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

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

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

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

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

 
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*Source: Wired.com

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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

r2legs2

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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*Source: NASA.gov

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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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Getting to the Root of Debris Predictions with Terminal Velocity Aerospace

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

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

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

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

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Composite tanks promise major savings

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

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Tooling up for larger launch vehicles

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

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

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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

X1-Exoskeleton

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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*Source: AFCEA.org

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

exoskeleton_skullcap

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

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

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

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

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


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Source*: Phys.org

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What’s 3D Printing?

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

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

 

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

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

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

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


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Source*: Blog.AL.com

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

x1_estab

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

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

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Source*: NASA.gov

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Russia Is Building an Inflatable Space Module of its Own

russian-inflatable-space-module

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

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


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Source*: PopularMechanics.com

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Gazarik Introduces Bright Minds to Space Tech

Mike Gazarik

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

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

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*Source: NASA.gov

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NASA Picks Small Spacecraft Propulsion Systems for Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NASA Sees Potential In Composite Cryotank

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

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

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

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

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

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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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3-D Printing: NASA’s Next Frontier

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

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

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

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3D Printer Launching to Space Station in 2014

made-in-space-upside-down

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

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

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*Source: Space.com

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Robot exoskeleton suits that could make us superhuman

Exoskeleton Technology

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

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

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Source*: CNN

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Chief Technologist Mason Peck Attends MAGNET Event

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

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

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


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Women at NASA: Meg Nazario

Meg Nazario

Meg Nazario

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


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

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

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

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


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Supporting Local Communities by Building Capacity and Cutting Red Tape

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

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

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


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

leapnasa01

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


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Source*: Engadget.com

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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:

http://nspires.nasaprs.com/

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:

http://go.usa.gov/RPS

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

http://go.usa.gov/4fEB

– 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:

http://tinyurl.com/cd7fkjp

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

http://www.kirtland.af.mil/afrl_vs/

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:

http://www.nasa.gov/spacetech

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Artist’s Concept of a Solar Electric Propulsion System

739997main_SEP_15_full_full

Image Credit: Analytical Mechanics Associates

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

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

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

NICER/SEXTANT Payload

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

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


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Source*: NASA.gov

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Slideshow: Competitors Gear Up For DARPA Robot Challenge

Robotic Entry

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

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


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Source*: DesignNews

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Cleveland’s RTA to unveil nonpolluting hydrogen-fueled bus

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

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

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


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New Thrust for Solar Electric Propulsion

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

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

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

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Smartphone powers Star Wars-inspired NASA robot

Smartphone Spheres

Miniature satellites resembling the flying robot that helped Luke Skywalker with his light saber training are now serving as mission control’s eyes and ears aboard the International Space Station.

It’s hard not to get freakishly excited when science fiction becomes scientific fact — especially when the origins of that science are rooted in Star Wars.

Think back, young Jedis, to the scene where a fresh-off-Tatooine Luke Skywalker is honing his light saber skills under the tutelage of Obi-Wan Kenobi. A round, floating robot called a remote helps Luke practice his Force-finding mojo. Now, NASA is running experiments with miniature satellites, or nanosatellites, that were inspired by that fictional robot.

Roughly the size of a soccer ball, these robots that fly freely in space are called Spheres (which is short for Synchronized Position Hold Engage Reorient Experimental Satellites). Star Wars connection aside, there’s another remarkable detail about Spheres: they’re powered by smartphones, specifically a Google Nexus S.


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*Source: CNET.com

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NASA’s next big thing is very small

Next Big Thing

We often think of NASA in grandiose terms — tackling the biggest problems with the biggest thinking, applying the grandest ideas that mankind can conceive. But now, NASA is thinking small in a big way, applying a DIY ethos to spaceflight, and using commercially available tools and technologies to get the job done.

Instead of gigantic systems costing millions of dollars, and thousands of man hours to produce and launch, the next greatest idea is to focus on the small things — using off-the-shelf products and small-scale design to take an approach to space systems research that is quicker, cheaper, and more efficient. Aboard the International Space Station, the SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient Experimental Satellites) are already doing just that.


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*Source: CNET.com

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NASA and TopCoder to issue Robonaut 2 ‘sight’ challenge

Robonaut

NASA Tournament Lab is launching two new competitions, this time to give Robonaut 2, the humanoid robot aboard the international space station, the gift of improved “sight.” The challenges are the latest offered by the Tournament Lab in conjunction with the open innovation platform TopCoder.

The first competition calls on participants to figure out how to enable Robonaut 2, or R2, to identify buttons and switches on a console fitted with LED lights. The winning entry would be in the form of an algorithm application that works seamlessly with R2’s cameras in different lighting conditions. The second competition will build off the first, calling on competitors to write an algorithm that controls the robot’s motions based on the new “sight” capability.

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*Source: WashingtonPost.com

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

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

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

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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:

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/r2_award.html

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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:

http://cwru-daily.com/news/cwru-nasa-and-ptc-putting-students-to-work-on-aerospace-projects-manufacturing-problems/

 

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How To Build A Hero

PSC0213_DR_058_0

Humans regularly lose their lives rushing into disaster zones. Now engineers are racing to build robots that can take their place.

By the end of next year, robots will walk into a disaster zone. They won’t roll in on wheels or rumble in on treads. They will walk, striding across rubble, most of them balancing on two legs. Compared with human first responders, the machines will move slowly and halt frequently. But what they lack in speed, they make up for in resilience and disposability. Chemical fires can’t sear a robot’s lungs, and a lifespan cut short by gamma rays is a logistical snag rather than a tragedy.

