensive, time consuming, and environmentally unfriendly. Welding increased tank weight and risk. This manufacturing technology remains the baseline for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and commercial launch system cryotanks.

The ISC Process will produce near net shape tanks with internal stiffeners in a single forming operation. This eliminates the need for expensive machining and longitudinal welding of the cryogenic tank barrel sections. The integrally stiffened cylinder (ISC) advanced manufacturing technology will replace conventional multi-piece construction, realizing up to 50% reduction in the cost to manufacture launch vehicle cryogenic tanks with an associated 10% reduction in vehicle mass.

A cost benefit analysis for the technology was prepared in 2016. Read by clicking here: » Cost-Benefit Analysis for the Advanced Near Net Shape Technology (ANNST) Method for Fabricating Stiffened Cylinders.

Principal Technologist Project Manager
John Vickers (john.h.vickers@nasa.gov) John Wagner (john.a.wagner@nasa.gov)


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Earth Gravitational Observatory–Crosslink Occultation system (EGO-XO)

Artist's concept of EGO-XO nanosats taking measurements in Earth's atmosphere.

An operational EGO-XO system would dramatically improve monitoring of the continual redistribution of water in all its forms (ice, liquid, and vapor) below, on, and above Earth’s surface, allowing major improvements in water resource planning and climate change monitoring.



NASA needs instruments with improved sensitivity for measuring Earth gravity. These measurements will allow NASA to better understand the movement of water on the surface and in the atmosphere and many other aspects of Earth dynamics. In addition to increasing the sensitivity, increasing the sampling and reducing the cost of these measurements is a key need.

The Earth Gravitational Observatory–Crosslink Occultation system (EGO-XO) is an integrated Earth observational array that will continuously map Earth’s time-varying gravitational field to unprecedented resolution in both space and time, and perform next-generation LEO-LEO crosslink radio occultation of the atmosphere. These tasks will be executed concurrently through the exchange of tailored radio signals or crosslinks among small fleets of nanosats.

The EGO-XO Tipping Point project will develop and test a laboratory version of the crosslink ranging system broadcasting at two frequencies: one near the H2O absorption line at 22.7 GHz, the second at a frequency 2-3 times higher. The precise frequencies will be selected during the initial detailed design phase. From the demonstration instrument EGO-XO will produce a design for a full flight instrument together with a design for a complete nanosat to house the instrument and conduct operational missions. EGO-XO will also conduct studies of the science and commercial benefits of different configurations of spacecraft as a basis for future EGO-XO deployments.

GeoOptics and EGO-XO partners at Tyvak and JPL will deliver a system design that can achieve an order of magnitude improvement on GRACE-FO gravity mapping precision with small fleets of nanosats, each less than one-third the linear dimension and one-tenth the mass of the GRACE-FO satellites. The major deliverable for this project is a functioning laboratory version of the dual-frequency range and range rate measurement system, including transmitters and integrated receiver-processor, capable of making range rate measurements of the required precision.

An operational EGO-XO system would dramatically improve monitoring of the continual redistribution of water in all its forms (ice, liquid, and vapor) below, on, and above the surface of the Earth, allowing major improvements in water resource planning and climate change monitoring. It will also be a key resource in monitoring internal Earth dynamics and assessing hazards from volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis, among many other things.

Principal Technologist Project Manager NASA POC
Steve Horan (stephen.j.horan@nasa.gov Thomas Yunck (tyunck@geooptics.com ) Kevin Kempton (kevin.s.kempton@nasa.gov)


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Adaptable, Deployable, Entry and Placement Technology (ADEPT SR-1)

Diagram overview of ADEPT SR-1 flight experiment concept of operations

NASA’s Strategic Space Technology Investment Plan has identified entry, descent and landing (EDL) as one of eight core technology investment areas and, within the EDL core area, deployable hypersonic decelerators are identified as a key technology area. The Adaptable, Deployable, Entry and Placement Technology, ADEPT SR-1 project is developing a mechanically deployable low-ballistic coefficient aeroshell entry system to perform EDL functions for planetary missions.

