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NASA plays show-and-tell on the Hill

If human beings are going to colonize Mars, we’re going to need a lot of tools. Can NASA make those tools?

Not without the help of Congress.

NASA reps, accompanied by academics and experts from the aerospace industry, took to the halls of Congress to pitch lawmakers on the importance of their work and showcase their technological progress during the fourth annual NASA Technology Day on the Hill this week.

The big focus: Mars.


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First Ever “Ladies in the Lab” Event Held at UVa

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (NEWSPLEX) — The first ever Ladies in the Lab workshop took place on UVa grounds Sunday.

Middle and high school girls were invited from local school districts to take part in 15 interactive exhibits run by more than 70 volunteers from several female UVa engineering groups as well as NASA and Capital One.

UVa third-years, Grace Wusk and Trisha Hajela, were behind the eventand explained the importance of encouraging girls to consider pursuing careers in STEM fields.

“In middle and high school, a lot of girls fork off and think math and science is hard,” said Hajela. “Just showing them that it’s not and there are a lot female engineers who love what they do and love innovation is just something that we want to show them.”

“We think females offer a unique prospective to the technical field,” said Wusk. “We really want to encourage younger girls to pursue those futures.”


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NASA achieves aerospace 3-D printing milestone with assist from Glenn Research Center

Inside the combustion chamber

Inside the combustion chamber, propellant burns at more than 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. To prevent melting, hydrogen at temperatures less than 100 degrees above absolute zero circulates in more than 200 intricately carved cooling channels Cooling inlets are visible along the top rim of the chamber. Credits: NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given

NASA has achieved “a milestone for aerospace 3-D printing,” with help from a copper alloy developed at NASA Glenn Research Center, according to a news release from the space agency.

NASA used a 3-D printer to build a rocket engine liner that should be able to endure extreme heat and cold.

Ridiculously extreme: The inside of the liner is designed to withstand temperatures exceeding 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit; meanwhile, it will be cooled with gases in the -280 degree range, the release stated.

That looks good on paper, but will it be able to take that kind of punishment this summer, when it is put to the test at NASA’s Langley Research Center? There’s no way to be sure, but Glenn researchers studied the new GRCo-84 alloy extensively to make sure it could be used to build quality parts when printed in layers, by a 3-D printer, the release stated.

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NASA 3D Prints the World’s First Full-Scale Copper Rocket Engine Part

Day in and day out, we see new types of technologies emerge from the 3D printing space, as well as different uses which test the feasibility and potential that 3D printing has within the fields of manufacturing. One organization which is really beginning to embrace 3D printing, is NASA. Whether it is 3D printing rocket parts or sending 3D printers to the International Space Station, NASA gets it — 3D printing is the future of manufacturing. It’s easy to argue this point when someone off of the street comes up to you and says that 3D printing will revolutionize the world, but when some of the most brilliant minds in the world prove it in a scientific lab, that’s when we should all start to take note.


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NASA Selects Proposals for Ultra-Lightweight Materials for Journey to Mars and Beyond

NASA has selected three proposals to develop and manufacture ultra-lightweight (ULW) materials for future aerospace vehicles and structures. The proposals will mature advanced technologies that will enable NASA to reduce the mass of spacecraft by 40 percent for deep space exploration.

“Lightweight and multifunctional materials and structures are one of NASA’s top focus areas capable of having the greatest impact on future NASA missions in human and robotic exploration,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington. “These advanced technologies are necessary for us to be able to launch stronger, yet lighter, spacecraft and components as we look to explore an asteroid and eventually Mars.”

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Steve Jurczyk, Space Technology Mission Directorate, NASA

Last Monday (March 9, 2015) was the first day on the job for Steve Jurczyk. He was recently appointed as the associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA. He served as the deputy center director before this new assignment. He joined Tom Temin on the Federal Drive with more on what the center does, and what he hopes it will accomplish under his tenure.

Federal News Radio interviewed Steve about his new appointment. Listen to the interview by clicking here (+)


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Scientists Develop Electrocatalysts That Could Aid Long-Term Space Exploration

Although modern space exploration discussion now revolves around more long-term journeys, such as future trips to Mars, we still don’t have the technology to safely travel so far from our home planet.

Providing breathable air for passengers is one of the main challenges of a future trip to Mars. However, we haven’t yet figured out how to do that effectively and efficiently. We can’t easily ship oxygen tanks to and from places that are so far away, so we need an efficient way to recycle oxygen while there.


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A Robot That Collapses Under Pressure (In a Good Way)

IF NASA PLANS to send robots to other planets, it’s going to need some new designs: ones that are easy to land, easy to move around, and easy to fix. That means they probably won’t look like a bipedal T-1000 chasing the one hope for mankind. They probably won’t even look like the four-legged galloping critters Boston Dynamics is building. Nope. Those robots will look like a hexahedral tent stripped of its fabric.


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Baton Rouge business could build equipment used by NASA

Kevin Kelly, Mezzo Technologies (Source: WAFB)

Kevin Kelly, Mezzo Technologies (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) – The world of car racing and space exploration have something in common, and believe it or not, it is a business in Baton Rouge.The company is Mezzo Technologies, and Monday, NASA officials toured the company that has been building high performance radiators with it’s micro-tube technology for the past five years.

These micro-tube heat exchangers may hold the key to keeping astronauts and all their electronic equipment from overheating in the harsh confines of outer space.

The system is still in the research phase, but things are looking up.


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Baton Rouge’s Mezzo Technologies looking beyond racecar tracks to space

Mezzo Technologies in Baton Rouge is looking to the moon and beyond.

The 15-year-old company, which has produced advanced radiators and oil coolers for professional race car teams since 2007, now has an opportunity to work for NASA by developing its microtube heat exchanger for use on the space agency’s planned Orion spacecraft.

“NASA has a vehicle called Orion that will circle the moon,” Kevin Kelly, Mezzo’s president, said Tuesday.

The Orion module, which will be home to astronauts traveling in outer space, is being built by Lockheed Martin at the Michoud facility in New Orleans, where Boeing crews also are working on the Space Launch System, a 70-ton heavy-lift rocket that will propel Orion into space.

Mezzo’s $200,000 Orion research-and-development contract calls for a water-cooled heat exchanger capable of surviving tremendously hot temperatures on the moon’s sunny side and fiercely freezing temperatures on its dark side.

“Our ultimate goal is Mars,” said Ryan Stephan, NASA’s director of game-changing development. Both men spoke during a meeting at Mezzo’s 20,000-square-foot facility at 10246 Mammoth Ave.


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Jurczyk Named Head of NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has named Steve Jurczyk as the agency’s Associate Administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate, effective Monday, March 2. The directorate is responsible for innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use on future NASA missions.

Jurczyk has served as Center Director at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, since April of 2014. An accomplished engineer, he previously served as the deputy center director and in other leadership positions at the center prior to his appointment as center director.

“It’s great to have Steve coming aboard to lead the technology and innovation engine of the agency,” said Bolden. “Technology drives exploration and under Steve’s leadership we’ll continue the President’s innovation strategy, positioning NASA and the aerospace community on the cutting-edge, pushing the boundaries of the aerospace with the technical rigor our nation expects of its space program”


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The Strange Way Fluids Slosh on the International Space Station

Jan. 30, 2015: The next time you pour yourself a glass of water, pause before you drink it. First, swirl the clear liquid around the glass. Gently slosh it back and forth. Tap the glass on the tabletop, and watch the patterns that form on the surface.

Now imagine the same exercise … in zero gravity. Would the waves and ripples look the same? Would the liquid slosh more, or less? Faster, or slower?

NASA engineers spend a surprising amount of time asking themselves these same questions.


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NASA Langley research robot ready to roll

HAMPTON–The seven-ton, two-story robotic arm unveiled by NASA Langley on Monday looks like it belongs on a Transformer.

But ISAAC – which stands for Integrated Structural Assembly of Advanced Composites – has nothing to do with sci-fi or alien machines.

The $3 million system – one of just three of its kind in the world, and the only one dedicated to research – turns 3-D computer drawings into precisely made, lightweight, super-strong components suited for spacecraft. It spins parts from spools of carbon fiber blended with epoxy – gliding along a track, reaching, retracting, pivoting, hovering with cyborg agility and efficiency.


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NASA Spinoff 2015 Features Space Technology Making Life Better on Earth

NASA technologies are being used to locate underground water in some of the driest places on the Earth, build quieter and more fuel-efficient airplanes, and create shock absorbers that brace buildings in earthquakes.
The 2015 edition of NASA’s annual Spinoff publication highlights these and other technologies whose origins lie in space exploration, but now have broader applications.

“The game-changing technologies NASA develops to push the envelope of space exploration also improve our everyday lives,” said NASA Chief Technologist David Miller. “Spinoff 2015 is filled with stories that show there is more space in our lives than we think.”

Spinoff 2015 tells the story of shock absorbers used during space shuttle launches that are now being used to brace buildings during earthquakes, preventing damage and saving lives. The book also features a NASA-simplified coliform bacteria test that is being used to monitor water quality in rural communities around the world, as well as cabin pressure monitors that alert pilots when oxygen levels are approaching dangerously low levels in their aircraft.


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KSC team delves into wearable tech in space

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.


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Prof Awarded NASA Grant to Develop Building Blocks for Use in Space Missions

Mechanical engineering Asst. Prof. Christopher Hansen is one of seven young faculty researchers nationwide awarded a NASA Early Career Faculty Space Technology Research Grant. The program is designed to accelerate the development of innovative technologies originating from academia that address high-priority needs for America’s space program as well as other government agencies and the commercial flight industry. Hansen’s grant is worth approximately $579,000 spread over a period of three years.


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Child’s Toy Design Could Help Humans Get to Mars


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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NASA’s Massive Robotic Arm for Aerospace Applications

Researchers from NASA’s Langley Research Center have designed a huge robotic arm that collects spools of carbon fibers and moves in a preprogrammed pattern to arrange these fibers in a 40-foot long bed, to fabricate aerospace structures and parts.

The project known as the Integrated Structural Assembly of Advanced Composites (ISAAC) was sponsored by the NASA Langley’s Space Technology and Exploration Directorate, the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate and the Space Technology Mission Directorate.

The robot was actually manufactured by Washington-based Electroimpact, and hence physically moving the system to the Hampton, Virginia facility was a real challenge for the researchers. The robot carried in two 53-foot long covered trucks is now present at the NASA Langley’s Advanced Manufacturing and Flight Test Articles Development Laboratory.

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NASA Is Studying How to Mine the Moon for Water

There’s a lot of water on the moon, and NASA wants to learn how to mine it.

Space agency scientists are developing two separate mission concepts to assess, and learn how to exploit, stores of water ice on the moon and other lunar resources. The projects — called Lunar Flashlight and the ResourceProspector Mission — are notionally targeted to blast off in 2017 and 2018, respectively, and aim to help humanity extend its footprint out into the solar system.


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NASA Partners with Leading Technology Innovators to Enable Future Exploration

Recognizing that technology drives exploration, NASA has selected four teams of agency technologists for participation in the Early Career Initiative (ECI) pilot program. The program encourages creativity and innovation among early career NASA technologists by engaging them in hands-on technology development opportunities needed for future missions.

NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate created the ECI to enable a highly collaborative, joint-partnering work environment between the best and brightest NASA early career innovators and leading innovators in industry, academia and other government organizations.


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Expert Panel Assesses Inflatable Spacecraft Tech

For most of us it’s hard to imagine that something that is inflated can survive the high heat and friction of space travel, especially atmospheric entry.

But a group of NASA engineers, primarily based at NASA’s Langley Research Center, have been working to develop inflatable spacecraft aeroshell technology for more than a decade.