They’ll have the mobility to do what robots couldn’t at Fukushima, navigating a crisis that unfolds in an environment lousy with doors, stairs, shattered infrastructure, and countless other obstacles. Where previous humanoid bots could barely trundle over the lip of a carpet, these systems will have to climb ladders and slide into vehicles that they themselves drive. And while the ability to turn a doorknob is now cause for celebration even in top-tier robotics labs, these bots will open what doors they can and use power tools to hammer or saw through the ones they can’t.

Because disasters tend to degrade or knock out communication, the surrogates will have a surprising amount of responsibility. Very few, if any, will be tele-operated systems, driven remotely by people using a joystick or wearing sensor gloves. The humanoids will take orders from distant humans, but they’ll use their own algorithms to determine how to properly grip a Sawzall, where to start cutting, and for how long.

The catastrophe the robots will be walking into is, in fact, an obstacle course, built for the two-year-long DARPA Robotics Challenge, which launched last October. At stake is a $2-million prize, awarded to the team whose machine not only scores well in a head-to-head competition this December, but prevails at a second one in 2014. Bots will have to perform eight different tasks, demonstrating both mobility and manipulation skills, that might be required of human first responders.

“What we’ve seen in disaster after disaster, from Hurricane Katrina to Fukushima and now to Superstorm Sandy, is that there are often clear limitations to what humans can accomplish in the early stages of a disaster,” says Gill Pratt, program manager for the challenge. “DARPA believes that robots can substitute for humans where and when situations are too dangerous.”

The competition rules don’t explicitly call for a humanoid design, but the tasks and environment make one a logical choice. From the height of doorknobs to the placement of brake pedals, nearly everything will be positioned and proportioned for creatures that walk upright. The places we care about most in a disaster are where humans live and work­—a robot made in our own image is a natural fit.

Completing just a few of the competition’s tasks would be a remarkable achievement. Nailing all eight of them would be something more. It could mean the birth of the viable humanoid, a machine that’s both competent and robust. Such robots could go where mankind has gone before but shouldn’t again, striding toward the toxic plume or the reactor in meltdown, into the fresh ruins of the built world. These robots could be heroes.

 

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Source*: PopSci

Reference Link:

http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2013-01/how-build-hero

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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:
http://www.nasa.gov/oct

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Meet ATHLETE, NASA’s Next Robot Moon Walker

athleteroverbig

To build and supply a lunar base, astronauts will need heavy-duty space trucks for transporting gear. There’s just one problem: no roads. That’s why NASA engineers designed the rover they call ATHLETE (All-Terrain Hex-Limbed Extra-Terrestrial Explorer)—to handle any terrain, whether dusty, rocky, or crater-y.

The key is the rover’s six bendable spider legs and wheeled feet. On smooth surfaces, it rolls on those wheels; when it runs into an obstacle it can’t clear, it simply steps over it. ATHLETE can also split into a pair of robots that together pick up and haul specially designed shipping containers. (A lander would bring a container to the surface separately.)

So far, engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have demonstrated that their $2 million half-size prototype—which consists of two semiautonomous, three-legged robots—can move cargo, walk on inclines, and use tools. The researchers say the actual, 26-foot-tall rover could be ready to start working in space by 2017.

1) The ATHLETE moon rover has 48 stereo cameras, which stream 3-D video from its limbs, frame, and wheels to human operators on Earth or the moon, allowing them to look for hazards and maneuver tools. ATHLETE will have more cameras than any previous rover. (Curiosity has 17.)

2) The rover can refill its hydrogen fuel cells at a solar-powered station that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen (for astronauts to breathe).

3) ATHLETE’s wheeled limbs let it walk, drive, or climb, depending on the environment. Each has seven motorized joints that bend and twist. ATHLETE controls each leg separately so that it can keep cargo level even while climbing uneven terrain.

4) Drills, scoops, and grippers collect rock and soil samples for analysis. One set of motors operates both the wheels and tools, which saves weight and makes the rover cheaper to launch into space.

5) Clamps on the wheels hold interchangeable tools.

6) A tool belt stores gear when not in use.

7) Airless tires can’t burst or go flat.

HOW IT HAULS

8) Drive: People in mission control (on Earth or on the moon) tell the ATHLETE rover to drive to a lander that has just touched down, carrying a cargo pallet. Incoming supplies must land far from the astronauts’ base to prevent jagged moondust from damaging equipment.

9) SplitATHLETE divides into two identical, three-legged rovers, called Tri-ATHLETEs, by lifting motorized hooks that latch across its center.

10) Stretch: The rovers straighten their legs until they’re 27 feet tall—high enough to reach above the lander to the cargo pallet—and use their motorized hooks to grab pins on either side of the cargo.

11) Walk: If the rovers travel over rocky terrain too uneven for driving, they can walk while keeping the cargo level.

12) Deliver: The rovers crouch down until the pallet is on the ground and then release it.

 

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Source*: PopSci

Reference Link:

http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2013-01/meet-athlete-nasas-robot-moon-walker

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NASA – ‘Smart SPHERES’ Fly High Aboard the International Space Station

Steve Ormsby monitors the SPHERES experiment.  Credit: NASA/ARC

Steve Ormsby monitors the SPHERES experiment. Credit: NASA/ARC

On Dec. 12 engineers at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., and Johnson Space Center in Houston conducted an experiment using small, free-flying robotic satellites called “Smart SPHERES” aboard the International Space Station.

