Students Develop Robotic Code for Annual Swarmathon Challenge

At the 2017 competition, a Swarmie robot finds a "resource" cube marked with an AprilTag. In the Swarmathon competition, students were asked to develop computer code for the small robots, programming them to look for "resources" in the form of cubes with AprilTags. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
At the 2017 competition, a Swarmie robot finds a “resource” cube marked with an AprilTag. In the Swarmathon competition, students were asked to develop computer code for the small robots, programming them to look for “resources” in the form of cubes with AprilTags.
Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) is gearing up for the third annual Swarmathon taking place April 17-19. Students from minority serving universities and community colleges from across the nation will participate in a robotic programming competition at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Their developments may lead to technology which will help astronauts find needed resources when exploring the Moon or Mars.

Students from 12 colleges participated in the spaceport’s first annual Swarmathon. Interest increased last year, with 20 teams joining in. In this year’s Swarmathon, 23 teams representing 24 universities and community colleges are developing software code to operate innovative robots called “Swarmies.”

Swarmies are small robotic vehicles measuring about 12 inches by 8 inches by 8 inches. Each Swarmie is equipped with sensors, a webcam, a GPS system and a Wi-Fi antenna. They operate autonomously and can be programmed to communicate and interact as a collective swarm.

The aspiring computer engineers will be challenged to develop search algorithms for robotic swarms. Algorithms are self-contained, step-by-step operations to perform calculation, data processing and automated reasoning. Swarmathon participation will improve students’ skills in robotics and computer science, and further advancing technology for future NASA space exploration missions.

Successful exploration of the Moon and Mars requires the location and retrieval of local resources on the surface of these locations beyond Earth. Technologies are needed to find and collect materials such as ice (convertible into liquid water, hydrogen fuel and oxygen to support human life) and rocks, minerals and construction materials to build human shelters.

NASA’s MUREP selected the University of New Mexico to manage the Swarmathon challenge in a joint effort with the agency. Through the MUREP program, NASA’s goal is to increase the number of NASA-focused science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, experiences that engage underrepresented groups in active education.

Lern more at: NASA Swarmathon

Kennedy Space Center Interns Learn Team-building Skills

Kennedy Space Center intern team-building winners.
Winning intern team members from left, are Ashley Renfro-Suttle; Madison Tuttle, Michael Roberts, Jose Pacheco, Nathan Estey, Jessica Warren and Eric Barash. Photo credit: NASA

Each semester the Pathways and NASA Internships, Fellowships and Scholarships (NIFS) interns at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida come together for a team-building event. This spring semester, 92 interns participated in an afternoon of friendly competition. The students rotated through six activity stations that tested their abilities to communicate well, solve problems, strategize and share knowledge.

Kennedy Space Center interns participate in team-building activities.
Kennedy Space Center interns participate in team-building activities. Photo credit: NASA

The fast-paced and physically active event focused on networking and collaboration. Kennedy’s senior managers and volunteers helped facilitate the activities. The team with the most points won bragging rights – and a lunch with Kennedy’s Director, Bob Cabana.

The winning team members and the directorate they support are: Eric Barash, Exploration Research and Technology; Nathan Estey, Chief Financial Officer; Jose Pacheco, Engineering Directorate; Ashley Renfroe-Suttle, Chief Financial Officer; Michael Roberts, Exploration Research and Technology; Madison Tuttle, Communication and Public Engagement; and Jessica Warren, Engineering Directorate.

Successful Liftoff Begins SpaceX Dragon Mission to Space Station

The two-stage Falcon 9 launch vehicle lifts off Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying the Dragon resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station.  Photo credit: NASA/Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray, Tim Powers, Tim Terry
The two-stage Falcon 9 launch vehicle lifts off Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying the Dragon resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station.
Photo credit: NASA/Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray, Tim Powers and Tim Terry

A care package with more than 5,800 pounds of supplies from Earth is on its way to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. The company’s 14th commercial cargo mission to resupply the space station began at 4:30 p.m. EDT with liftoff aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The Dragon spacecraft now is in orbit with its solar arrays deployed and providing power.

With the countdown clock in the foreground, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launching a Dragon spacecraft with supplies for the International Space Station. Photo Credit: NASA/Dan Casper
With the countdown clock in the foreground, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launching a Dragon spacecraft with supplies for the International Space Station.
Photo Credit: NASA/Dan Casper

During a prelaunch news conference, Pete Hasbrook, NASA’s associate program scientist for International Space Station Program Science Office at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, praised the work of Commercial Resupply Services companies.

“The International Space Station is a world-class and multi- disciplinary laboratory in space,” he said. “Our commercial providers help in bringing our sciences forward and keep it going on space station and bringing benefits back to Earth.”

The Dragon spacecraft will deliver science, research, crew supplies and hardware to the orbiting laboratory. Read more about science experiments on board at:
https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacex/2018/04/02/whats-on-board-dragon-for-spacex-crs-14/

Project scientists Matthew Romeyn, left, and Dr. Ye Zhang place seeds in Veggie Passive Orbital Nutrient Delivery System (PONDS) units inside a laboratory at the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Photo credit: NASA/Daniel Casper
Project scientists Matthew Romeyn, left, and Dr. Ye Zhang place seeds in Veggie Passive Orbital Nutrient Delivery System (PONDS) units inside a laboratory at the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
Photo credit: NASA/Daniel Casper

Live NASA TV coverage of the rendezvous and capture will begin at 5:30 a.m. EDT on April 4 on http://www.nasa.gov/live

Expedition 55 Flight Engineers Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, backed up by NASA astronaut Scott Tingle, will supervise the operation of the Canadarm2 robotic arm for Dragon’s capture. After Dragon capture, ground commands will be sent from mission control in Houston for the station’s arm to rotate and install it on the bottom of the station’s Harmony module.

The Dragon spacecraft will spend approximately one month attached to the space station. Unberthing and release of the Dragon from the space station is targeted for May 2. About five hours after Dragon leaves the station, it will conduct its deorbit burn, which lasts up to 10 minutes. It takes about 30 minutes for Dragon to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere and splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California.

For updates during the mission, visit: https://go.nasa.gov/2uJHKUl

This concludes today’s coverage of the SpaceX CRS-14 countdown and launch. Thanks for joining us.

Successful Liftoff for SpaceX Falcon 9

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon spacecraft lifts off on the company's 14th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon spacecraft launches on the company’s 14th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA/Dan Casper

Dragon successfully launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 4:30 p.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Follow NASA’s Launch Blog and NASA Television during the early portions of flight.

SpaceX CRS-14 Countdown in Progress

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Launch Complex 40
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft await liftoff on the company’s 14th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA TV

A Dragon spacecraft is poised for liftoff atop a Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40. The launch vehicle will boost the resupply capsule on its 14th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. SpaceX’s Dragon will deliver supplies and equipment supporting numerous science investigations for the crew working aboard the orbiting laboratory. Liftoff is scheduled for today at 4:30 p.m. EDT.

Be sure to follow NASA’s Launch Blog during the last stages of the countdown and early portions of flight. You also may follow the countdown on NASA Television.