This concept would be used to safely deploy scientific payloads or enable long-term human exploration of Mars with its associated cargo needs. The deployable system allows mission planners to develop an aeroshell design that fits within existing launch vehicle systems, and yet prior to the EDL mission segment, transforms into a low ballistic coefficient configuration. Thus during atmospheric entry, design requirements such as heating, acceleration, and pressure profiles imparted to the entry system are significantly lowered, allowing the use of lower heat capacity thermal protection system and lower design loads for other spacecraft components, including science instruments.

Principal Technologist Project Manager
Michelle Munk (michelle.m.munk@nasa.gov) Paul Wercinski (paul.wercinski@nasa.gov)


NASA Tests Space Tech on UP Aerospace Rocket

  Three NASA technology demonstration payloads launched aboard UP Aerospace’s SpaceLoft 12 mission from Spaceport America in New Mexico on Sept. 12. The suborbital rocket carried an umbrella-like heat shield called Adaptable Deployable Entry and Placement Technology (ADEPT). Developed by NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, ADEPT’s unique design could be used for […]

Exploring the Solar System? You May Need to Pack an Umbrella

Gearing up for its first flight test, NASA’s Adaptable Deployable Entry Placement Technology, or ADEPT, is no ordinary umbrella. ADEPT is a foldable device that opens to make a round, rigid heat shield, called an aeroshell. This game-changing technology could squeeze a heat shield into a rocket with a diameter larger than the rocket itself. […]

Extreme Environments Solar Power

Roll Out Solar Array (ROSA) technology undergoes testing (Credits: Deployable Space Systems, Inc.)

Roll Out Solar Array (ROSA) technology undergoes testing. Credits: Deployable Space Systems, Inc.

The Extreme Environments Solar Power (EESP) project goal is to develop advanced solar array technologies to provide lower cost, reliable power for missions in low sunlight intensity, low temperature (LILT) and high radiation environments, such as those in the general vicinity of Jupiter.

NASA missions focused on outer planets, such as Jupiter, are often subjected to intense radiation while experiencing less than 10 percent of the solar flux relative to a mission in the general vicinity of Earth. Under these conditions, existing solar array technology is not as efficient in converting the sun’s energy, and the solar array performance degrades quickly due to the high radiation exposure. In addition to these deep space missions, there are also multiple classes of NASA, other government agency, and commercial space missions in Earth orbit that are exposed to high levels of radiation.

Various methods can be used to increase solar array performance for missions exposed to severe radiation environments and increase overall efficiency when operating in LILT-type environments. One method involves a redesign of the solar cell. The choice of appropriate semiconductor materials, cell designs, and precise attention to cell fabrication processes can be used to develop a high efficiency device that is both radiation tolerant and exhibits minimal LILT-type degradation effects.

Another approach is the use of concentrator optics to shield the solar cell and minimize the amount of solar cell area needed. Concentrator concepts have been successfully used for both space and terrestrial photovoltaic systems. This approach utilizes either reflective or refractive elements to focus the sunlight onto a much smaller solar cell area. Designs vary greatly in terms of complexity and solar concentration, from simple two-sun trough reflectors to greater than 100-sun refractive point-focus designs. Issues such as degradation/contamination of the concentrator optics and sun-pointing requirements for the solar array must be addressed; however, concentrator concepts address EESP project goals by providing added protection from the radiation environment for the solar cells and by operating at higher solar intensity and temperature conditions than one-sun planar arrays.

The EESP project is currently investing in both advanced solar cell and concentrator technologies. The development of these new solar cell and array-level component technologies will enable future NASA robotic and human-exploration missions as well as other potential missions by increasing solar array performance, and thus increasing mission life and/or decreasing mission mass/cost.