The Smart SPHERES, located in the Kibo laboratory module, were remotely operated from the International Space Station’s Mission Control Center at Johnson to demonstrate how a free-flying robot can perform surveys for environmental monitoring, inspection and other routine housekeeping tasks.

In the future, small robots could regularly perform routine maintenance tasks allowing astronauts to spend more time working on science experiments. In the long run, free-flying robots like Smart SPHERES also could be used to inspect the exterior of the space station or future deep-space vehicles.


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*Source: NASA.gov

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NASA – ‘Smart SPHERES’ Fly High Aboard the International Space Station

Spheres

Chris Provencher and astronaut Kevin Ford set up and supervise the red Smart SPHERES’ activity. Credit: NASA/ARC

On Dec. 12 engineers at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., and Johnson Space Center in Houston conducted an experiment using small, free-flying robotic satellites called “Smart SPHERES” aboard the International Space Station.

The Smart SPHERES, located in the Kibo laboratory module, were remotely operated from the International Space Station’s Mission Control Center at Johnson to demonstrate how a free-flying robot can perform surveys for environmental monitoring, inspection and other routine housekeeping tasks.

In the future, small robots could regularly perform routine maintenance tasks allowing astronauts to spend more time working on science experiments. In the long run, free-flying robots like Smart SPHERES also could be used to inspect the exterior of the space station or future deep-space vehicles.

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*Source: NASA.gov

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Researchers Test Novel Power System for Space Travel – Joint NASA and DOE team demonstrates simple, robust fission reactor prototype

CLEVELAND – A team of researchers from NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M. have demonstrated a new concept for a reliable nuclear reactor that could be used on space flights.

On September 13, the research team demonstrated the first use of a heat pipe to cool a small nuclear reactor and the first use of a Stirling engine to convert the reactor heat into electricity. The test was conducted at the Nevada National Security Site’s Device Assembly Facility near Las Vegas. The Demonstration Using Flattop Fissions (DUFF) experiment produced 24 watts of electricity.

John Bounds

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. Credits: Los Alamos National Laboratory

A heat pipe is a sealed tube with an internal fluid that can efficiently transfer heat produced by a reactor with no moving parts. Heat pipe technology was invented at Los Alamos in 1963 and is used widely by NASA for aerospace applications. A Stirling engine is a relatively simple closed-loop engine that converts heat energy into electrical power using a pressurized gas to move a piston within a magnetic field. Using the two devices in tandem allowed for creation of a simple, reliable electric power supply that could be adopted for space applications.

Researchers configured DUFF on an existing experiment, known as Flattop, to allow for the water-filled heat pipe to extract heat from uranium. Heat from the fission reaction was transferred to a pair of free-piston Stirling engines manufactured by Sunpower Inc., in Athens Ohio. Engineers from Glenn designed and built the heat pipe and Stirling assembly, and operated the engines during the experiment. Los Alamos nuclear engineers operated the Flattop assembly under authorization from the National Nuclear Security Administration.

DUFF is the first demonstration of a space nuclear reactor system to produce electricity in the United States since 1965. It confirms the basic nuclear reactor physics and heat transfer for a simple, reliable space power system.

“The heat pipe and Stirling engine used in this test are meant to represent one module that could be used in a space system,” said Marc Gibson, Glenn’s lead engineer for the test. “A flight system might use several modules to produce approximately one kilowatt of electricity.”

“The nuclear characteristics and thermal power level of the experiment are remarkably similar to our space reactor flight concept,” said Los Alamos engineer David Poston. “The biggest difference between DUFF and a possible flight system is that the Stirling input temperature would need to be hotter to attain the required efficiency and power output needed for space missions.”

A power system based on the concept demonstrated by DUFF could be attractive for future space exploration missions that may require significantly higher power levels than current systems can easily provide.

“Perhaps one of the more important aspects of this experiment is that it was taken from concept to completion in six months,” said Los Alamos engineer David Dixon. “We wanted to show that with a tightly-knit and focused team, it is possible to successfully perform practical reactor testing.”

Glenn’s contributions were made possible through resources provided by the NASA Radioisotope Power Systems Program Office within the Science Mission Directorate and the Nuclear Systems project under the NASA Office of Chief Technologist, Game Changing Development Program.

The Los Alamos participation in this experiment was made possible through Los Alamos’s Laboratory-Directed Research and Development Program and program office support.

For a print quality image of a test operator inserting the heat pipe into the reactor, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/centers/glenn/news/pressrel/2012/12-fission_addm.html

For more information about Glenn, visit:

For more information about Los Alamos National Laboratory, 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.

706527main_05113_226

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: http://www.dailypress.com/news/education/dp-nws-adobe-creativity-education-study-20121128,0,6980189.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.

http://www.nasa.gov/centers/langley/news/researchernews/rn_CCAM.html

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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: http://phys.org/news/2012-11-scientists-power-space-video.html

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NASA TECHNOLOGY SHOWCASE LANDS IN CLEVELAND NOV. 28-30

MEDIA ADVISORY: M12-214

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:

http://www.aiaa.org/nasatechdays

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 katherine.martin@nasa.gov or 216-433-2406.