“We have been eating, sleeping, dreaming this technology — in my case for six years,” said Anthony Calomino during a peer review of the Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator project. The project, which was part of the Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Game Changing Development Program, is wrapping up after three years.

HIAD Panel

Experts in the room and online listened as engineers talked about the progress made by the Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator team.

Some of the research and team are transitioning to the Terrestrial HIAD — Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator – Orbital Reentry, or THOR, flight test. That test is a Technology Demonstration Mission and also part of the Space Technology Mission Directorate.

Before HIAD moved forward the team wanted an outside assessment of its potential. “We [who have worked on HIAD] have a certain familiarity with it,” said Calomino. We wanted to have an independent group — a fresh set of eyes — looking at this technology.”


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NASA, SpaceX Share Data On Supersonic Retropropulsion

Image Credit: NASA/Scifli Team/Applied Physics Laboratory Images

Image Credit: NASA/Scifli Team/Applied Physics Laboratory Images

An innovative partnership between NASA and SpaceX is giving the U.S. space agency an early look at what it would take to land multi-ton habitats and supply caches on Mars for human explorers, while providing sophisticated infrared (IR) imagery to help the spacecraft company develop a reusable launch vehicle.

After multiple attempts, airborne NASA and U.S. Navy IR tracking cameras have captured a SpaceX Falcon 9 in flight as its first stage falls back toward Earth shortly after second-stage ignition and then reignites to lower the stage toward a propulsive “zero-velocity, zero-altitude” touchdown on the sea surface.


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*Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

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NASA-Boeing Team Wins Big at Advanced Materials Expo

Advanced Materials Expo

NASA Project Manager John Vickers and Boeing Program Manager Dan Rivera accept the Combined Strength Award for Composites Excellence for the Composite Cryogenic Technology Demonstration at the Composites and Advanced Materials Expo in Orlando, Fla.
Image Credit: NASA

On Tuesday, October 14, NASA and Boeing received the Combined Strength Award for composites excellence (ACE) for their work in composite cryotanks during the Composites and Advanced Materials Expo (CAMX) in Orlando, Fla. CAMX is the largest composites industry trade show and conference held in North America.

The award was given to the Composite Cryogenic Technology Demonstration (CCTD) project for utilizing innovative manufacturing and design techniques to build the largest composite liquid hydrogen fuel tank built out of autoclave. The project, funded by the NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Game Changing Development Program, has led to a potential 30 percent weight savings and a 25 percent cost savings, allowing insertion of higher mass payloads to low Earth orbit and beyond.

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New Commercial Rocket Descent Data May Help NASA with Future Mars Landings

NASA successfully captured thermal images of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on its descent after it launched in September from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The data from these thermal images may provide critical engineering information for future missions to the surface of Mars.  Image Credit: NASA

NASA successfully captured thermal images of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on its descent after it launched in September from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The data from these thermal images may provide critical engineering information for future missions to the surface of Mars. Image Credit: NASA

NASA successfully captured thermal images of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on its descent after it launched in September from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The data from these thermal images may provide critical engineering information for future missions to the surface of Mars.

“Because the technologies required to land large payloads on Mars are significantly different than those used here on Earth, investment in these technologies is critical,” said Robert Braun, principal investigator for NASA’s Propulsive Descent Technologies (PDT) project and professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. “This is the first high-fidelity data set of a rocket system firing into its direction of travel while traveling at supersonic speeds in Mars-relevant conditions. Analysis of this unique data set will enable system engineers to extract important lessons for the application and infusion of supersonic retro-propulsion into future NASA missions.”

NASA equipped two aircraft with advanced instrumentation to document re-entry of the rocket’s first stage. The first stage is the part of the rocket that is ignited at launch and burns through the rocket’s ascent until it runs out of propellant, at which point it is discarded from the second stage and returns to Earth. During its return, or descent, NASA captured quality infrared and high definition images and monitored changes in the smoke plume as the engines were turned on and off.


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Aerojet Rocketdyne Successfully Tests Thrust Chamber Assembly Using Copper Alloy Additive Manufacturing Technology

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Oct. 17, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne, a GenCorp (NYSE:GY) company, successfully completed a series of hot-fire tests on an advanced rocket engine Thrust Chamber Assembly (TCA) using copper alloy additive manufacturing technology. This testing, conducted for the first time in the industry, was done with cooperation between Aerojet Rocketdyne, NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate Game-Changing Development Program and NASA’sGlenn Research Center under a Space Act Agreement.

“This work represents another major milestone in the integrated development and certification of the materials characterization, manufacturing processes, analysis and design-tool technologies that are required to successfully implement Selective Laser Melting for critical rocket engine components,” said Jay Littles, director of Advanced Launch Programs at Aerojet Rocketdyne. “Aerojet Rocketdyne continues to expand the development of novel material and design solutions made possible through additive manufacturing, which will result in more efficient engines at lower costs. We are working a range of additive manufacturing implementation paths – from affordability and performance enhancement to legacy products such as the RL10 upper stage engine. We also are applying the technology to next-generation propulsion systems, including the Bantam Engine family, as well as our new large, high performance booster engine, the AR1.”


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NASA’s Free Flying Robot Challenge

NASA’s Free Flying Robot Challenge

NASA’s Free Flying Robot Challenge

In 2017, NASA is aiming to launch a robot that will be used on-board the International Space Station (ISS). The robot has been tentatively called the “Free Flying Robot”. Not that catchy, right?

So here’s where NASA needs your help – we need the Topcoder community to help design a custom mission patch AND develop a name for the Free Flying Robot.

So what is a Free Flying Robot? It’s a robot that is capable of functioning autonomously, but can also be controlled by a flight crew on-board the ISS or from Earth. It can conduct zero gravity robotics experiments, carry mobile sensors such as an RFID reader for logging inventory & inspect items using a built in camera

Currently on the ISS there are robotic devices called “SPHERES” (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites), and the new Free Flyer Robot program is being seen as a step forward in the use of robotic devices in spaceflight.


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3D Printer Headed to Space Station

It’s not quite the replicator of Star Trek fame—but it’s seemingly a step in that direction.

The first 3D printer is soon to fly into Earth orbit, finding a home aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The size of a small microwave, the unit is called Portal. The hardware serves as a ted bed for evaluating how well 3D printing and the microgravity of space combine. Its use in space signals an new era of off-world manufacturing.

The foundation for 3D printing is also known as “additive manufacturing,” which has been evolving for more than three decades. The technology has picked up speed more recently due to new materials and new applications.

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SpaceX Alum Goes After Falcon 1 Market With Firefly

As entrepreneurial “New Space” grows up, veterans of its early days are finding innovative ways to tackle old problems and enter emerging markets that did not exist when their industry was an infant—a decade ago.

Thomas E. Markusic, a propulsion engineer who cut his New Space teeth running Elon Musk’s flight-test center in Texas and later held senior posts at Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, has kicked off a startup called Firefly Space Systems that is developing a low-cost Falcon 1-class launch vehicle to launch small satellites using a methane-fueled aerospike engine and composite cryotanks.

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Technology Day Puts NASA Langley’s Work on Display for All to See

Technology Days
It’s not often that the researchers from NASA’s Langley Researcher Center gather in one spot at the same time to show off their work to the public.

But on July 15, a bunch NASA Langley researchers packed up their cutting-edge technologies, headed over to the Virginia Air & Space Center and did exactly that.

More than two-dozen exhibits filled the Air & Space Center’s two floors as part of NASA Langley’s Technology Day. The event put some of NASA Langley’s coolest, most exciting technologies front and center for visitors to see and experience first hand.

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STMD: Advancing NASA’s Path to Mars

2014-2705_0NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) is paving the way for future Mars exploration. The directorate is currently investing in and developing bold, disruptive technology required for future deep-space missions. This critical work leads a concerted effort throughout the agency, including at the program level and across multiple centers, as well as with partners in American industry.

“NASA remains committed to developing the critical technologies required to enable future exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit,” said Michael Gazarik, associate administrator for STMD. “Within STMD, we are focusing on creating advanced technologies that could lead to entirely new approaches for the needs of the agency’s future space missions, especially on Mars.”


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NASA’s Space Tech Chief Offers Students a Glimpse of the Future

The man leading the charge to solve some of NASA’s biggest and most vexing technical problems offered an invitation to bright young people.

Let’s go places together — like Mars, for instance.

Michael Gazarik, the associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, spoke to a group of about 160 college and high school students on July 18, giving them insights, words of encouragement and a fast-paced, energetic look at the daring goals his team is pursuing.


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Technology Day Puts NASA Langley’s Work on Display for All to See

It’s not often that the researchers from NASA’s Langley Researcher Center gather in one spot at the same time to show off their work to the public.

But on July 15, a bunch NASA Langley researchers packed up their cutting-edge technologies, headed over to the Virginia Air & Space Center and did exactly that.

More than two-dozen exhibits filled the Air & Space Center’s two floors as part of NASA Langley’s Technology Day. The event put some of NASA Langley’s coolest, most exciting technologies front and center for visitors to see and experience first hand.

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Emmy Award Winning Production Features NASA Glenn

A NASA video program about how new methods of power and propulsion are being developed and featuring employees and facilities at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, recently was recognized with a regional Emmy Award.

Kevin Krigsvold and Michael Bibbo, producers of NASA X, won the award for “Power and Propulsion” in the category of Informational/Instructional—Program/Special. The prestigious award was part of a ceremony held June 14 at the Fillmore Silver Spring by The National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

NASA X, a television program and vodcast that highlights new and emerging technologies at NASA, operates out of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.


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Administrator Bolden Visits Company Rolling Out New Solar Array Technology

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden got a firsthand look at work being done on high power Roll Out Solar Arrays (ROSA) during a visit to the Deployable Space Systems’ (DSS) facility in Goleta, Calif. on Tuesday, July 1.

Bolden and DSS President Brian Spence toured the facility where the advanced large solar array system is being developed. The testing of the DSS array is a major milestone toward development of a new solar electric power system that will generate the high power needed for extending human presence throughout the solar system.


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NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator Test Flight Hailed as a Success

NASA has declared its Saturday, June 28, test flight of the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) a resounding success despite an issue with its parachute deployment. This vehicle, which has been popularly characterized as resembling the “flying saucer” of old science fiction lore, is meant to help the agency with its future goal of deploying large payloads to the surface of Mars. The test flight took place off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii, adjacent to the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility.


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STMD: Advancing NASA’s Path to Mars

NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) is paving the way for future Mars exploration. The directorate is currently investing in and developing bold, disruptive technology required for future deep-space missions. This critical work leads a concerted effort throughout the agency, including at the program level and across multiple centers, as well as with partners in American industry.

“NASA remains committed to developing the critical technologies required to enable future exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit,” said Michael Gazarik, associate administrator for STMD. “Within STMD, we are focusing on creating advanced technologies that could lead to entirely new approaches for the needs of the agency’s future space missions, especially on Mars.”


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How NASA tech makes an impact in your daily life

Space Technology NASA Banner

NASA suffers from an interesting problem: It gets credit for things it didn’t do and doesn’t get credit for things it did do. The public knows that the investment in space and space technologies brings about innovations that improve our daily lives. An understanding of what those technologies are, however, is something that is often elusive. NASA is often mistakenly credited with inventing commonplace consumer products to which it had either tangential connections or no connections — certainly not an enabling connection. Meanwhile, the real stories of NASA’s technological achievements are often unknown.

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A father-son chat leads to first-of-its-kind NASA spacecraft

(CNN) — The human imagination is an amazing thing. Take for example the story of how a simple father-and-son chat led to a prototype spacecraft for landing on other planets.

One Friday evening in 2009, NASA engineer Stephen Altemus arrived home from work feeling, well, kind of frustrated.