Principal Technologist Project Manager
Lee Mason (lee.s.mason@nasa.gov Fred Elliott (frederick.w.elliott@nasa.gov)

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Bulk Metallic Glass Gears

BMG Gears

(a) Schematic showing the motivation for developing bulk metallic glass (BMG) gears. Crystalline metals tend to exhibit poor wear while ceramics are brittle. BMGs offer wear resistance similar to ceramics but with up to two orders of magnitude higher toughness. (b) Micrograph showing the teeth of a BMG gear. (c) Two BMG gears in a spur gear test where their performances were shown to be up to three times better than the best steel alloys. (d) Cast BMG gears integrated into a working gearbox. (e) A handful of cast BMG gears demonstrating the ease with which they can be fabricated. Images credit: NASA


NASA needs heaterless gearboxes to enable cold capable mechanisms for missions to icy bodies and extreme cold environments like Europa; missions like a Europa lander will not have solar panels or nuclear sources for power generation and will have to meet mission objectives on battery power.

The problem to be solved is to make metal alloys that combine the benefits of metals and ceramics into a single material, optimally suited for wear-resistant applications. Such an optimal material would (1) have a higher toughness than ceramics, (2) have higher wear-resistance than any metals (approaching ceramics), (3) have low processing temperatures so that net-shaped forming is possible, (4) be machinable, and (5) be robust to extreme environments.

BMG Gears project’s unique material solution is a metallic glass with mechanical properties very similar to ceramics; it is high in strength, wear resistant, and holds up to extreme temperatures. Bulk metallic glass is moldable for reduced component cost after the initial tooling investment, and existing industry infrastructure supports alloy and component supply change, providing another opportunity for cost savings as well as opportunities for partnering with industry.

PRINCIPAL TECHNOLOGIST PROJECT MANAGER
Keith Belvin ( w.k.belvin@nasa.gov) Robert Dillon (robert.p.dillon@jpl.nasa.gov)


Metallic Glass Gears Make for Graceful Robots

Throw a baseball, and you might say it’s all in the wrist. For robots, it’s all in the gears. Gears are essential for precision robotics. They allow limbs to turn smoothly and stop on command; low-quality gears cause limbs to jerk or shake. If you’re designing a robot to scoop samples or grip a ledge, […]

Thermal Protection Systems – Modeling

Seam Performance

Image of a model under testing of seam performance at 400 W/cm2. Objectives of this particular test were reported as met for several reasons, one of which is that 5 tested seam designs evaluated demonstrated no gap widening during the test. Image credit: NASA


The Thermal Protection Systems Modeling (TPS-M) project seeks to develop, evaluate, test and transfer cutting edge materials that meet the thermal requirements for deep space missions. The extreme heating produced during atmospheric entry is such that without adequate protective materials and structures, valuable spacecraft and instruments would be destroyed. Materials such as woven thermal protection have been tested and proven to be advanced technologies compared with previously used materials, such as heritage carbon phenolic. TPS-M is testing a variety of thermal protection systems and components options under conditions likened to that the materials would be exposed to in space.

The Heat Shield for Extreme Entry Environment Technology, or HEEET, uses a dual-layer approach that allows greater mass efficiency by limiting the thickness of the high-density outer layer and reducing heat shield mass as much as 40 percent. Other activities include arc jet testing to characterize 3D Woven TPS, arc jet exposure of ablative and non-oxide ceramic matrix composite TPS for planetary probe and sample return applications, and validation of fiber optic temperature sensor arrays for TPS materials.

PRINCIPAL TECHNOLOGIST PROJECT MANAGER
Michelle Munk (michelle.m.munk@nasa.gov) Ethiraj Venkatapathy (ethiraj.venkatapathy-1@nasa.gov)


Tiny Probes Hold Big Promise for Future NASA Missions

Video of a probe-shaped test article that is a nearly-perfect match to the TVA flight article, tested in the IHF (Interactive Heating Facility) arc jet at a constant condition, matching the anticipated flight total heat load on the probe. After the flight, we will subject another test article with time-profiled heating to simulate the conditions […]

Ancient Art of Weaving Ready to Head to Mars and Beyond

Weaving processes created millennia ago are part of the most cutting-edge technology on NASA’s Orion spaceship that may one day shield humans from heat as they ride all the way to Mars and back. That same technology is finding a home on Earth as well, enabling thicker, denser composite materials for race cars, among other […]

First 3D woven composite for NASA thermal protection systems

Orion NASA’s Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle has been designed to transport a crew of six to and from deep space, including an asteroid (≈2025) and Mars (≈2030). It comprises two modules: the Crew Module (or Command Module, CM), built by Lockheed Martin (see Sara Black’s article on its composite heat shield) and the Service Module […]


Affordable Access to Space

Image of testing at Marshall Space Flight Center where AVA is controlling attitude on an air bearing.