For more information about NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist and the agency’s Space Technology Program, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/oct

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Endeavour SpaceFest event

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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 www.californiasciencecenter.org.

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!

http://spacetech.larc.nasa.gov

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 http://spacetech.larc.nasa.gov.

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

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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

http://www.techbriefs.com/component/content/article/14792  

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: gameon.nasa.gov. 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

VIP Day

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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Source*: NASA.gov

 

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NASA Langley’s 95th Anniversary Open House

http://www.nasa.gov/centers/langley/news/researchernews/rn_OpenHouse.html

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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Future Of NASA’s Aging Deep Space Network Lies In X-Rays And Lasers

voyager2_large

http://www.forbes.com/sites/brucedorminey/2012/09/21/future-of-nasas-aging-deep-space-network-lies-in-x-rays-and-lasers/

After a half century of using radio to track and communicate with everything from the first lunar Rangers to the Voyager probes now crossing into interstellar space, NASA is moving its $2 billion Deep Space Network (DSN) firmly into the optical and x-ray spectrums.

Next year, NASA is to launch a demonstration mission to test optical laser communications in conjunction with the LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) mission to the moon. And an optical mission to test laser relay capabilities from earth geosynchronous (GEO) orbit will soon follow.

“The DSN is operating almost flawlessly, doing everything we ask,” said Leslie Deutsch, chief technologist of NASA Jet Propulsion Lab’s Interplanetary Network Directorate. “There have been no instances of the DSN causing a space mission to be lost, but there have been several instances of DSN being used to save missions.”

Using three ground complexes at Goldstone, California; Canberra, Australia and Madrid, Spain, DSN is tracking some 35 spacecraft with a success rate of better than 98 percent.

But from time to time NASA does use other radio telescopes. Deutsch notes that when the Mars Science Lab recently landed, as a backup capability the DSN used the Parkes Radio Observatory in Australia to look at its signal during entry, descent and landing.

“We do have bottlenecks where instruments at Mars could bring back more data if we had a larger communications pipeline,” said Deutsch.

Wherever there’s a lot of exploration activity, Deutsch says, it also may make sense to create a GPS-like capability to help surface navigation. Deutsch notes that a Mars GPS capability is still being studied and is a possibility within a couple of decades.

Meanwhile, NASA is proceeding with laser communications tests. The LLCD (Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration) launches on LADEE in January of next year and will demonstrate a laser downlink rate of 622 megabytes from the moon.

The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration Project (LCRD) will follow with launch in late 2017 on a commercial Space Systems Loral spacecraft. From GEO, LCRD will enable two years of continuous high data rate optical communications tests.

LCRD will use half watt lasers; about the power of a current DVD burner. But pushing that figure up to a mere 5 watts would allow LCRD technology to have downlink speeds of 1 gigabyte per second and uplink speeds of 100 megabytes per second out to near earth distances. That’s some 10 to 100 times faster than current DSN radio frequency rates.

“We should have a GEO relay with optical capability by 2022,” said says David Israel, the space communications manager at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Although Israel says that NASA will use an “eye-safe” wavelength and ensure that their lasers never cross paths of an aircraft or satellite, he notes that optical communications’ biggest technical challenge are mere clouds.

So, when looking to locate ground-based optical receivers, why not just go to areas already proven to provide clear skies?

“Great viewing on top of some isolated mountain is perfect for astronomy,” said Israel. “But if you had a high data rate coming down to that location then there might not be an [efficient] way to get that data off the mountain.”

Thus, one challenge for ground-based optical communications telescopes, would be to strike a balance between optimal “seeing” and use of an existing data communications infrastructure needed to quickly ferry incoming data back to far-flung researchers.

NASA is also developing a natural astrophysical x-ray source as a jumping off point for a space-based navigation system that would function as a solar system-wide GPS. The idea is to use pulsars, rapidly spinning neutron stars that often emit x-rays on millisecond timescales to precisely determine a spacecraft’s course and position.

An XNAV system, says Keith Gendreau, an astrophysicist at NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center, would need an x-ray detector with a pointing capability in order to observe several pulsars over time.

“Pulsars produce regular pulses that rival atomic clocks on timescales of months to years,” said Gendreau. “In the GPS constellation, there are a number of atomic clocks that broadcast time. GPS receivers receive these transmissions from multiple satellites, which then work out your position. For XNAV, our clocks will be pulsars distributed on a galactic scale; enabling GPS-like navigation throughout the solar system and beyond.”

To date, outer planet navigation has used the DSN and onboard stellar background spacecraft sensors to get precise ranges. But Deutsch says XNAV could make the job of autonomous spacecraft navigation even more accurate.

XNAV would build up 3-dimensional positional data from pulsars located at different directions on the sky, says Gendreau, who notes that in addition to three pulsars that the spacecraft would use to determine its position; a fourth pulsar would provide independent time measurements.

The Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) is a proposed NASA pulsar timing experiment that could demonstrate XNAV by late 2016.

“By the time there are space miners heading to the asteroid belt, it’s safe to say they would be using XNAV,” said Israel.

Meanwhile, researchers at NASA Goddard are also working on x-ray communication (XCOM) using a photo-electrically driven source modulated for communication. The advantage of x-rays over laser communications is that x-ray wavelengths are even shorter and can penetrate areas blocked in the radio and optical frequencies.

Gendreau says one major advantage of X-rays over lasers is that the short wavelength allows for very tight beams and thus much less wasted energy in long distance communication.