Altemus, who was chief engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, believed the agency was under “incredible pressure and scrutiny” for allegedly high budget costs. NASA’s ambitious Constellation program to develop a next-generation rocket was about to be canceled.

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Powering A Manned Mission To Mars

One of the greatest challenges of any space mission is creating enough power to operate it. While gasoline powered engines suffice on Earth, there are no refueling stations in space.

A potential solution is to harness the power of the Sun using solar panels, or even solar sails. But this is not always possible for various reasons. So researchers have begun designing highly efficient power plants, called Stirling Engines, which use the heat from radioactive decay and convert that energy into electricity.


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NASA Astronauts Will Breathe Easier With New Oxygen Recovery Systems

For NASA’s long-duration human spaceflight missions, travelers will need to recycle as much breathable oxygen in their spacecraft environments, as possible. To turn that need into a reality, NASA is seeking proposals for lightweight, safe, efficient and reliable systems for regenerating oxygen on future human exploration missions.

The first of two phases of this new NASA solicitation will consist of a detailed design, development, fabrication, and testing of an advanced oxygen recovery technology. Under a two year Phase II contract, the proposer then will develop a prototype hardware system, capable of an oxygen recovery rate of at least 75 percent.


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NASA Looks to Go Beyond Batteries for Space Exploration

NASA is seeking proposals for the development of new, more capable, energy storage technologies to replace the battery technology that has long powered America’s space program.

The core technologies solicited in the Wednesday call for proposals will advance energy storage solutions for the space program and other government agencies, such as the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) through ongoing collaboration with NASA and industry.


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Tanks for a great idea

(Source: Boeing)

Humankind’s fascination with space helped put a man on the moon and satellites into orbit. It’s the same wonderment that currently captures the imagination of Boeing engineers, who are designing and building innovative technologies to enable new explorations into the Final Frontier.

Working under contract with NASA’s Space Technology Game Changing Development Program, Boeing has designed and built two composite liquid-hydrogen fuel tanks for heavy-lift launch vehicles and other future air and space missions.

Final assembly just wrapped up on the larger (5.5-meter) tank at the Boeing Developmental Center in Tukwila, Wash. Next week, the tank will be loaded onto the NASA Super Guppy, a large, wide-bodied cargo aircraft, and transported to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., for testing. This forthcoming test follows Boeing and NASA successfully testing a 2.4-meter composite tank at Marshall last year. These tanks promise a 30 percent weight reduction and 25 percent cost savings over the state of the art metallic tanks used today.

Dan Rivera, the cryotank program manager within Boeing Research & Technology, the company’s advanced R&D organization, said Boeing and NASA’s work has truly game-changing potential for the future of space exploration. The teams’ innovation provides both weight and cost savings, a combination that’s hard to find, Rivera said.

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Move Over Heavy Metal, There’s A New Tank Coming To Town

(Source: Marshall Space Flight Center)
For more than 50 years, metal tanks have carried fuel to launch rockets and propel them into space, but one of the largest composite tanks ever manufactured may change all that. This spring, that tank–known as the composite cryotank–is set to undergo a series of tests at extreme pressures and temperatures similar to those experienced during spaceflight.

“NASA focused on this technology because composite cryogenic tanks promise a 30 percent weight reduction and a 25 percent cost savings over the best metal tanks used today,” said Michael Gazarik, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. “It costs thousands of dollars to deliver a pound of cargo to space, so lighter tanks could be a game changer allowing rockets to carry more cargo, more affordably.”

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NASA’s Robonaut Legs Headed for International Space Station

Robonaut 2 (R2) is having its legs tested on the ground while the rest of the robot is undergoing experimental trial on the ISS. The legs will provide mobility necessary for tasks inside and out of Space Station.

NASA’s built and is sending a set of high-tech legs up to the International Space Station for Robonaut 2 (R2), the station’s robotic crewmember. The new legs will be delivered to the space station aboard the SpaceX-3 cargo resupply mission, due to launch March 16 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

These new legs, funded by NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations and Space Technology mission directorates, will provide R2 the mobility it needs to help with regular and repetitive tasks inside and outside the space station. The goal is to free up the crew for more critical work, including scientific research.

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Efforts Underway to Develop Better Batteries for Electric Vehicles

By Bob Granath, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

Electricity producing batteries are a vital part of daily life on Earth and in space. Power storage devices keep spacecraft operating, cars running, cell phones connected and flashlights lit. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) now is funding 22 projects across 15 states with a total of $36 million to develop better, more efficient power sources for electric vehicles (EV).
The Robust Affordable Next Generation Energy (RANGE) Storage Systems effort kicked off when NASA and ARPA-E officials along with representatives from other agencies, industry and universities gathered at the Kurt H. Debus Conference Facility at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Jan. 28 and 29. The project aims to accelerate widespread EV use by dramatically improving driving range and reliability using innovative chemistries, architectures and designs. The result would provide low-cost, low-carbon emission alternatives for today’s cars and other vehicles.

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NASA to Make Water on the Moon and Oxygen on Mars

NASA Astronaut Jack Schmitt digs and rakes out material on the lunar surface during the 1972 Apollo 17 mission (Credits: NASA)

NASA Astronaut Jack Schmitt digs and rakes out material on the lunar surface during the 1972 Apollo 17 mission (Credits: NASA)

BY IRENE KLOTZ, Discovery News

NASA is planning missions to demonstrate how to make water on the moon and oxygen on Mars.

The initiatives are part of an evolving space exploration strategy that relies on indigenous resources, primarily to make rocket fuel for the return trip home.

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Slosh Team Readies for Important Launch

Cygnus spacecraft shortly before attachment to ISS on September 29, 2013 Image Credit: NASA

Cygnus spacecraft shortly before attachment to ISS on September 29, 2013 Image Credit: NASA

After a successful demonstration flight in September, the next Orb-1 mission is scheduled to launch on an Antares rocket in January 2014 as part of the NASA Commercial Resupply to Station contract.

The first operational delivery flight to actually carry supplies and experiments, Orbital Sciences Corporation’s unmanned cargo freighter Cygnus will loft approximately 3,217 pounds (1,459 kg) of science equipment, spare parts and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA.

Along for the ride with this payload will be the ISS Fluid Slosh experiment, a Space Technology Mission Directorate, Game Changing Development Program project dedicated to improving our understanding of how liquids behave when there is little to no gravity.

“Modern computer models try to predict how liquid moves inside a propellant tank,” said NASA’s Brandon Marsell, co-principal investigator on the Slosh Project. “Now that rockets are bigger and are going farther, we need more precise data. Most of the models we have were validated under 1 g conditions on Earth. None have been validated in the surface tension-dominated microgravity environment of space.”

The proposed research provides the first data set from long duration tests in zero gravity that can be directly used to benchmark computational fluid dynamics models, including the interaction between the sloshing fluid and the tank/vehicle dynamics.

Powerful rockets use liquid fuel to bring satellites into orbit, and are subjected to varying forces as they are propelled forward. But computer simulations may not accurately represent how liquids behave in low-gravity conditions, causing safety concerns. The Slosh experiments improve these models, and thereby improve rocket safety, by measuring how liquids move around inside a container when external forces are applied to it. This simulates how rocket fuels swirl around inside their tanks while a rocket moves through space.

To explore the coupling of liquid slosh with the motion of an unconstrained tank in microgravity, NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) teamed up with NASA’s Game Changing Development (GCD) Program, the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to perform a series of slosh dynamics experiments in the ISS using the Synchronized Position Hold Engage Reorient Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) platform. The SPHERES test bed provides a unique, free-floating instrumented platform on ISS that can be utilized in a manner that would solve many of the limitations of the current knowledge related to propellant slosh dynamics on launch vehicle and spacecraft propellant tanks.

Slosh experiment launch package Image Credit: NASA

Slosh experiment launch package Image Credit: NASA

“It was a complex and detailed process to bring this concept to fruition,” said Charlie Holicker, an FIT student who worked on the physical design of the experiment and aluminum machining. “The data that this experiment will gather sets the foundation for all long-term space flight involving liquid fuels. It was an honor to be a part of something that will have such a great impact in the exploration of space.”

Rich Schulman, an FIT student involved in the Slosh experiment since its beginning, said, “One huge benefit for the students working on this project is seeing firsthand the requirements for developing a payload for the ISS. Having gone through this process successfully, the students involved can effectively build future payloads or projects at the same standard.”

Many satellites launch on rockets powered by liquid propellants, and improved understanding of these propellants could enhance efficiency, potentially lowering costs for industry and taxpayer-funded satellite launches.

Denise M. Stefula
NASA Langley Research Center


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NASA Developing Legs for Space Station’s Robonaut 2


NASA engineers are developing climbing legs for the International Space Station’s robotic crewmember Robonaut 2 (R2), marking another milestone in space humanoid robotics.

The legless R2, currently attached to a support post, is undergoing experimental trials with astronauts aboard the orbiting laboratory. Since its arrival at the station in February 2011, R2 has performed a series of tasks to demonstrate its functionality in microgravity.

These new legs, funded by NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations and Space Technology mission directorates, will provide R2 the mobility it needs to help with regular and repetitive tasks inside and outside the space station. The goal is to free up the crew for more critical work, including scientific research.

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NASA Outreach Opportunity to Enable Future Exploration Missions

NASA needs an affordable, lightweight vehicle for greater payload capability to enable future exploration missions. Composite Cryotanks could lead to rocket propellant tanks that achieve greater than 30% weight savings and 25% cost savings compared to the state-of-the-art metal tanks. Under a contract to the Boeing Company the Composite Cryotank Technologies and Demonstration (CCTD) project has produced the largest automated fiber placement, out-of-autoclave, composite tank ever manufactured. The 2.4m composite cryotank represented a major element of the accelerated building block approach that has informed the design, fabrication and testing of the 5.5 meter article. The tank was shipped from Huntsville, Alabama to Kissimmee, Florida to be displayed within the Boeing booth as part of the Defense Manufacturing Conference (DMC) exhibit. The DMC is the premier national conference that brings together leaders from government, industry, and academia aimed at addressing advanced manufacturing technology. The conference has multiple sessions and panels where NASA has a long history with the conference sponsor – DOD MANTECH, and has significant ongoing technology interests and partnerships such as: Composites/Out-of Autoclave Composites; Metals; Digital Manufacturing; DARPA manufacturing; and the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII). This was an excellent public outreach opportunity for Boeing and NASA to disseminate the information about this exciting technology and start the dialog about future possible applications.

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Finally: a 3-D Printer for Space

Sure, 3-D printers can print pretty much any three-dimensional object you can think of – but can they print in zero gravity?

That’s what NASA wants to find out next year when it tests a 3-D printer on the International Space Station. So far, the printer, which NASA created with Made In Space, a California-based company, has successfully printed small computer parts in parabolic flights that simulate zero gravity. But the next step is to actually test a 3-D printer in space.

“We want to show that not only can we print, but when we print these tools they have same comparable quality as printing on Earth,” said Niki Werkheiser, project lead for 3-D printing in zero-G ISS technology demonstration at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

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Video: Space Station Live: 3-D Printing on the Station

Tools and space parts can be printed for use on the station eliminating the need to manufacture and deliver the gear for launch aboard a cargo spacecraft. Flight controllers could upload a CAD file to the space station for printing complex parts. A crew member could then assemble the newly printed parts to build tools, repair broken gear and even assemble nano-satellites.

During future long-term missions beyond low-Earth orbit a crew will not have the benefit of deliveries from a resupply craft. The new 3-D printing technology could benefit a potential mission to an asteroid or Mars.