Image of testing at Marshall Space Flight Center where AVA is controlling attitude on an air bearing. Credit: NASA

The Affordable Access To Space (AATS) project is a set of agreements / studies to enable NASA missions with affordable, dedicated access to space by continually maturing new technologies and implementing new approaches to reduce the price point for space payloads.

Several private and government-sponsored launch vehicle developers are working toward the ability to affordably insert small payloads into low-Earth orbit. But until now, cost of the complex avionics remained disproportionately high. Affordable Vehicle Avionics (AVA), a project at NASA’s Ames Research Center solves this problem. AVA is looking into development of next-generation, very low-cost guidance, navigation and control avionics systems aimed as a possible solution for a family of low-cost suborbital to orbit launch vehicles.

TECHNOLOGY/TASK PRINCIPAL TECHNOLOGIST PROJECT MANAGER
AATS: Affordable Vehicle Avionics Ron Litchford Amela Zanacic


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PUFFER

Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robots, or PUFFER, is a small, origami-inspired robotic technology under development to provide a low-volume, low-cost mission enhancement for accessing new science from extreme terrains that are of high interest to future NASA missions. A “pop-up” robot that folds into a small, smartphone-sized weight and volume, PUFFER’s compact design means numerous robots can be packed into a larger “parent” craft at a low payload cost, then deployed on a planet’s surface individually to increase surface mobility.

Principal Technologist Project Manager
Bob Ambrose (robert.o.ambrose@nasa.gov) Jaakko Karras (jaakko.t.karras@jpl.nasa.gov)

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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Source*: FloridaToday.com

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Child’s Toy Design Could Help Humans Get to Mars

HIAD-2

Devising a way to one day land astronauts on Mars is a complex problem and NASA scientists think something as simple as a child’s toy design may help solve the problem. Safely landing a large spacecraft on the Red planet is just one of many engineering challenges the agency faces as it eyes an ambitious goal of sending humans into deep space later this century.

At NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, engineers have been working to develop an inflatable heat shield that looks a lot like a super-sized version of a stacking ring of doughnuts that infants play with. The engineers believe a lightweight, inflatable heat shield could be deployed to slow the craft to enter a Martian atmosphere much thinner than Earth’s.

Such an inflatable heat shield could help a spacecraft reach the high-altitude southern plains of Mars and other areas that would otherwise be inaccessible under existing technology. The experts note that rockets alone can’t be used to land a large craft on Mars as can be done on the atmosphereless moon. Parachutes also won’t work for a large spacecraft needed to send humans to Mars, they add.

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*Source: ABC News

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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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*Source: NASA.gov

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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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Source*: NASA.gov

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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, tdietrich@dailypress.com

 

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

IM_R2_iss-shake-140424a

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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Source:* NASA.gov

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NASA’s space station Robonaut finally getting legs

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

robotLEGS2

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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Source:* Chron.com

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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/SPACE.com.

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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Next-gen battery collaboration to develop ‘beyond lithium-ion space’ in space

0319ctt-Argonne-Lab-lores

(Source: The American Ceramic Society)

There are few situations in life where two aren’t better than one.

So the recently announced collaboration between the Department of Energy’s Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), located at Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), and NASA Glenn Research Center spells good things for batteries, which are poised to receive a double-dose of expertise from two of the country’s top research entities.

Together, “JCER’s deep knowledge of the basic science in energy storage research with NASA Glenn’s expertise engineering battery technology with aerospace applications” will spark the development of “next-generation batteries” (i.e., not lithium-ion) that will certainly make their way to space.