“Very high energy x-rays could [also] penetrate the plasma shroud surrounding a re-entering capsule and provide a low data rate link to such a hypersonic vehicle,” said Gendreau. “If NICER flies, then by 2018, we could also use it as the receiver for a first XCOM space demonstration.”

What’s the Deep Space Network’s ultimate future?

Deutsch says orders of magnitude higher data rates than today; continuous DSN coverage for humans at remote locations such as the far side of the moon; and an internet-like capability extending wherever NASA sends astronauts or machines.

As for radio?

“I don’t think space radio will ever completely go away,” said Deutsch. “It’s very simple and easy.”

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NASA Telerobotics Team to Demonstrate K10 Rover Sept. 22

K10 Robot

The K10 robot now undergoing testing at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffatt Field, Calif. Credits: (NASA/ARC)

Skywatchers and space enthusiasts across the globe will gather Sept. 22 to celebrate “International Observe the Moon Night” – but one group in Moffett Field, Calif., will get an added thrill: the chance to watch a next-generation NASA robot being put through its paces.

NASA’s Surface Telerobotics team, part of the Human Exploration Telerobotics (HET) project, will help make a night under the lunar limb memorable by demonstrating how its K10 rover deploys a telescope antenna – one of a variety of tasks such sophisticated, articulate “handybots” will conduct in the future to support their human counterparts living and working in space and, someday, on other worlds.


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*Source: NASA.gov

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New NASA Space Technology App Educates Users at Hypersonic Speeds

HIAD App

https://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/sep/HQ_12-309_HIAD_APP.html

WASHINGTON — Want to try your hand at landing an inflatable spacecraft? All you need is a smart phone, a computer or a tablet.
NASA has released a new educational computer Web game based on its Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) project. The game can be played on the Internet and Apple and Android mobile devices.

The application can be downloaded free from those mobile device stores and on NASA’s HIAD website at:
https://www.nasa.gov/hiad

HIAD is an innovative inflatable spacecraft technology NASA is developing to allow giant cones of inner tubes stacked together to transport cargo to other planets or bring cargo back from the International Space Station.

“This game will help introduce new generations to NASA technologies that may change the way we explore other worlds,” said Mary Beth Wusk, HIAD project manager at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. “It gives players an idea of some of the engineering challenges rocket scientists face in designing spacecraft, and does it in a fun way.”

The game’s premise is an inflatable heat shield that returns cargo from the space station to Earth. As the HIAD summary puts it, “to successfully guide an inflatable spacecraft through the super heat of atmospheric reentry requires the right stuff. If you inflate too early, your shape is incorrect or your material isn’t strong enough – you burn up. And if you get all that right and miss the target the mission is a bust.”

The game offers four levels of engineering mastery and gives stars for each successful landing.

HIAD is more than just a game. It’s a real technology being tested in laboratories and in flight. A prototype HIAD launched July 23 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The successful flight test demonstrated that lightweight, yet strong inflatable structures may become a practical way to help us explore other worlds.

NASA is developing the technology as part of the Space Technology Program’s Game Changing Development Program. NASA’s Space Technology Program 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 more information about other NASA programs and projects, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov

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Altius signs SAA with LaRC for Compactly Stowable Manipulator development

Altius

http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2012/09/altius-saa-larc-compactly-stowable-manipulator-development/

A Space Act Agreement (SAA) has been announced between Altius Space Machines and NASA’s Langely Research Center (LaRC) to develop concepts for a new series of compactly-stowable, long-reach spacecraft robotic manipulators. The agreement will allow for Altius and NASA to jointly develop a new and novel Compactly Stowable Manipulator (CSM) system.

Altius Space Machines:

Altius Space Machines is a space technology company, based in Louisville, Colorado, founded with the goal of reducing the barriers to space commerce. The company has already hit the ground running, wining first place in the 2011 NewSpace Business Plan Competition in Silicon Valley.

Altius is known in the space community for its work in developing rendezvous and docking solutions using its Sticky Boom non-cooperative capture technology, for space stations and propellant depots, manned spaceflight, satellite servicing, and other applications.

The company recently announced it had signed a contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to provide engineering services as part of the DARPA Phoenix Program.

That contract calls for Altius to develop and integrate a storable tubular arm (STEM) for use as a platform for situational awareness cameras and lights, and as a tool to reduce unwanted vibrations on parts of the target spacecraft caused during the component removal and repurposing operation.

The SAA with NASA LaRC relates to the development of concepts for compactly-stowable, long-reach spacecraft robotic manipulators, or robotic arms as they are commonly known.

Some of the most famous robotic manipulators were involved with the Space Shuttle Program (SSP), with the SRMS (Shuttle Remote Manipulator System) debuting with Columbia on her STS-2 mission at the end of 1981.

The 50 foot boom was used in a variety of modes, from grappling payloads on orbit, to handing over cargo from the orbiter’s cargo bay.

Once the International Space Station begin its assembly phase, the orbital outpost gained its own robotic arm, known as the SSRMS (Space Station Remote Manipulator System) or Canadarm2. Somewhat larger than the Shuttle version, the SSRMS incorporates many advanced features, including the ability to self relocate.

It was soon joined by Dextre, a multi-capable Canadian robot that resides on the end of the SSRMS during operations, along with smaller robotic hardware on the Japanese section of the Station.