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Exploring the
 Outer Edge of
 Space Technology


Project Engineer Shelley Rea demonstrates the X1 Robotic Exoskeleton. Credits: NASA

An agency office aims to find the undeniable breakthroughs necessary for understanding the universe

NASA’s core culture is to push the boundaries of what has been to create what can be. And within this cutting-edge organization is an entire group dedicated solely to ensuring that the revolutions continue to expand. The Game Changing Development Program exists to find the disruptive technologies available in relevant fields, then move them into the proper channels for development and deployment.

Stephen Gaddis, director of the program, describes its straightforward mission saying, “We are looking for the game changers. We either transform or disrupt the way that the country, that the agency, is doing business in space. We want to have a high impact on new missions and new capabilities. In essence, we’re looking to change the way NASA does business.”

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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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Additive manufacturing could turn ‘rust belt’ into ‘tech belt’

CLEVELAND — Exciting technology is taking shape in Northeast Ohio. It’s additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, a concept that’s simpler than you might think.

“If you’ve made a layer cake, that’s additive manufacturing,” explains Malcolm Cooke of Case Western Reserve University.

“Two pieces of cake. Some cream in between. Plonk it together. That’s additive manufacturing.”

Traditional manufacturing is considered subtractive as a block of material is whittled down to produce an object, whereas additive manufacturing builds an object layer by layer.

“Very complex parts can be made relatively quickly,” says Cooke.

The technology has caught the eye of scientists at NASA Glenn Research Center for its cost effectiveness and convenience.

“It allows you to look at something you need, a part you need, and actually go and make that part,” says Carol Tolbert, of NASA.

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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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NASA Seeks Innovative Suborbital Flight Technology Proposals

RELEASE : 13-108

WASHINGTON — For a second year, NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate is seeking proposals for suborbital technology payloads and spacecraft capability enhancements that could help revolutionize future space missions.

Selected technologies will travel to the edge of space and back on U.S. commercial suborbital vehicles and platforms, providing opportunities for testing before they are sent to work in the unforgiving environment of space.

The Game Changing Opportunities in Technology Development research announcement seeks proposals for technology payloads, vehicle enhancements, onboard facilities and small spacecraft propulsion technologies that will help the agency advance technology development in the areas of exploration, space operations and other innovative technology areas relevant to NASA’s missions. NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program is sponsoring the solicitation and expects proposals from entrepreneurs, scientists, technologists, instrument builders, research managers, and vehicle builders and operators. This year, NASA has included a topic on small spacecraft propulsion technologies from the agency’s Small Spacecraft Technology Program.

“Investing in transformative technology development is critical to enable NASA’s future missions and benefits the greater American aerospace community,” said James Reuther, deputy associate administrator for programs in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. “NASA Space Tech’s Game Changing Development and Flight Opportunities Programs are working with our partners from America’s emerging suborbital flight community to foster frequent and predictable commercial access to near-space while allowing for cutting-edge technology development.”

Following development, selected payloads will be made available to NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program for pairing with appropriate commercial suborbital reusable launch service provider flights. In the case of small spacecraft propulsion technologies, there may be the potential for a direct orbital flight opportunity.

“This call will select innovators to develop novel technology payloads that will provide significant improvements over current state-of-the-art systems,” said Stephen Gaddis, Game Changing Development Program manager at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.
Proposals are due June 17 and will be accepted from U.S. or non-U.S. organizations, including NASA centers, other government agencies, federally funded research and development centers, educational institutions, industry and nonprofit organizations.

NASA expects to make as many as 18 awards this summer with the majority of awards ranging in value between approximately $50,000 and $250,000 each. The total combined funding for this announcement is expected to be about $2 million, based on availability of funds.
The Game Changing Opportunities research announcement is available on NASA’s Solicitation and Proposal Integrated Review and Evaluation System website:

Langley manages the Game Changing Development Program, and NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., manages the Flight Opportunities Program for the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. For more information on the Game Changing Development activities and information on this solicitation for payloads, visit:

For more information about NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, visit:

– end –

text-only version of this release

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NASA, Air Force Seek Next Generation Space Processor Program

RELEASE : 13-093

WASHINGTON — NASA and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque, N.M., are requesting research and development proposals to define the type of spacecraft computing needed for future missions.

Through a broad agency announcement, the Air Force Next Generation Space Processor Analysis Program is seeking two to four companies to perform a yearlong evaluation of advanced space based applications that would use spaceflight processors for the 2020-2030 time frame.

“Computer processors and applications aboard spacecraft will need to transform dramatically to take advantage of computational leaps in technology and new mission needs,” said Michael Gazarik, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “NASA’s Space Technology Program is teaming with the Air Force to develop the next generation spaceflight processor requirements and propose solutions to meet future high performance space computing needs in the upcoming decades.”

Processor applications could include autonomous pinpoint landing with hazard detection and avoidance during entry, descent and landing during moon or Mars missions; real-time segmented mirror control for large space-based telescopes; onboard real-time analysis of multi-megapixel-level hyperspectral image data; autonomous onboard situational analysis and real-time mission planning; and real-time mode-based spacecraft-level fault protection.

The broad agency announcement will involve a competitive selection process. The NASA and Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate team plans to award a cost-reimbursement contract worth about $2 million to be shared by the selected companies during a period of one year.

Studies done in the first three months will determine and define the required computing performance for these advanced applications and compare their findings with the government’s preliminary requirements. Awardees then will have nine months to develop spaceflight processing architecture solutions to a set of NASA and Air Force requirements, based on progress and availability of funds.

Based on the results of the study effort, a chosen team may develop the spaceflight processor during a follow-on effort. A contract award of about $20 million during a period as long as four years could be made based on availability of funds. The intent would be to develop a spaceflight microprocessor capable of providing high-performance space computing capabilities required for advanced space missions through 2030.

To view the broad agency announcement, visit:

For information about the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate, visit:

NASA’s Game Changing Development Program at the agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., is managing this announcement. The program is part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use in future science and exploration missions. NASA’s technology investments provide cutting-edge solutions for our nation’s future. For information about NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, visit:

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3D Printers to Build NASA’s Spare Parts & Rocket Engines

Charles Bolden, NASA administrator and former astronaut, praises the potential of 3D printing to one day quickly create any parts that space travelers would need, and do it with material from whatever planet, moon, or asteroid they happen to inhabit.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden (second from right) being briefed on 3D printing and prototyping technology to create parts for the Space Launch System at Marshall Space Flight Center.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden (second from right) being briefed on 3D printing and prototyping technology to create parts for the Space Launch System at Marshall Space Flight Center.

Read more: 3D Printers to Build NASA’s Spare Parts & Rocket Engines – Popular Mechanics

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NASA Supports American Manufacturing

During a visit to NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, I had the opportunity to see where NASA engineers were working on Electron Beam Freeform Fabrication, or EBF3. This innovation in fabrication is a kind of “additive manufacturing” machine that uses an electron beam gun, a dual wire feed and computer controls to manufacture metallic structures for building parts or tools in hours, rather than days or weeks.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because we’re seeing a lot about 3D printing in the news these days. President Obama specifically mentioned it in his State of the Union address as one innovative technology that will help us advance the future of manufacturing.

Click here to view the entire Blog post from Lori Garver (NASA Deputy Administrator) ›

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NASA Technology Supports American Manufacturing

Administrator Charles Bolden tours the NASA National Center for Advanced Manufacturing at the Marshall Space Flight Center on Feb. 22, 2013. Credit: NASA

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden looks at models of J-2X and RS-25 rocket engines during a Feb. 22, 2013, visit to NASA's National Center for Advanced Manufacturing Rapid Prototyping Facility at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Credit: NASA/Emmett Given.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden toured a cutting-edge facility at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center, where high-tech manufacturing is creating parts for a next-generation rocket that will launch astronauts to more distant destinations than ever before.

NASA’s National Center for Advanced Manufacturing Rapid Prototyping Facility is just one of the ways the agency is helping to revitalize America’s manufacturing sector. According to a study by the Washington-based Tauri Group, the agency contributed $5 billion to U.S. manufacturing industry in 2012.

Click here to view entire article ›

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Robonaut 2 Team Receives AIAA Robotics Award

Robonaut 2

Robonaut 2 – the first dexterous humanoid robot in space – is pictured in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station measuring the air flow in front of vents inside the station to ensure that none of the ventilation ductwork gets clogged or blocked. Credit: NASA

Robonaut 2 – the first dexterous humanoid robot in space – is pictured in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station measuring the air flow in front of vents inside the station to ensure that none of the ventilation ductwork gets clogged or blocked. Credit: NASA

The NASA team behind Robonaut 2, the first humanoid robot in space, has been awarded the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Space Automation and Robotics Award for 2013. AIAA is the world’s largest technical society dedicated to the global aerospace profession.

Robonaut 2, or R2, is a dexterous humanoid robot built and designed at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Sent to the International Space Station in 2011 with the intention of aiding astronauts on dangerous tasks and freeing them from some the more mundane work, upgrades to the R2 system continue to produce novel advances in the field of robotics.

“The R2 development team is an incredible group of talented people and I am so proud that the team has been recognized with this prestigious honor,” said Dr. Myron Diftler, Robonaut Principal Investigator at NASA Johnson. “To be acknowledged this early in our planned activity on ISS is especially notable. This award from our peers gives us increased confidence that R2 is on a track to even more success as we move towards mobility inside, and then outside the International Space Station.”

The citation for the award reads, “In recognition of the Robonaut 2 Development Team’s pioneering technical achievement and advancement of humanoid dexterous robotics for human space exploration.”

Technologies developed by the R2 team have debuted in spinoff wearable robotic devices. The Robo-Glove, designed to reduce the risk of repetitive stress injuries and provide additional gripping strength to astronauts, is a direct descendant of the actuators and controls found in R2’s hands. Also drawing from the robot’s design team, the X1 exoskeleton device is a robot that a human could wear over his or her body either to assist or inhibit movement in leg joints.

R2 is part of NASA’s Game Changing Development Program, which seeks to quickly mature innovative technologies that will have cross-cutting applications throughout agency missions and may also be of benefit to the American aerospace industry. NASA’s Game Changing efforts are part of the agency’s Space Technology Program, which is innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use in future science and exploration missions. NASA’s technology investments provide cutting-edge solutions for our nation’s future.


Reference Link:

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CWRU, NASA and PTC put students to work on aerospace, manufacturing projects

Credits: PTC

Credits: PTC

Case Western Reserve University, NASA Glenn Research Center and software-maker PTC are teaming up to put students to work on real aerospace projects, manufacturing problems and more, with tools used in the industry.

Case Western Reserve is the second university nationwide to become a host of NASA’s Strategic Partners for the Advancement of Collaborative Engineering (SPACE) program. The program is designed to help train the next generation of engineers and scientists.

PTC will provide tools to take on projects from NASA and, in the future, other industries in Northeast Ohio and around the United States. For the SPACE program, PTC is donating PTC Windchill software for Product Lifecycle Management requirements and PTC Creo software for Computer Assisted Design, along with computer hardware servers. The software is used by 27,000 businesses in rapidly evolving, globally distributed manufacturing industries worldwide.

For more information go to:


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NASA Space Tech Program Selects Thermal Control System Concepts

HAMPTON, Va., Jan. 31, 2013  — NASA Space Technology’s Game Changing Development Program has selected eight proposals to develop advanced thermal control system technologies for future spacecraft.

The selected proposals will address a difficult design challenge facing future spacecraft – the development of a thermal control system that can reject high heat loads in a warm thermal environment yet still operate efficiently in a cold environment.

Similar to how heating and cooling systems keep people comfortable on Earth, thermal control systems are an important part of keeping astronauts safe and comfortable in space.

The spacecraft, and everything on board, must remain within a specified temperature range during a variety of mission phases and in a dynamic environment with extreme temperature changes.

Known as, “variable heat rejection thermal control systems,” NASA human spaceflight studies, as well as those from the Space Technology Roadmaps and the National Research Council’s response to these roadmaps, have found that thermal control is a key capability required in order for humans to extend our presence farther into space.