“The beyond lithium-ion space is rich with opportunity and mostly unexplored,” says George Crabtree, director of JCESR, in an ANL press release. “In this collaboration, JCESR will share fundamental research results with NASA, enabling them to develop technologies that benefit the space program and, ultimately, society as a whole through commercialization opportunities with a wide range of applications.”

 
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*Source: The American Ceramic Society

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NASA Marshall Kicks Off Game Changing Composite Cryotank Testing

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., is set to begin a series of structural and pressure tests on one of the largest composite cryogenic fuel tanks ever manufactured. Advanced composite cryotanks will help enable NASA’s future deep space exploration missions.

Media are invited to view the unloading of the 18-foot-diameter (5.5-meter) composite cryotank from NASA’s Super Guppy aircraft on March 27 at 7 a.m. CDT at Redstone Army Airfield. In addition, journalists are invited to interview John Vickers, NASA project manager, Composite Cryotank Technology Demonstration (CCTD), and Dan Rivera, Boeing program manager for CCTD.

For more than 50 years, metal tanks have carried fuel to launch rockets and propelled them into space. NASA is pursuing composite cryogenic fuel tanks, a potentially game-changing technology, because the tanks could yield significant cost and weight reductions on future launch vehicles. Once installed in Marshall’s test facility, the composite cryotank will undergo a series of tests at extreme pressures and temperatures, similar to those experienced during spaceflight.

 
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*Source: NASA.gov

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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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*Source: NASA.gov

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Engineers Building Hard-working Mining Robot

Mining Robots

After decades of designing and operating robots full of scientific gear to study other worlds, NASA is working on a prototype that leaves the delicate instruments at home in exchange for a sturdy pair of diggers and the reliability and strength to work all day, every day for years.

Think of it as a blue collar robot.

Dubbed RASSOR, for Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot and pronounced “razor,” the autonomous machine is far from space-ready, but the earliest design has shown engineers the broad strokes of what their lunar soil excavator needs in order to operate reliably.

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Source*: NASA.gov

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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.

LADEE

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

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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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*Source: NASA.gov

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Researching “super dust” and other materials that could reduce the cost of air and space travel

By The Partnership for Public Service, The Washington Post

Mia Siochi

Whether researching stronger, lighter materials for use in planes and spaceships or keeping squashed insects from sticking to airplane wings, Mia Siochi’s work at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia has the potential to improve aviation and save taxpayers millions of dollars.

Siochi, a research materials engineer, leads a NASA team that is seeking to tap the potential of nanotechnology to reduce the weight of space launch vehicles by up to 30 percent, or about 200,000 pounds. With launch costs being about $10,000 per pound, lightening the load leads to significantly lower costs.

 


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(Source: The Washington Post)

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NASA Boards the 3-D-Manufacturing Train

Goddard technologists Ted Swanson and Matthew Showalter hold a 3-D-printed battery-mounting plate developed specifically for a sounding-rocket mission. The component is the first additive-manufactured device Goddard has flown in space.  Image Credit: NASA

Goddard technologists Ted Swanson and Matthew Showalter hold a 3-D-printed battery-mounting plate developed specifically for a sounding-rocket mission. The component is the first additive-manufactured device Goddard has flown in space. Image Credit: NASA

Given NASA’s unique needs for highly custom­ized spacecraft and instrument components, additive manufacturing, or “3-D printing,” offers a compelling alternative to more traditional manufacturing approaches.

“We’re not driving the additive manufacturing train, industry is,” said Ted Swanson, the assistant chief for technology for the Mechanical Systems Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Swanson is the center’s point-of-contact for additive manufacturing. “But NASA has the ability to get on-board to leverage it for our unique needs.”

 
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*Source: Sci-Tech-Today.com

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NASA: Engineered Microbes May Support Life in Space

Photo Credit: NASA Ames Research Center

Photo Credit: NASA Ames Research Center

A new NASA project called Synthetic Biology Initiative is studying the potential of designer microbes, based on tiny organisms called cyanobacterium, or blue-green algae, to convert the toxic atmospheres of planets like Mars or Venus into more hospitable environments. Such creatures would be manufactured using synthetic biology.