The Shuttle also gained a second arm, a post-Columbia improvement called the Orbiter Boom Sensor System (OBSS), which was used – on the end of the SRMS – to provide the additional reach to manuever a sensor suite over critical parts of the orbiter’s Thermal Protection System (TPS) in order to gain data and photography of the heatshield’s health.

Due to the growing size – and smaller clearances – of the Station and the modules riding uphill, NASA managers did evaluate a smaller RMS known as the “Miniboom”. However, that was cancelled in favor of an additional OBSS.

Now, a new generation of booms are being developed by Altius, with the non-reimbursable Space Act Agreement (SAA) with NASA LaRC specific to the Compactly Stowable Manipulator (CSM).

“As the name suggests, the CSM will have a very small packaging volume, yet be capable of highly-dexterous, long-reach operations,” noted Altius in a media release on Tuesday.

“When combined with a non-cooperative payload capture technology, the CSM would also enable satellite servicing, small-package delivery/return, and rendezvous/capture of nanosat-scale free flyers or sample return canisters.”

Satellite servicing has already begun testingvia NASA’s Robotic Refuelling Mission (RRM) experiments – involving Dextre – on the ISS. And while no discussions with the ISS program office have taken place yet, Altius believes that their technology has the potential to add important new capabilities to the Station.

“Research performed at orbital facilities such as the International Space Station (ISS) would be dramatically more agile and competitive if there were a means for providing small-package payload delivery and sample return on a just-in-time basis,” the company added.

“A long-reach manipulator system, such as the system that will be investigated under this SAA, would be capable of capturing or releasing small vehicles (both cooperatively and non-cooperatively) at a safe distance from ISS. As a result, these small vehicles would not be required to station-keep relative to ISS, enabling them to deliver and return payloads safely and affordably by providing just-in-time payload transport services.”

CSM is a multi-talented technology, that also addresses the needs of future spacecraft, vehicles that are currently without defined plans for RMS capabilities that were enjoyed by spacecraft such as the Space Shuttle.

“Commercial crew and cargo transportation vehicles and NASA exploration vehicles, such as the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), would accrue significant benefits if a robotic arm with performance capabilities similar to the Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (SRMS), but having much higher packaging efficiency, could be developed to fit on such vehicles,” added the Altius release.

“Such an extendable/retractable RMS-class manipulator would enable inspection and repair of the vehicle windward and backshell TPS on missions to destinations other than the ISS and would additionally assist in EVA activities.”

Space manipulator development is performed at the Langley Research Center for the Game Changing Division of the NASA Office of Chief Technologist under the Human Robotics Systems Project. With Altius now onboard, the parties will benefit from the commercial requirements and systems engineering input provided by Altius, which will link very long-reach tendon-actuated manipulator technology development to commercial space missions.

Altius claims these new mission concepts and the technology developed under this SAA have the potential to open up completely new lines of commercial-space operations in payload handling, servicing, repair, and assembly.

“Together, Altius and NASA Langley Research Center will further develop and refine the mission requirements, concepts, and technologies that will make these new and valuable commercial payload delivery/return missions viable.”

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Source*: Altius-Space.com

(Images via Altius Space Machines, NASA, MDA and L2).

 

 

 

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Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment-3 (IRVE-3) Launch

IRVE-3 Launch

On July 23, 2012,  the Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment-3 (IRVE-3) successfully launched the HIAD system from a sounding rocket at 7:01 a.m. from the NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va.The launch was the third in a series of suborbital flight tests to provide foundational data for NASA’s efforts to develop and integrate HIAD technology into future missions. Technicians vacuum packed the uninflated, three meter diameter cone of high-tech inner tubes into a 0.5 meter diameter, three-stage Black Brant XI sounding rocket.

During the flight test, an on-board inflation system (similar to air tanks used by scuba divers) pumped the inner tubes full of nitrogen, stretching a thermal blanket over them to create a heat shield or aeroshell. That heat shield protected a payload that consisted of four segments including the inflation system, steering mechanisms, telemetry equipment and camera gear.

The rocket took about six minutes to climb approximately 450km (280 miles) into the skies over the Atlantic Ocean. The 308 kg/680 pound IRVE-3 separated from the rocket,  traveled at Mach 10, experienced peak loads of about 20 g’s and heating of 15 W/cm2, with its heat shield temperature reaching up to 400°C (750°F) as it returned to Earth.

Four video cameras transmitted images to the Wallops control room to confirm that the IRVE-3 successfully inflated, reconfigured to generate lift prior to atmospheric entry, and demonstrated re-entry steering capability. The inflated heat shield and payload plummeted back through Earth’s atmosphere, splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean about 20 minutes after launch and 560 kilometers (350 miles) down range from Wallops.

Engineers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. have spent the last three years preparing for the test of this Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator.  Researchers and technicians studied designs, assessed materials in laboratories and wind tunnels and subjected hardware to thermal and pressure loads beyond what it should face in flight.

NASA began researchinginflatable spacecraft because rigid spacecraft structures are limited by the size of the launch vehicle shroud.  This, in turn, limits the size of the payload that can be carried through planetary atmospheres. NASA is investigating HIAD technology as a potential enabler for delivering larger mass on future missions, or accessing higher elevations on Mars. IRVE-3 is one of the Space Technology Program’s many research efforts to develop new technologies to advance space travel and open up new capacity for exploration within both scientific and human missions.