“The technologies selected as part of this activity address today’s most difficult design challenge facing thermal engineers and are applicable to all future crewed and robotic exploration missions,” said Stephen Gaddis , director of NASA’s Game Changing Development Program, located at NASA’s Langley Research Center. “Advancing state of the art thermal control systems will be the rising tide that lifts all future spacecraft designs.”

Proposals for this solicitation were received from NASA field centers, federally funded research and development centers, educational institutions, and industry.  Additionally, many of the proposed activities involved a collaborative effort combining the contributions of individuals from a wide range of performing entities.

Awards for the Phase 1 activity will range up to $50,000 each with a total NASA investment of approximately $400,000.

The proposals that have been selected for contract negotiations are:

  • “Improved Variable Conductance Heat Pipes, iVCHP,” Sergey Semenov , Thermacore Inc., Lancaster, Penn.
  • “A Spacecraft Thermal Management System With Freeze-Tolerant Radiator,” Grant Bue , NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston
  • “Development of Low Temperature Non-Toxic Thermal Control Fluid for Use in a Single Loop Variable Heat Rejection Thermal Control System,” Rubik Sheth , NASA Johnson, Houston,
  • “Thermal Control Using Liquid-Metal Bridge Switches,” Amir Hirsa , Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, N.Y.
  • “Temperature Controlled Effective Radiator Area Using Shape Memory Alloys,” Thomas Cognata , MEI Technologies, Inc., Houston
  • “Development of a Heat Switch Radiator,” Gregory Quinn , Hamilton Sundstrand Space Systems International, Inc., Houston
  • “Scalable, Passive, Adjustable Heat Rejection System (SPAHRS), David Bugby , ATK Space Systems, Beltsville, Md.
  • “Development of a Robust Freeze Start-Up Radiator,” Wei-Lin Cho , Hamilton Sundstrand Space Systems International, Inc., Houston

For information about the Game Changing Development and Space Technology Programs visit:

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NASA Partners with Community to Demonstrate Hydrogen Bus

What swallows Lake Erie water, motors quietly through the streets of Cleveland, and expels water good enough to drink from its tailpipe? It’s a brand new Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) bus, part of a demonstration of clean, alternative transportation.

NASA’s Glenn Research Center is supporting a community-based partnership with RTA, the Cleveland Foundation, the Ohio Aerospace Institute and several technology development companies, to add a hydrogen-fueled demonstration bus to the RTA fleet. It will transport passengers 60-80 miles a day along various routes with emissions of only water and heat, and will be refueled at a station at RTA’s Hayden bus garage equipped with technologies developed at Glenn.

“What makes this project unique is that Glenn has installed the first electrolysis-based refueling station in Ohio,” says Carolyn Mercer, manager of the Space Power Systems Project. “This means we don’t have to transport hydrogen tanks; we make the fuel on site, which is safer and more cost-effective.”

The electrolysis unit takes in city water, purifies it via an internal de-ionizing process and uses electricity to split the water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. The generated hydrogen is then stored in tanks ready for use.

The dispenser operates similar to a typical gas pump. The bus is driven up alongside it, the nozzle securely connects using a pressure-sealed flange and the tank is filled with hydrogen. The fueling station is located in East Cleveland because the RTA garage there is equipped to fuel natural gas buses and the infrastructure is very similar. While it is currently powered by electricity from the grid, solar or wind power could operate the station in the future.

Most buses run on diesel or gas-powered engines and emit the characteristic black plume of smoke when they accelerate from a stop. Hydrogen fueled buses, however, are powered by an electric motor and use a fuel cell instead of a battery to provide the electricity. There is no smoke, just water emitted.

“NASA Glenn has a long history of developing fuel cells and we want the public to understand how they can be used in an efficient and clean transportation system,” says Valerie Lyons, chief of the Power and In-Space Propulsion Division. “The concept of a “fuel cell” was around in the 1800s but when NASA developed a fuel cell for the Gemini program during the early days of space flight, it enabled the creation of a viable commercial market for fuel cells – yet another way that NASA technology creates jobs.”

Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cells convert the chemical energy of hydrogen and oxygen into electrical energy with heat and water as byproducts of the electrochemical reaction. These fuel cells work with a very thin membrane of catalyzed film. Hydrogen is on one side and oxygen on the other. When the hydrogen passes through the membrane, it gives up an electron, which makes electric current to fuel the engine. Hydrogen finds oxygen on the other side of the membrane to combine and make water, which is discarded through the tailpipe. Advantages of replacing the engine with a fuel cell include the elimination of harmful emissions, a reduction in moving parts and a virtually silent operation.


Research at Glenn is focused on improving the reliability and efficiency of fuel cells and electrolysis systems. NASA’s Space Power System supports the hydrogen bus effort, which is a NASA Space Technology Game Changing Development project. These projects focus on innovative work that not only changes the way we operate in space but can also change the way we do things here on Earth.

Hydrogen sensors incorporated into the refueling station are spinoffs from NASA research for space launch systems. Makel Engineering, working with Glenn, has commercialized these miniature, high-tech hydrogen gas sensors to detect leaks. Now exposed to Cleveland weather year around, these technologies, originally developed for space and aeronautics, will demonstrate applications in everyday life.

“RTA continues to be committed to green technology while supplying safe and reliable service,” says Mike Lively, manager of the Operations Analysis, Research and Systems Department at RTA. “Our partnership with NASA has made it possible to offer the first of this technology in Ohio and we are excited to offer it to our riders and the Cleveland community.”

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Study finds value in teaching creativity

Creativity is not a skill just for writers, painters or musicians, according to a recent survey focused on the value of thinking creatively in careers beyond the arts.

The Adobe study, “Creativity and Education: Why it Matters,” surveyed 1,000 full-time salaried workers, age 25 or older, with at least a four-year college degree. The majority of respondents — 68 percent — said creativity isn’t a personality trait, but a skill that can be learned. And 71 percent said creativity should be taught as a class.

NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton offers a class once a month for its employees to enhance creativity.

“Everything we do is about creativity and innovation,” said Steve Gaddis, head of the Game Changing Development program.

The focus of the program is to find ways to transform future space missions by reducing cost and increasing efficiency, which Gaddis said cannot be done without creative thinking.

Gaddis said one class exercise links traditional engineering approaches to developing technologies and asking the “What ifs.” The students are told to come up with a dozen or more ideas to solving the problem, no matter how outlandish, he said.

“You never know when that a-ha! moment is going to come,” he said.

Area educators agree that learning creative thinking can be helpful beyond the arts.


See full article at:,0,6980189.story

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Game-Changing Propellant Tank

A 2.4-meter-diameter propellant tank made of composite materials arrived on Nov. 20, 2012 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., where engineers are preparing it for testing. Composite tanks have the potential to significantly reduce the cost and weight for heavy-lift launch vehicles and for other future in-space missions. The tank’s arrival marks a significant milestone that was made possible because of contributions made over the last year by multiple NASA centers and The Boeing Company, the prime contractor for the project. This is the largest composite tank ever produced with new materials that do not require autoclave processing. Complex autoclaves for processing large composite structures are high-pressure furnaces. Boeing used a novel automated fiber placement technique to manufacture the tank in Tukwila, Washington. Marshall is leading the Composite Cryotank Technologies and Demonstration project with support from NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland; NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.; and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida through funding provided by the NASA Space Technology’s Game Changing Development program.

In the coming months, the tank will undergo a series of hydrogen pressure tests in Marshall’s test facility where engineers will measure its ability to contain liquid hydrogen at extremely cold, or cryogenic, temperatures. NASA and Boeing engineers will use the test results to refine the tank design and build a larger 5.5-meter composite tank scheduled for testing in early 2014. The design features and manufacturing processes can be applied to propellant tanks similar in size to tanks needed for heavy-lift rockets. Large propellant tanks for the space shuttle and other vehicles have typically been made of aluminum.

Image caption: NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given

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Advanced Manufacturing with a Common Goal

No matter where you stand from inside the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM) 60,000 square-foot facility, you can see all the way through. From within the glass walls, you might witness equipment being installed, or scientist working in one of 10 research laboratories. Or you could see CCAM members collaborating in the “common space,” or working in the 3-D Visualization Center.

CCAM’s Executive Director David Lohr sees a clear connection between that new facility and what NASA has been doing for many years.

“I think it will also give you a window into the future opportunity that exists in the Commonwealth of Virginia — to leverage what we’re doing to bring technology driven manufacturing back to America, and specifically, back to Virginia,” Lohr said.

At NASA Langley’s November Colloquium titled, “CCAM: A Game-Changing Partnership for Growing Advanced Manufacturing in the USA,” Lohr talked about what CCAM is doing to define advanced technology that companies need in order to remain competitive in an intensely global marketplace.

Current members of CCAM include Newport News Shipbuilding, Canon, Rolls Royce, Siemens, Chromalloy, and Aerojet, along with other industrial companies and universities.

“Our job is to rapidly translate new technologies in advanced manufacturing from the laboratory back to the factory floor,” Lohr said.

CCAM brings different industrial sectors together through a common research theme in two primary areas: surface engineering and manufacturing systems. Although the connection of those primary areas may not be obvious at first, according to Lohr, more than half of the projects crossover.

One crossover example of generic research, when companies pull their financial support and ideas together, is a project that looks at media blasting of a surface to prepare it to receive a coating. On the manufacturing systems side, they seek to understand how to characterize the coating for optimal performance using modeling and simulation and sensor technology.

From that generic research, CCAM develops a research program and projects of interest across the board. CCAM provides the funding, and owns the results.

There is also an option for Directed Research, when a specific company or a collaboration of companies maintains ownership of the results.

CCAM is contemplating adding a third option for a government research organization such as NASA.

The idea is that members come in at an appropriate level for what they can afford with three “tiers” of members to choose from. Minus payment, potential members can provide CCAM with equipment for the facility. They receive a seat at the table with all of the companies who are defining the next generation of products.

Members populate boards and councils that are structured to maximize interaction, define the best projects, and to make sure that CCAM has the appropriate resources to complete them.

According to Lohr, CCAM spreads the cost risk. And with access to the right people and the right technology, they are able to deliver a cost-effective, rapid-to-market model to their partners.

For more than a year, CCAM and NASA Langley have engaged in a conversation that Lohr hopes will lead to a membership.

“My vision is, as I look at the capability that you have here, the facilities, the equipment, and the amazing amount of human talent that is here, and the focus that we both have — so much of that focus in the aerospace sector to start with — it seems logical that you all should be a member of CCAM,” Lohr said. “We would have access to your equipment that we don’t need to invest in, and there are opportunities for you.

“We envision a government entity category that would involve visiting scientists, it might involve us doing work for you, or us outsourcing work to be done by you. It expands us into another dimension.”

Based on several visits that Lohr has made to NASA Langley, he sees a clear fit. NASA Langley has capabilities that CCAM and its partnering universities do not have. In part, his job is to build research capabilities without any gaps, and he sees NASA Langley filling in some of those gaps.

“We have a tremendous opportunity there, and we hope to do something with that,” Lohr said. “We’re advancing the ball as fast as we can.”

David Dress and Ray Turcotte from NASA Langley recently visited CCAM. They were both impressed with the facility and the concept.

“CCAM takes advantage of pooling resources to achieve common goals,” Dress said. “It adds a level of structure to collaboration that leverages skills from industry, academia and government to infuse new or advanced technologies into mainstream manufacturing.”

Dress envisions researchers traveling between the centers, sharing expertise and equipment, and pursuing common aerospace manufacturing goals.

At this point, the center is considering a non-reimbursable Space Act Agreement with CCAM as a starting point in a partnership.