For more information on Synthetic Biology, please visit the NASA Ames Research Center Biology and Astrobiology site: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/research/area-biology-astrobiology.html

 
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*Source: Sci-Tech-Today.com

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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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*Source: Articles.DailyPress.com/

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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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*Source: SpaceNews.com

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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.
PHOTOGRAPHERS: BILL STAFFORD AND RON SYKORA

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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*Source: Wired.com

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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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Composite tanks promise major savings

ROCKET ENGINEERS HAVE LONG BEEN enthralled by the idea of storing liquid hydrogen in cryogenic tanks made from graphite composite. These would weigh an estimated 40% less than the cryogenic tanks used today, which are made of aluminum or higher strength aluminum lithium alloy. Automated manufacturing also could make the composite tanks 20% less expensive than metal versions.

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Tooling up for larger launch vehicles

NASA and Janicki Industries demonstrate composites’ cost advantage in tooling for fabrication of 10m/33 ft diameter payload fairing for next-generation launch vehicle.

The Space Launch System (SLS) will be the next heavy-lift launch vehicle for the National Aeronautics and Space Admin. (NASA, Washington D.C.). Composites have been chosen for both the launch vehicle structures and tooling because they offer performance and cost advantages over metals.

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

exoskeleton_skullcap

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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Source*: Phys.org

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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/LRoop@al.com)

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/LRoop@al.com)

 

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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Source*: Blog.AL.com

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NASA’s Ironman-Like Exoskeleton Could Give Astronauts, Paraplegics Improved Mobility and Strength

x1_estab

Marvel Comic’s fictional superhero, Ironman, uses a powered armor suit that allows him superhuman strength. While NASA’s X1 robotic exoskeleton can’t do what you see in the movies, the latest robotic, space technology, spinoff derived from NASA’s Robonaut 2 project may someday help astronauts stay healthier in space with the added benefit of assisting paraplegics in walking here on Earth.NASA and The Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) of Pensacola, Fla., with the help of engineers from Oceaneering Space Systems of Houston, have jointly developed a robotic exoskeleton called X1. The 57-pound device is a robot that a human could wear over his or her body either to assist or inhibit movement in leg joints.In the inhibit mode, the robotic device would be used as an in-space exercise machine to supply resistance against leg movement. The same technology could be used in reverse on the ground, potentially helping some individuals walk for the first time.

“Robotics is playing a key role aboard the International Space Station and will continue to be critical as we move toward human exploration of deep space,” said Michael Gazarik, director of NASA’s Space Technology Program. “What’s extraordinary about space technology and our work with projects like Robonaut are the unexpected possibilities space tech spinoffs may have right here on Earth. It’s exciting to see a NASA-developed technology that might one day help people with serious ambulatory needs begin to walk again, or even walk for the first time. That’s the sort of return on investment NASA is proud to give back to America and the world.”

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Source*: NASA.gov

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Russia Is Building an Inflatable Space Module of its Own

russian-inflatable-space-module

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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Source*: PopularMechanics.com

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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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*Source: NASA.gov

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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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NASA Sees Potential In Composite Cryotank

[dropcap1]S[/dropcap1]uccessful tests of an all-composite cryogenic fuel tank for space launch vehicles hold promise for lower-cost access to space, perhaps before the decade is out.

A small composite fuel tank fabricated by Boeing with funding from the “game-changing” program of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate contained 2,091 gal. of liquid hydrogen through a series of shifts in its internal pressure and three temperature cycles ranging from ambient down to minus 423F.

The June 25 test at Marshall Space Flight Center with a 2.4-meter-dia. composite fuel tank paves the way for more tests next spring. That test will subject a 5.5-meter tank to flight-like mechanical loads as well as temperature and pressure cycles.

So far it appears the project is achieving its goal of reducing the cost of building tanks by at least 25% from that of conventional aluminum-lithium tanks, while cutting the weight of tanks made from the lightweight aluminum alloy by at least 30%.