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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.

https://www.nasa.gov/offices/oct/game_changing_technology/game_changing_development/HIAD/irve3-success.html

 

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NASA – Mission Success for MSL Entry, Descent, & Landing Instrument (MEDLI)

MEDLI

Mission success for the MSL Entry, Descent, & Landing Instrument (MEDLI) Suite. When the Curiosity rover touched down on the red planet Aug. 6 at 12:32 p.m. CDT, NASA MEDLI researchers were already cheering. The instrumentation payload, carried in the entry vehicle’s heatshield, included an intricate array of sophisticated engineering sensors designed to measure heat, pressure and other conditions impacting the heatshield during atmospheric entry and descent. The shield is jettisoned prior to landing.

The MEDLI suite powered up successfully Aug. 5 during the Mars Science Laboratory’s approach to the red planet. About an hour before entry, descent and landing, the sensor suite’s temperature stabilized at minus-20 degrees Fahrenheit, readying MEDLI for its journey through Mars’ atmosphere. Real-time streaming data from the shield sensors was acquired through much of the vehicle’s entry and descent – barring the brief UHF-frequency communications blackout upon entry – until Curiosity deployed its parachutes and jettisoned its heatshield. The rover touched down smoothly in Gale Crater to begin its two-year primary mission.

 

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*Source: NASA.gov

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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.”

https://www.nasa.gov/offices/oct/game_changing_technology/game_changing_development/HIAD/irve3-success.html

 
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*Source: NASA.gov

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IRVE-3 Success – Wallops Flight Facility, Saturday, July 21, 2012

Here are several articles/pictures of the launch:

 

 

 

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NASA Launching High-Tech Inflatable Heat Shield Test Saturday

http://www.space.com/16615-nasa-inflatable-heat-shield-launching-saturday.html

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.

http://www.space.com/16619-inflatable-heat-shield-concepts-pictures.html

 

 

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Center Snapshot: Jennifer Noble

http://www.nasa.gov/centers/langley/news/researchernews/snapshot_JNoble.html

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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Excellent Student Support for the Girl Scout Day at Busch Gardens

Girl Scout Support

Engineer Amanda Cutright, who works on the HIAD project, poses with a Girl Scout during Girl Scout Engineering Day recently at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Engineer Amanda Cutright, who works on the HIAD project, poses with a Girl Scout during Girl Scout Engineering Day recently at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia.

This year, NASA Langley Research Center partnered with Busch Gardens to promote engineering and STEM sciences to Girl Scouts in the Tidewater area. Booths were laid out displaying current projects being worked on by NASA. All of the booths had displays with 3D models of airplanes, plastic printers, giant posters, and even goop. The picture above was taken in the Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) booth. From left to right are: Mary Beth Wusk, Amanda Cutright, Katie Campbell, Tianna Stefano, Mallory Middleton, Betsy Wusk, Grace Wusk, and Becky Jaramillo. We had a team five engineering interns and three mentors who aided in face painting HIAD’s on Girl Scout’s faces, explaining how to use the HIAD app that is available for Androids and on the NASA HIAD website, and educating these girls about the HIAD mission and the fun we’ve had working on this project. As one of the interns I was very thankful to have had the opportunity to tell over 1000 Girl Scouts how amazing it is to be an engineer. –Katherine Campbell,  LARSS Student, 3rd year at University of Virginia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Neil Cheatwood, Mary Beth Wusk of the GCD-PO discuss space technology to Aerospace Advisory Council

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http://www.nasa.gov/centers/langley/news/researchernews/rn_AeroAdCouncil.html

Aerospace Advisory Council Visits NASA Langley
By: Brian Marcolini, LARSS intern

The future of aerospace and aviation hinges on two things, political support and funding. The governor’s Aerospace Advisory Council can provide both, and on Tuesday NASA’s Langley Research Center hosted the council’s quarterly meeting at the center.

Developed in 2007 after NASA advocacy, the 19-member council acts as the voice of the entire aerospace industry in Virginia. The group is composed of state politicians, aerospace industry representatives and university representatives working together for project funding and job creation.

Their primary goal is to make Virginia one of the top supporters of the aerospace industry in the country.

Tuesday was the council’s first visit to Langley and included a tour of center facilities along with its meeting. The main topics covered developments happening both at Langley and NASA Wallops, as well as goings-on in the world of aviation and aerospace.

Deputy Center Director Steve Jurczyk gave a rundown of Langley’s operations, noting the great strides made in research around the center. He also detailed the center’s revitalization project, portraying Langley’s precise 20-year plan for the future.

“The plan is completely comprehensive, covering every square foot of every building on the center,” Jurczyk said during his presentation.

Even more important than the topics covered in the meeting was the council’s tour.

“(Having the meeting at Langley) is great for the center,” Jurczyk said, “And the tour helps them finally see what they’ve been talking about in meetings for months.”

The group first traveled to the Langley hangar, where they were met by employees and Langley’s Aeronautics Academy students. There, the focus was the future of aviation, which included a presentation by the students and an overview of the In-Trail Procedures (ITP) project. The ITP research intends to reduce the separation needed between planes flying in oceanic airspace.

The highlight of the stop was a tour of the hangar floor where the group was met with exhibits illustrating the future of unmanned aerial vehicles and overviews of the students’ projects.

State Sen. Mark Herring of Fairfax and Louden Counties came away from the hangar particularly impressed.

“It is exciting to see research being done at NASA Langley today that will change the face of tomorrow,” Herring said after touring the facility.