Within five years, Lohr intends to have 50 to 60 scientists working with CCAM, and 30 industrial members from its current 14. He also hopes to grow 30 to 35 internship opportunities from the current four. Within that time, he expects the institution to do $15 to $20 million dollars worth of specialized research in advanced manufacturing.

Currently, CCAM has 12 areas in which they focus their investments. Some of those areas include surface characterization, machining, additive manufacturing and non-destructive evaluation.

With an increase in membership, which could introduce new industry sectors, Lohr expects that list of areas will grow to 15 to 18 areas, with the depth of those areas also expanding.

And one day, Lohr hopes to look out through the CCAM facility to a complete research campus that bridges the gap between fundamental research typically performed at universities and product development routinely performed by companies.

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Scientists test novel power system for space travel

John Bounds of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Advanced Nuclear Technology Division makes final adjustments on the DUFF experiment, a demonstration of a simple, robust fission reactor prototype that could be used as a power system for space travel. DUFF is the first demonstration of a space nuclear reactor system to produce electricity in the United States since 1965.

Read more at:

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WASHINGTON — Business leaders, space enthusiasts, students and the public are invited to attend NASA Technology Days. The free, three-day public technology showcase will take place at the Cleveland

Public Auditorium and Conference Center Nov. 28-30. Participants from industry, academia and the U.S. Government will discuss strategy development, partnerships and methods to foster technology transfer and innovation.

The showcase will feature NASA-funded technologies available for transfer to the aerospace, advanced-energy, automotive, innovative manufacturing and human-health industries. The venue will provide opportunities for networking, business development and forging new relationships, including dialogue with NASA technology program leadership.

NASA officials will discuss the agency’s upcoming technology initiatives, technology transfer and strategic partnerships. NASA centers also will provide exhibits and information on how businesses can partner with the agency for technology development, transfer and innovation. Attendees also can learn about leading technologies contributing to American economic growth and innovation.

NASA Technology Days is free and open to the public, but registration is required. To register, visit:

Journalists registering to attend should list their news organization under “affiliation.” Reporters seeking interviews with NASA or other showcase participants should contact Katherine Martin at or 216-433-2406.

For more information about NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist and the agency’s Space Technology Program, visit:

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Endeavour SpaceFest event


As part of the grand opening activities for Space Shuttle Endeavour, NASA is presenting SpaceFest, a six-day exhibit at the California Science Center at Exposition Park in Los Angeles continuing through Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012.

NASA’s SpaceFest is free to the public and includes three dozen exhibits, displays, and educational demonstrations honoring aeronautics and space exploration past, present, and future. Visitors to SpaceFest will learn about current NASA research missions, future space travel, and NASA involvement in enhancing aeronautics. The event also provides an opportunity for guests to meet and hear current and former astronauts speaking about their experiences.

SpaceFest activities and booths are in the Annenberg Building just east of the park’s rose garden and a short walk from the center’s main building and the Endeavour exhibit in the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center Pavilion. Tickets are not required for SpaceFest.

Astronauts are sharing stories of their experiences daily in the Donald P. Loker Conference Center in the science center¹s main building. Free, timed tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the NASA information booth near the science center’s main box office.

SpaceFest is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Friday, Nov. 2 and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 3 and 4.

Astronaut presentations will take place through Friday at 10:15 a.m., 11:15 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. with school groups given first preference. Remaining tickets are distributed at the NASA information booth. Astronaut presentations on Saturday are at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and on Sunday at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Space Shuttle Endeavour Exhibition viewing times in the center’s nearby Samuel Oschin Pavilion are from 10 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Although admission to the Endeavour exhibit is free, visitors must obtain tickets from the California Science Center. Specific-time reserved tickets are recommended for a fee of $3 for non-members and $2 for members of the science center who reserve online at

Parking will be limited on Saturday due to the USC-Oregon football game in the adjoining Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Guests may wish to park at the Staples Center and take public transportation to the science center.

The California Science Center is located at 700 Exposition Park Drive in Exposition Park, Exposition Boulevard and Figueroa Street just south of downtown Los Angeles, adjacent to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Samuel Oschin Pavilion housing Endeavour is immediately west of the center’s main building adjacent to the south lawn area. The Annenberg building is located on Kinsey Drive adjacent to the science center’s main complex, east of the park’s rose garden.

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Space Tech Site is open!

2012-2013 Game Changing Engineering Design Challenge

NASA invites college student teams to enter the 2013 Game Changing Engineering Design Challenge. Student teams are asked to design a thermal control system for a manned space station in low lunar orbit. Designs must accommodate a six-person crew, maintain acceptable temperatures for avionics components, and provide a healthy environment for the crew. Multidisciplinary teams are encouraged.

The contest is open to student teams from post-secondary institutions in the United States or its territories. This category includes universities, colleges, trade schools, community colleges, professional schools, etc.

Finalists will be invited to present their work to NASA engineers and tour a NASA center.
A notice of intent is due Jan. 15, 2013. Final entries are due on April 29, 2013.

For more information and a complete list of rules, visit

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GCD Annual Review at HQ, October 24-October 25.


The Game Changing Development Program held its first annual program review at NASA HQ Oct. 23-25. Principal investigators and project managers traveled to Washington, D.C., to present their projects’ many accomplishments in the past year. The Human Robotics Services project even brought a show-and-tell, the new Exoskeleton prototype. Credits: NASA

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Steve Gaddis, Program Director for NASA Space Technology’s Game Changing Development Office, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA

Image above: Steve Gaddis, who was minister of a church he built in Alabama, runs the newly created Game Changing Technology Development office at NASA Langley. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

Image above: Steve Gaddis, who was minister of a church he built in Alabama, runs the newly created Game Changing Technology Development office at NASA Langley. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith  

Steve Gaddis runs the newly created Game Changing Technology Development Program Office. Gaddis leads the program’s efforts to develop innovative technologies that will revolutionize space exploration.

NASA Tech Briefs:What are we talking about when we say “Game Changing Technology Development?”

Steve Gaddis: That’s a question that we get asked a lot. The program is one of ten programs within OCT, the Office of the Chief Technologist. In OCT, they have the Space Technology Program (STP), which is being managed by Mike Gazarik and James Reuther.

When we say “Game Changing Technology,” we’re looking for orders-of-magnitude impact in technology development. We’re looking for cross-cutting infusion technologies that can be used in more than one place. We’re looking for transformative technologies. We’re looking for aggressive schedules and short development cycles (two or three years); fifty percent improvement in performance; and fifty percent or more reduction in manufacturing costs or lead times.

We’re also trying to revolutionize the way we do business at NASA. A lot of times it takes several years to get something rolling at NASA. We want to be able to say, “This one’s not panning out. It’s not meeting the metrics,” so we pull the plug, if you will, and take that money and reinvest into another “new start.”

All of these align with agency priorities or any agency partners. We want to have a streamlined business model. We want to have accountability through what we call Continuation Reviews. Periodically through the year, the program steps in with our principal investigator, and we see: Are we really in the direction we want to go? Is the project making adequate progress? Is the technology maturation happening? So we have the ability to make those decisions somewhat quickly. And as you might suspect, we can have some breakthroughs in two or three years and have agreements with projects such as the Orion Capsule or the Space Launch System (SLS), or other government agencies like Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to have onramps into some of their systems. In essence, we want to investigate approaches to revolutionizing space exploration.

NTB: You mentioned “pulling the plug.” What are the criteria for pulling the plug, or deciding that a project has run its course?

Gaddis: We’re a high risk/high payoff program. We come in with a pretty tall order. Someone says, “Hey, we can do this in two years. Here are the performance metrics and the key performance parameters. And here are the actual thresholds that we’re trying to meet.” So we’re monitoring progress.

Each one of our activities has an overseer, somebody we call the GCD [Game Changing Development] principal investigator (PI). It’s very analogous to a DARPA PM [Defense Advanced Research Project Agency Project Manager]. And this PI is monitoring the progress, and the certain Continuous Reviews. They step in and get the level of insight into that activity. They have to make a technological, strategic call, or weigh in on some of the programmatics. If these folks are on track to meeting their technical objectives, then we allow them to continue. If it looks like they’re just not going to get there, there’s no reason to say, “Ok, for the next two years, we’re going to let this run out.” We do an orderly shutdown of a month or so. All the participants understand that this is the governance model that we’re operating in. So we take those funds, and we already have a stack of potential “new start” activities that need investment.

A lot of times, with NASA, we let [projects] run four or five years, and there are termination liabilities, and it could take a long time to get out of something. That is not what the model is for the Game Changing Program.

NTB: What are your day-to-day responsibilities as leader in this office?

Gaddis: Currently, like any other NASA program, we go through the planning and program budget execution cycles. We meet to see what the technology horizon might look like, and what the future investments are, and we see the investments we’ve already made, and what their continuing needs might be.

We’re developing the portfolio for the program, so on a day-to-day basis, I’m meeting with these GCD PIs, and we’re talking about technology. We’re talking about new ideas. We’re talking about meeting with other organizations and how those meetings went with NRO [National Reconnaissance Office], and AFRL, and DARPA, and DOE [Department of Energy]. We have a lot of collaborative-type discussions and brainstorming sessions. We have a lot of reviews on how the projects are doing. We monitor those very closely on a monthly basis. We report to NASA headquarters on a quarterly basis, and we have a very large end of the year program review.

We currently have 7 PIs, and their technology expertise is quite a broad spectrum, from composites, nanotechnology, power systems, solar arrays, electric propulsion, manufacturing, and additive manufacture particularly. We’re looking at x-ray navigation, optical communication, and next-generation high-speed computing. We currently have about 30-something projects in the works that are fully funded. Two of those were not meeting their metrics, so we’ve pulled the plug on those and reinvested the funds. Right now, it’s looking very well and all running according to planned.

NTB: What do you think space flights of the future will look like? What kinds of new approaches do you think we’ll see?

Gaddis: Some of the new ideas that we’re currently working on, and some of those that are in the “new start” hopper, if you will, are using composite cryogenic tanks that will reduce the weight by 50 percent for some system like the SLS. We’re also looking at power-beaming technology: having a ground infrastructure with a large laser that would shoot a high-energy beam to a capsule that could go to low-Earth orbit. We’re also looking at cheap ways to get to low-Earth orbit, and put large structures together in a cheap fashion. We’re looking to build some of that hardware in orbit, with additive manufacturing: Build what you need, where you need it. We’re looking at cryogenic propellant, depots, and lots of different architectures of human spaceflight, robotic investigations, and explorations. The field is wide open.

NTB: Is there a challenge there with such a wide open field of technologies, in determining needs and prioritizing different projects?

Gaddis: We struggle with some of those, but it’s a good kind of struggle. Always, when you have a lot innovative people, and our country is full of such smart individuals, it’s difficult to determine what we can invest in, and when we should invest in it. Is it the right time for it? Does it fit well with the current agency priorities? For some technologies, it’s just not their time, but they’re still worthy of investment. Someone else will just have to make the investment. It is a struggle for us to rank these different technologies and to help prioritize them. We’d like to just be able to fund them all.

NTB: What are the start-to-finish steps when you’re bringing a Game Changing Technology into the fold? I imagine it starts with ground testing and other processes?

Gaddis: Yes there is, and what we like to look at is a technology that has a technology-readiness level of around 3, which means it’s not just an idea, but there’s some proof in the pudding, if you’ll let me say it that way: There’s been a lot of benchwork, there’s been some analysis, there’s been peer review, it looks like it has sound physics, and it looks like there has been some sort of subscale demonstration that proves that the technology is viable and feasible.