“This is a very difficult problem,” says Mike Gazarik, associate administrator for space technology. “Composites and cryos don’t work well together, and these guys have done incredible work in figuring out how to design and how to fabricate these tanks.”

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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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3D Printer Launching to Space Station in 2014

made-in-space-upside-down

A 3D printer is slated to arrive at the International Space Station next year, where it will crank out the first parts ever manufactured off planet Earth.

The company Made in Space is partnering with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center on the 3D Printing in Zero G Experiment (or 3D Print for short), which aims to jump-start an off-planet manufacturing capability that could aid humanity’s push out into the solar system.

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*Source: Space.com

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Robot exoskeleton suits that could make us superhuman

Exoskeleton Technology

Lockheed Martin’s HULC exoskeleton is designed to allow soldiers to carry superhuman loads. (Image Credits: Lockheed Martin).

If you’ve been dreaming of strapping on your own “Iron Man” armor, you might have to wait a while longer. But revolutionary “bionic exoskeletons,” like the metal suit worn by comic book hero Tony Stark, might be closer than you think — just don’t expect to fly away in one.

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Source*: CNN

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Chief Technologist Mason Peck Attends MAGNET Event

NASA Chief Technologist Mason Peck and Ohio manufacturers celebrate NASA’s partnership with industry in building the innovation economy.

NASA Chief Technologist Mason Peck and Ohio manufacturers celebrate NASA’s partnership with industry in building the innovation economy. Credits: NASA

On May 23, NASA, the City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County and the Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network (MAGNET) announced nine small and medium-sized Ohio manufacturers that will receive NASA assistance to solve technical problems with new or existing products.


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Women at NASA: Meg Nazario

Meg Nazario

Meg Nazario

As a senior in high school, I took a physics class. I loved the challenge of figuring things out, and I loved how math could be used to predict where a ball would land as it rolled off of a table. My teacher was amazing and helped keep my interest by making the subject so fascinating. But, I also loved playing the piano and was considering becoming a concert pianist. After much soul searching, I decided to have piano as my creative outlet and pursue physics for my career. I definitely made the right choice! I went to college and majored in physics. I then went on to get my Master’s degree in Physics and Ph.D in Electrical Engineering. Today, I work as an engineer at NASA Glenn Research Center in the Space Flight Systems Directorate, where I am a project manager for Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP). I love working at NASA.


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NASA’s Solar-Electric Propulsion Engine and a Real-World Lightsaber (sort of)

NASA has released this image of the solar-electric propulsion thruster currently in development and undergoing tests at JPL. An earlier version of the engine is being used on the Dawn mission to the asteroid belt. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA has released this image of the solar-electric propulsion thruster currently in development and undergoing tests at JPL. An earlier version of the engine is being used on the Dawn mission to the asteroid belt. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA has posted an image of a solar-electric propulsion engine currently in development. The engine, which uses xenon ions, burns blue, and NASA is considering using the engine as part of its asteroid retrieval initiative. The engine is being tested at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The image above was taken at JPL through a porthole during testing.


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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) Credit:WhiteHouse.gov

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

leapnasa01

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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Source*: Engadget.com

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Artist’s Concept of a Solar Electric Propulsion System

739997main_SEP_15_full_full

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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NASA Taps the Power of Zombie Stars in Two-in-One Instrument

NICER/SEXTANT Payload

This artist’s rendition shows the NICER/SEXTANT payload that NASA recently selected as its next Explorer Mission of Opportunity. The 56-telescope payload will fly on the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Neutron stars have been called the zombies of the cosmos. They shine even though they’re technically dead, occasionally feeding on neighboring stars if they venture too close. Interestingly, these unusual objects, born when a massive star extinguishes its fuel and collapses under its own gravity, also may help future space travelers navigate to Mars and other distant destinations.
 


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Source*: NASA.gov

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New Thrust for Solar Electric Propulsion

NASA's Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) has developed a 7-kW ion thruster that can provide the capabilities needed in the future. Credits: NASA

NASA’s Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) has developed a 7-kW ion thruster that can provide the capabilities needed in the future. Credits: NASA

Harnessing the power of the Sun to provide thrust for transport in space has long been a part of science fiction imagery. Now a reality after decades of development, it has found increasing use for applications ranging from station-keeping to orbit-raising. Obstacles remain, but evolving technology should enable expanding applications of this weight-saving form of energy, possibly even for manned spaceflight.