Science Directorate team leaders Neil Cheatwood and Mary Beth Wusk then met the council in building 1250, giving them an overview of the future of space technologies produced at Langley.

Their main presentation was on the Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3). Developed by Wusk and her team, IRVE-3 is an effort to prove the viability of inflatable technology to survive atmospheric entry. The inflatable spacecraft technology is scheduled to launch from Wallops later this summer.

The council also saw the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment (SAGE III). SAGE III is the third in a line of instruments that monitors the Earth’s atmosphere, and is scheduled to travel to the International Space Station later this year.

The council was then briefed on the status of the commercial space flight industry and its importance to both the national and state economy at the Transonic Dynamics Tunnel. After the briefing, they received a tour of the tunnel to conclude the tour.

“I’m so glad that the members of the council not from the area finally get to see NASA Langley,” state Del. John Cosgrove said in the meeting’s closing remarks. “It’s the coolest place and we want to do everything we can to support it.”

 

 

 

 

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Game Changing College Engineering Design Contest

LER-EVA-DRATS3

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 http://www.nasa.gov/spacetech  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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Lightening the Load: Composite Cryotank Technologies

http://www.nasa.gov/offices/oct/home/comp_cryotank.html

636452main_cryotank_226NASA is on a high-technology, weight-loss diet.

But this watch-your-weight campaign centers on lightening the dry mass of launch vehicles, such as future, evolved versions of NASA’s Space Launch System—an advanced heavy-lift launch vehicle that will provide an entirely new national capability for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit.

As part of the Game Changing Technology Division within the Office of the Chief Technologist, work is underway on the Composite Cryotank Technologies Demonstration effort. The term “cryotank” refers to storage of super-cold fuels, such as liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.

Here’s the weighty dilemma:

Roughly 60 percent of the dry mass of a launch vehicle accounts for the fuel and oxidizer tanks. By using composite materials, a cryotank structure can be produced that weighs 30 percent less than aluminum—the current state-of-the-art.

NASA and its industry partners continuously strive to reduce the weight and cost of launch vehicles. The more weight shaved off a vehicle, the more payload can be carried to space, perhaps even allowing for one less engine or strap-on booster.

The Cure: Out-of-Autoclave

“Our project was one of the original projects within the Office of Chief Technologist,” explains John Vickers, NASA project manager for the Composite Cryotank Technologies Demonstration effort at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

The project centers on fabricating tanks that incorporate design features and new manufacturing processes applicable to designs up to 10 meters in diameter. These tanks could be used on future launch vehicles, in space propellant depots and Earth departure exploration vehicles.

A key to this innovative technological push, Vickers points out, is “out-of-autoclave”—a relatively new technology for composites. Out-of-autoclave curing composite manufacturing is an alternative to the traditional high pressure autoclave curing process commonly used by the aerospace industry.

While it has widespread applications in producing aircraft with the material cured in large autoclaves, using composites for aerospace is a relatively new technology. “The downside of that is that autoclaves are very expensive,” Vickers notes, and they are energy-hungry machines.

“So a benefit for not having to use the autoclave is that many other companies can join into the aerospace industry that, prior to this, could not,” Vickers adds. “Aerospace and lightweight materials…well, they go hand-in-hand.”

Pursuing both technologies in parallel—the composite tank and the cost-saving use of out-of-autoclave technology—exponentially contributes to the achievement of the project,” Vickers says. “It really gives the program two distinct technology advancements that are coming together.”

Test Articles

The project goal is to produce a major advancement in a demonstrated technology readiness; successfully test a 5.5 meter-diameter composite hydrogen fuel tank; achieve a 30 percent weight savings; and 25 percent cost savings, compared to today’s state-of- the-art.

The cryotank work can benefit multiple stakeholders, Vickers observes, be it NASA, industry, and other government agencies.

Vickers says that there are two milestone-making test article structures within his program, a 2.4 meter and the 5.5 meter diameter composite tank. “By the way, that 5.5 meter tank will be the largest composite liquid hydrogen tank that’s been designed, manufactured and tested,” he says.

Last September, NASA picked The Boeing Company of Huntington Beach, Calif., for the Composite Cryotank Technologies Demonstration effort. Under that contract, Boeing will design, manufacture and test the lightweight composite cryogenic propellant tanks.

“The work is going very well,” Vickers explains. “We have a NASA team that’s focused on design and they are working very closely with Boeing.”

“As a NASA engineer, it’s the most fun because it’s the most challenging. We are encountering technical design issues that we’re overcoming. And that’s what engineering is really all about,” Vickers says. “Who is against lighter weight and lower cost? So we’re sitting in a pretty good spot.”

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NASA Ames RFI: Compact Technology to Detect Health-related Biomarkers or Analytes in Space

space-health

NASA Ames Research Center is exploring the state-of-the-art in technologies to detect health-related biomarkers/analytes in space. For this Request for Information (RFI), NASA is seeking detailed information regarding compact technologies currently available that can analyze health-related biomarkers/analytes in breath, saliva, dermal emanations, blood, and urine using a single compact device. The specific biomarkers/analytes to be detected are currently under evaluation by NASA, but include a broad range of molecules and cells associated with health status, impact of the space environment on individual astronauts, and prediction of future health events. Analyses and analytes of interest include cell profiles, proteins and peptides, and small organic molecules.

 


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Source*: SpaceRef.com

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