As DARPA has DARPA PMs, we have GCD PIs. The front door for technology investment is our PIs. You can go to our technical website: You can see which PI and technology focus might lend to your needs. You begin a dialogue with them, have several discussions, and look at data. If a PI decides that this is something that’s worthy of consideration, and it’s the right time for consideration, and it fits within our portfolio and our priorities, this PI would then bring a “new start” proposal to our board, and the board would review it. The board has expertise from across the agency. It has the program leadership and headquarters leadership as well. There’s several of us that review these potential “new starts.” We look at certain criteria: Is it really game changing? Why should we invest in this now? What are they trying to do that’s different than what’s been done in the past? How much is it going to cost? What difference will it make if we succeed?

One of the major questions that we ask is: Can it transition? Is there some end-item customer that would be interested in this technology within NASA or another federal agency? We don’t go forward, unless there’s somebody interested in using this. Then, we get some sort of formal agreement with this potential customer that if we meet these specifications, they’ll take that design and go forward with it. That’s the “new start.” It gets approved. It gets off and running in a formulation of normally 6-12 months, and if they meet their performance metrics during formulation, there will be a review to let it go into implementation, which could be 2-3 years, working very closely with the customer and headquarters for approval. We have these continuation reviews, and the PI monitors those, and hopefully the end of the story is that they have this formal agreement with the customer, that they meet all the metrics, and we do a technology infusion, we do a hand-off, and some other NASA directorate or program like TDM, (Technology Demonstration Missions), Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD), or Science Mission Directorate (SMD), takes it on, and you see the technology was developed and used, and doesn’t go on a shelf somewhere.

NTB: Which one of these Game-Changing Technologies are ready to go, and we’re ready to see in action?

Gaddis: There are hypersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerators, and we have a demonstration that’s going to be out of Wallops [Flight Facility] this month [July, at the time of this interview]. It’s going to be suborbital, but we’re demonstrating this inflation technology and this certain material that can be used to do some sort of aerodynamic decelerations on a planet with atmospheres, say Mars or maybe Venus.

We’re also within about 8 months of demonstrating a 5.5-meter composite cryogenic tank. Most of these tanks, for folks that are in that field, know that a tank of that size would have to be cured in a huge autoclave. We’re doing all this work out of autoclave. It’ll be a huge impact not only for NASA, but for even companies like Boeing, SpaceX, or Orbital.

We’re also developing legs for Robonaut on ISS. Most folks know that Robonaut is up on [the International Space] Station, and Robonaut did some sign language a couple months ago, back down to kids here on Earth. But Robonaut needs its legs, and we should have those legs probably within the next 12 months. Those are some activities that are near-term for Game Changing.

NTB: You mentioned Airbus and Boeing. How important is private industry to making this all happen?

Gaddis: We want to partner with private industry. In the commercial space, we’re looking at how a lot of our technologies can help them. It’s very important to us that the work that we’re doing can be disseminated to all sectors in the aerospace field. It’s part of the vision of our chief technologist, Mason Peck, that we properly disseminate our findings so that folks in the aerospace field – whether it’s a Lockheed or a Boeing or a SpaceX or a Sierra Nevada, or some smaller corporation that’s interested in getting into the field – can use this information and apply it to what they have going on in their companies. We talk to private industry on a regular basis, and we team up with them wherever it makes sense. A lot of times they’ll use their own internal research and development funds, and we have a cost-share activity with them. I think it would be safe to say that we work very closely with industry.

NTB: To dig into your bio a bit: You were originally the deputy chief of the Launch Abort System.

Gaddis: I spent a year at Headquarters being the program executive in OCT for Game Changing. Before that, I spent five years being the deputy chief of the Launch Abort System within the Orion project, the former Constellation Program, and we had a major success on May 6 several years ago with the Pad Abort 1 [Orion Test]. We demonstrated a new launch abort system. It was picture perfect and worked just like it should.

Before that, I was working on station to develop a couple of modules, as program manager for developments and modules, for Station. I worked probably 10 years of my career on developing advanced technologies for the space shuttle main engines, and I did some advanced technology work with Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter (JIMO), and I was the Marshall lead for that. I’ve had a lot of fun in my career, but I have to say, I’m having a lot of fun right now, doing all this technology work.

NTB: Are there any kinds of adjustments that you’ve had to make in this new role?

Gaddis: Yeah, but the adjustments are not bad. I came from human spaceflight, where I spent the majority of my career, so I haven’t worked very closely with aeronautics or the science mission directorate, or even lower-tier technology development. With human spaceflight, we still do some technology development, but it’s much closer to maturation for our own purposes. Some of the adjustments: I work very closely with researchers and scientists, and chief technologists across the agency and other government agencies. They’re very creative individuals, and sometimes they push against much needed processes, but it’s a healthy tension to get things done. It hasn’t been negative. I’ve perceived it all as very positive. It’s been a great learning experience for me.

NTB: Are there any other challenges in this role, and with Game Changing technologies?

Gaddis: Two challenges jump out. One, the program’s not very old, and we’ve been chartered to do things differently, to be “game changing,” if you will: to be DARPA-like, some folks have said. What they really asked us to do was to be the premier program or organization within OCT or within the agency to rapidly advance technology from concept to demonstration.

We had to change our leadership model, our governance model, to try to impact how we do business. It’s been a challenge. NASA has a culture, and each one of the centers have somewhat of their own unique cultures, and it’s been a challenge trying to convince folks that “Hey, we don’t have to have a ten year investment plan. We can do these things in short development cycles and focus on critical technologies.” It’s been a challenge to convince some folks to do that, but I would say that the folks at NASA want to do the right thing, and they want to do great work that has an impact, so folks have gotten on board. We’ve still got a challenge ahead of us to convince not only our key stakeholders, but our field centers who are doing the hands on work.

The next challenge is probably neck and neck with that one: there’s never enough funding to support all of the good work, and it’s a difficult task to prioritize the work. You want to do most of it, if not all of it. It’s hard to turn folks down. Lots of smart people are just coming out of the woodwork with great ideas, inside and outside the agency. We have to find some way to prioritize them and fund what we can with the limited budget that we have.

NTB: What is your favorite part of the job?

Gaddis: My favorite part of the job is working with a vast group of people. The people really are the top asset that NASA has. We have lots of creative people, and they just want opportunities. I enjoy working with the industry and the university folks, the headquarters, and the field centers. I enjoy working with the researchers, the scientists, and the technologists, and it gives me great pleasure to fund a lot of the work that they’re doing, and see what we would call true game-changing technologies come out of the endeavor.




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VIP Day Builds Bridges To NASA Langley


When Karen Jackson, Virginia’s deputy secretary of technology, visits NASA’s Langley Research Center, there is always a sense of familiarity. Her mom worked at the center for 32 years and Jackson spent much of her childhood in and around Langley.

“It’s very exciting to come back in my new role, to help transfer technology to industry and universities and to develop partnerships,” Jackson said at NASA Langley’s 95th Anniversary VIP Day on Thursday. “I want to help build bridges to make NASA more accessible, and make them a partner for what we are trying to do in the Commonwealth.”

Jackson, who also serves on the Governor’s MODSIM Panel, was excited to take a first glimpse at some of the technology that NASA has to offer.

Like minds, such as Michele DeWitt, economic development director for Williamsburg, and James Noel, Jr., economic development director for York County, were also looking forward to building some bridges.

“It’s all about trying to see the technology commercialize, and then to take that technology to businesses as a potential asset,” Noel said.

Both DeWitt and Noel spoke of the importance of NASA Incubator Programs, which are designed to nurture new and emerging businesses with the potential to incorporate technology developed by NASA.

“It’s about taking the technology that is happening here, transferring it, and expanding it throughout the region,” DeWitt said.

More than 100 guests including representatives from local, regional, state and federal government, industry representatives, and colleagues from other NASA centers, broke into three separate tour groups and visited facilities that would be of most interest to them.

“Fifty percent of the work comes in the door, and fifty percent of the work goes back out the door,” said Stewart Harris, Director of Engineering, as groups arrived to Langley’s Advanced Manufacturing facility.

In one area of the facility, Tom Burns held up a test rig and explained that the manufacturing process, called Selective Laser Melting (SLM) Sinterstation, provided the rig a strength of 16,000 pounds per square inch. In another area, Mike Powers talked about the glass bead heat ablasion technique, which was created at NASA Langley about a year ago. It has been used on NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, HIAD (Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator) and the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV).

Bill Seufzer shared a story about a request he received from an aerospace company to build a titanium part. Rather than starting with the 400-pound build of titanium that they provided him, he used NASA Langley’s Electron Beam Freeform Fabrication (EBF3) technology to build up the part from a plate. He built the piece using 23 pounds of material, which saved 233 pounds of material and costs. And instead of the process taking 18 months, it only took him one day, he explained.

Tim Osowski, a scientist from Orbital Sciences Corp. who is already working with the center through a Space Act Agreement to develop the concept for a High Energy Atmospheric Reentry Test (HEART), which falls under the broader HIAD project at Langley, remained tuned in for new opportunities.

As guests toured the 14 x 22 Subsonic Tunnel they learned about testing capabilities and specialized test techniques. Langley’s wind tunnels have conducted projects for NASA, industry, the Department of Defense and academic partners within the research and development communities.

From Langley’s Science Directorate tours, guests learned about SAGE III and Applied Sciences such as air quality, renewable energy and aviation weather. Others who had a particular interest in the sciences, like representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), learned about the CLARREO (Climate Absolute Radiance and Reractivity Observatory) Calibration Demonstration System (CDS), CAPABLE (Chemistry and Physics Atmospheric Boundary Layer Experiment) and the Atmospheric Science Data Center.

For all, the day ended with a splash as the Orion test capsule was dropped into the water basin at Langley’s Landing and Impact Research Facility. The test impact conditions simulated all parachutes being deployed with high impact pitch angle of 43 degrees, no roll, with 27.8 miles per hour vertical and 38.8 miles per hour horizontal velocities.

“The test was a high velocity case at the maximum design impact angle representing worse case conditions for an abort scenario in rough seas,” Robin Hardy, an aerospace engineer, explained to the group.

As VIP guests stood at a safe distance from the basin, they were reminded that bridges could be built from both sides.

“Langley has a long history of working with a diverse network of partners from start-up firms to academia, to large corporations and other government agencies,” said Center Director Lesa Roe. “We believe that our future depends on these collaborative solutions, and today is an opportunity for all of us to explore challenges and how we might work together to solve them.”

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NASA Langley’s 95th Anniversary Open House

Lisa Gibson and her daughter Cassidy made the 11-hour trip from Illinois to NASA’s Langley Research Center for the 95th Anniversary Open House. Cassidy, an 8th grader who wants to be an astrophysicists when she gets older, wanted to meet an astronaut.

“One day, I’d like to discover something that has never been discovered before,” Cassidy said.

“And then she’ll name it after her mom,” Lisa followed up jokingly.

Peggy and Jobe Metts traveled from North Carolina to expose their children to some of NASA’s work and get them excited about science. Peggy’s brother and sister-in-law, Ran and Karen Cabell work at NASA Langley.

While working as a flight surgeon for the U.S. Navy, Fred Lassen was running a half-marathon with Jerry Linenger when Linenger decided that he wanted to become an astronaut. Decades later, Lassen, who now runs a private practice, took advantage of a behind-the-scenes look at NASA Langley.

“It’s not often that you can come here and see everything that’s happening first-hand,” Lassen said.

The last time NASA’s Langley Research Center was opened to the public was in 2007 for the 90th Anniversary. And the next opportunity may not be until 2017, for the 100th anniversary.

About 10,000 people found a reason to attend the free event on Saturday. Foot traffic covered the sidewalks, with guests having the option of 21 tour stops, and dozens of hands-on activities and exhibits.

Hundreds waited their turn to meet Astronaut Anna Fisher, the first mom in space.

“With the way technology is progressing, who can imagine what will happen in the next 100 years?” Fisher said. “It’s an exciting time to be a young person.”