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Magnetic shielding of walls from the unmagnetized ion beam in a Hall thruster

A new 15kW high power Hall thruster is being developed to support a Solar Electric Propulsion Technology demonstration mission within the ISP project. One of the key design features for the new thruster will be the use of magnetic shielding for improving thruster life by shaping the magnetic field to reduce discharge channel wall erosion.

Click here for more information: http://apl.aip.org/resource/1/applab/v102/i2/p023509_s1.

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NICER/SEXTANT

SEXTANT/NICER production parts Credits: NASA

SEXTANT/NICER production parts Credits: NASA

Untitled-2 Untitled-21DSC_0486DSC_0484On April 15, 2010, the President challenged NASA to “break through the barriers” to enable the “first-ever crewed missions beyond the Moon into deep space” by 2025. One of these barriers is navigation technology.In the 18th century, the advancement of clock technology and resulting improvement in navigation fidelity brought us to the New World that we now call home. In support of NASA’s push to explore new worlds beyond low Earth orbit (LEO), and to serve a variety of national needs, the NICER (Neutron star Interior Composition ExploreR) team proposes to use the International Space Station (ISS) to validate a revolutionary navigation technology.

The NICER/SEXTANT (NICER is the name given to the instrument for the SMD proposal, but NICER and SEXTANT are the same instrument) concept uses a collection of pulsars— stellar “lighthouses”—as a time and navigation standard just like the atomic clocks of the Global Positioning System (GPS). Unlike GPS satellites, NICER pulsars are distributed across the Galaxy, providing an infrastructure of precise timing beacons that can support navigation throughout the Solar System. Since their discovery in 1967, pulsars have been envisioned as a tool for Galactic navigation (Figure 1). An NICER system measures the arrival times of pulses through the detection of X-ray photons; a sequence of measurements is then stitched together into an autonomous on-board navigation solution.

NASA’s plans for distant exploration demand breakthrough navigation tools. The best current capabilities are resource-intensive and degrade as explorers recede from Earth. At Mars, they yield crossrange spacecraft positions to a few kilometers, but impose scheduling burdens on the Deep Space Network (DSN). For critical applications such as orbit insertion at Jupiter and beyond, the current state-of-the-art is pushed to its practical limit. NICER complements the existing navigation toolbox, promising three-dimensional position accuracies better than 500 m anywhere in the Solar System.  Ultimately, a small (~0.1 m3), low mass (<~10 kg) NICER package will offer a cost effective on-board navigation option for the redundancy and reliability required for human exploration beyond LEO, and will enable deep-space missions that are not feasible with Earth-based tracking.

X-ray pulsar timing applications address the navigation and exploration goals of the National Space Policy of June 28, 2010, and NASA, DoD, and NIST are investing in technology development to exploit them. As celestial clocks, pulsars offer a new time standard that can be independently generated anywhere. The DoD is exploring applications enabled by a network of spacecraft with synchronized clocks, including mitigation of vulnerabilities in GPS. DARPA has funded the X-ray Timing (XTIM) program, which, in collaboration with the ISS NICER experiment, will demonstrate distributed time-synchronization using celestial sources.

 

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Figure 1: NICER/SEXTANT brings to practical reality the concept of a pulsar based map, first used on the Pioneer Plaque to encode (radial lines at left) the Sun’s location in the Galaxy [3].

NICER (Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer) is a SMD science mission chosen to go into Phase A. NICER represents a science aspect of SEXTANT, where looking at many of the same Neutron Stars we need to enable pulsar navigation, scientists can also learn about the densest objects in the universe and study extreme physics.

The combination of the science and technology demonstration represented by SEXTANT reflects a true cost sharing between very different parts of NASA and the US Government.

The selection notice is at:
http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/sep/HQ_11-328_Science_Proposals.html

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