Guests of all ages looked attentive as they controlled robots built by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) participants, and programmed Lego Mindstorms, Bee-Bots and RoamerBots. Many built their own racecar and attempted to land safely on mars with NASA’s Mars Rover Landing game for Xbox. They enjoyed interactive science shows about physics and aerospace and took a trip through the Journey to Tomorrow trailer.

Employees took pride in their work as they explained aspects of the unique capabilities that their facility provides the agency. Visitors toured a high-speed wind tunnel, the 8-Foot High Temperature Tunnel and a low-speed tunnel, the 14-by-22-Foot Subsonic Tunnel. They also toured the world’s largest pressurized cryogenic wind tunnel, the National Transonic Facility (NTF).

At the 14-by-22, Zach, a fourth grader from Suffolk measured the temperature and pressure of his hand before traveling to the second floor, where he saw a future transport configuration model which was set in place for future noise measurements.

At other facilities, guests learned about spacecraft entry heating, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), electromagnetics waves, materials and structures, manufacturing and fabrication, and they learned about NASA’s Digital Learning Network, which connects students and educators with NASA education specialists and experts for real-time interaction.

Guests learned that Langley’s Science Directorate is home to world-renowned researchers and that their data is used to help solve some of Earth’s biggest problems. In the afternoon, hundreds attended a demonstration drop test of Orion at the water basin at Langley’s Landing and Impact Research Facility.

Guests were also able to visit some of the center’s historic landmarks, such as the Gemini Rendezvous Docking Simulator used by Gemini and Apollo astronauts to practice docking space capsules with other vessels, which is still suspended from Langley’s Flight Research Hangar bay ceiling.

Such landmarks have made Langley famous in the 95 years since its inception as the nation’s first civilian aeronautics research lab in 1917, when America’s space program was born.

The doors first opened as Langley Field 95 years ago with a staff of 11, as the National Advisory Council for Aeronautics. Today, about 3,400 civil service and contract employees at NASA’s Langley Research Center work across all of NASA’s mission areas to help revolutionize aviation; expand knowledge of climate change; and extend human presence in space with the hopes of creating a better future for all of humankind.

“When you leave today, I hope you have a sense of pride in the contributions made by NASA, and that you find yourself curious, excited and inspired about the great things that lie ahead,” said Center Director Lesa Roe.



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Congressional visit to GCD

Congressional Tour GCD

congressional-tour2Game Changing Development Program Director Steve Gaddis and IRVE-3 Project Manager Mary Beth Wusk welcomed 28 congressional staffers from Washington D.C., on Thursday, Aug. 23. Wusk gave an overview of the recent success of the Inflatable Re-Entry Vehicle Experiment 3 (IRVE-3) that launched from NASA’s Wallops Space Flight Facility in July. The IRVE-3 heat shield technology could change the way we explore other worlds by accommodating larger payloads allowing for delivery of more science instruments and tools for exploration.Congressional Visit GCD






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NASA Social

Members of the Game Changing Development Program Office attended an offsite team building retreat at NASA Wallops Flight Facility June 11-13. During that time, the team got to take a close-up look at the Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3) hardware. IRVE 3 is a NASA flight test designed to demonstrate the feasibility of inflatable spacecraft technology. This test is the third in a series of suborbital flight tests and is scheduled to launch in July. It is one of NASA’s many research efforts to develop new technologies to advance space travel. It’s part of a project called HIAD for Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator — within NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist’s Game Changing Development (GCD) Program. Credit: NASA

On Aug. 3, NASA Langley took part in the first-ever multi-center NASA Social in support of the Mars Science Laboratory Landing. NASA Langley hosted 30 social media users who got a behind-the-scenes tour of the center. The Game Changing Development Program Office participated in the NASA Social, introducing the group to what NASA is doing for future space technology. Program Director Steve Gaddis gave an overview of Game Changing and principal investigator Neil Cheatwood spoke about HIAD and the recent IRVE-3 launch. In this picture, members of the NASA Social pose with Cheatwood.


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IRVE-3: Inflatable Heat Shield a Splashing Success


They were part of the Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3) team that is working to develop an inflatable heat shield. The technology could be used to protect spacecraft when entering a planet’s atmosphere or returning here to Earth. A 64-foot, 22-inch (19.5 meters, 56 centimeters) diameter Black Brant XI sounding rocket launched the IRVE-3, encased in a nose cone, from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The rocket with the inflatable on board shot 288 miles (463.5 kilometers) up and IRVE-3 and its payload were ejected into the atmosphere. The technology demonstrator inflated and fell back to Earth — cameras and temperature and pressure sensors monitoring its performance all the way down. After a total of 20 minutes — from launch to splash down — it landed in the Atlantic about 100 miles (161 kilometers) East of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

“Everything went well… like clockwork. The IRVE-3 performed just as it was supposed to,” said Neil Cheatwood, IRVE-3 principal investigator at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. “It entered Earth’s atmosphere at Mach 10, ten times the speed of sound, and successfully survived the heat and forces of the journey. Temperatures recorded were as much as 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit (538 degrees Celsius) and the IRVE-3 experienced forces up 20 G’s.”

What makes that particularly remarkable according to engineers is that the IRVE-3 wasn’t made of metal or composite materials like most spacecraft heat shields or aeroshells — it was made of high tech fabric and inflated to create its shape and structure. The IRVE-3 looked like a 10-foot (3 meter) diameter mushroom composed of a seven giant braided Kevlar rings stacked and lashed together — then covered by a thermal blanket made up of layers of heat resistant materials.

The trip through the atmosphere provided researchers lots of data that will help them design better heat shields in the future. But they will also have the chance to study the IRVE-3 first hand. A high-speed Stiletto boat provided by the U.S. Navy was on stand by to retrieve it. Stiletto is a maritime demonstration craft operated by Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock, Combatant Craft Division, and is based out of Joint Expeditionary Base (JEB) Little Creek-Ft Story, Va.

IRVE-3 is part of the Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) Project within the Game Changing Development Program, part of NASA’s Space Technology Program. NASA Langley led the project and built two of the four segments of the IRVE-3 payload. Wallops provided its rocket expertise and built the other two payload segments. Airborne Systems in Santa Ana, Calif. provided the inflatable structure and thermal blanket.

“Today’s test is the first example of what we are going to be doing in the Space Technology Program during the coming months and years,” said James Reuther, Space Technology Program deputy director. “We are building, testing and flying the technologies required for NASA’s missions of tomorrow.”

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NASA Launching High-Tech Inflatable Heat Shield Test Saturday

When you think of the blistering, brutal re-entry temperatures generated by plowing through Earth’s atmosphere, using fabric doesn’t come quickly to mind.

But NASA is set to try some fabric out this Saturday (July 21), as part of a novel inflatable re-entry experiment that could find a variety of uses, both off planet and possibly in returning payloads from the International Space Station as well.

The Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment III, or IRVE-3, has been years in the making for all of 20 minutes of suborbital flight. It will be rocketed to high altitude above Earth from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility near Chincoteague Island, Va., then will dive into the Atlantic Ocean.



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Center Snapshot: Jennifer Noble

For some, the impact of their work at NASA can be tense. Jennifer Noble, a space systems engineer, was no exception as she tried to keep things from going awry on a space station 250 miles above Earth.

Noble worked as a space flight trainer and mission controller at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC). She taught astronauts how to work both the thermal and electrical systems on the International Space Station and then monitored those systems as a flight controller in the mission control room.

“It was a very rewarding job,” Noble said. “You were able to see your work and hard labor into fruition as the astronauts went into orbit and performed their jobs well.”

But that sense of reward also came with a great deal of responsibility. Day-to-day life in mission control is constantly full of prospective crisis management situations, never knowing if a problem will arise.

“Everyday life in mission control can be stressful, because things do fail,” Noble said. “Any day where there is not a major failure is a good day.”

After nearly seven years of training crews, and work in a control room, Noble made the personal choice to add a little more normalcy to her life.

She took a job with NASA Langley’s Game Changing Program Office, moving from Houston, the fourth largest city in America, to Virginia’s middle peninsula. Such a move might be a culture shock to some, but it was something Noble was used to.

Born to an American father and a German mother, Noble spent the majority of her youth growing up in Colorado. She also spent many summer vacations visiting family in Germany, giving her the opportunity to experience a different culture.

The opportunity not only presented itself in her travels, but also at home, where she learned to speak both German and Spanish fluently.

These early lessons sparked her passion for language and inspired Noble to study new dialects. She took four years of Russian while at NASA Johnson, to better communicate with the Russian cosmonauts who she was training in Houston.

“[Taking Russian] wasn’t a requirement, but I’ve always loved languages and Russian seemed very interesting,” Noble said.

Her study of the language proved not only interesting, but also necessary in order to easily communicate with her Russian counterparts in the space industry.

Noble has not only been able to work with different people from different nations, but also different localities. After graduating from the University of Colorado Boulder she took a job in California, and from there moved to Houston.

“Growing up in Colorado, there are two states that you don’t like the most: California and Texas,” Noble said jokingly. “But every time you get used to a new place.”

And again, she is getting used to a new place and a new job. Although she is still working within the space industry, she now goes out into the field to investigate new technologies.

Her team then takes on new technologies, developing and passing them on in order to be sent into space. Currently, she is working on next generation solar electric propulsion vehicles, a technology used to ferry humans into deep space.

Noble relishes the opportunities that NASA Langley provides her, and she hopes to become a leader within the organization. What she really enjoys, however, is the chance to step foot outside training and mission control and gain a broader understanding of NASA’s work.

Working at Langley has given Noble a new form of responsibility – one that deals with developing new technologies here on Earth.







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Game Changing College Engineering Design Contest


The NASA Game Changing Program is pleased to announce a senior level engineering design contest for the 2012-2013 academic year.  Teams from US colleges and universities are invited to design a Thermal Control System for a Space Station in Lunar Orbit. Details about how to enter, eligibility, system requirements, due dates, and awards are posted at  Note:  Foreign teams are not be eligible to participate this year.

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Game Changing Development Program Office Retreat

Members of the Game Changing Development Program Office attended an offsite team building retreat at NASA Wallops Flight Facility June 11-13. During that time, the team got to take a close-up look at the Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3) hardware. IRVE 3 is a NASA flight test designed to demonstrate the feasibility of inflatable spacecraft technology. This test is the third in a series of suborbital flight tests and is scheduled to launch in July. It is one of NASA’s many research efforts to develop new technologies to advance space travel. It’s part of a project called HIAD for Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator — within NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist’s Game Changing Development (GCD) Program. Credit: NASA

Members of the Game Changing Development Program Office attended an offsite team building retreat at NASA Wallops Flight Facility June 11-13. During that time, the team got to take a close-up look at the Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3) hardware. IRVE 3 is a NASA flight test designed to demonstrate the feasibility of inflatable spacecraft technology. This test is the third in a series of suborbital flight tests and is scheduled to launch in July. It is one of NASA’s many research efforts to develop new technologies to advance space travel. It’s part of a project called HIAD for Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator — within NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist’s Game Changing Development (GCD) Program. Credit: NASA

Chuck Brooks and Harvey Willenberg of the GCD Program Office talk about the IRVE 3 hardware they got to see while at NASA Wallops.

Chuck Brooks and Harvey Willenberg of the GCD Program Office talk about the IRVE 3 hardware they got to see while at NASA Wallops. Credits: NASA

Robert Dillman of NASA Langley (in red), who is working on the IRVE 3 launch vehicle, gives a tour to members of the GCD Program Office during their to NASA Wallops Flight Facility.

Robert Dillman of NASA Langley (in red), who is working on the IRVE 3 launch vehicle, gives a tour to members of the GCD Program Office during their to NASA Wallops Flight Facility. Credits: NASA

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