Teams Honored in NASA’s 2019 Robotic Mining Competition

NASA InsigniaMore than 300 undergraduate and graduate students, from 45 universities and colleges throughout the U.S., competed in NASA’s 2019 Virtual Robotic Mining Competition. Participating teams submitted a systems engineering paper, reported on their STEM Outreach in their communities, and provided a virtual slide presentation and robot demonstration.

The RMC 2019 Winners:

Slide Presentations & Demonstrations
1st Place – The University of Alabama
2nd Place – The University of Akron
3rd Place – University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

Systems Engineering Paper Award
1st Place – The University of Alabama
2nd Place – New York University – Tandon School of Engineering
3rd Place – Case Western Reserve University

Outreach Report
1st Place – The University of Akron
2nd Place – The University of Alabama
3rd Place – The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The Joe Kosmo Award for Excellence
The University of Alabama

The competition is a NASA Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate project designed to encourage and retain students in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM fields. NASA directly benefits from the competition by encouraging the development of innovative autonomous coding and robotic excavation concepts. These unique or clever solutions may be applied to a device and/or payload on an In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) mission. This has the potential to significantly contribute to our Nation’s space vision and exploration operations.

NASA is implementing the President’s Space Policy Directive-1 to “lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system.” NASA is charged to get American astronauts to the Moon in the next five years with a landing on the lunar South Pole. Our goal now is to return to the Moon to stay, in a sustainable way. NASA will continue to “use all means necessary” to ensure mission success in moving us forward to the Moon and ensure the next man and the first woman on the Moon are American. Our nation will need a future workforce that has the skills for developing autonomous robotic mining on the Moon, Mars and other off-world locations. We will benefit by being leaders in a new resource-based space economy that will inspire and train the next generation workforce which will add to the overall economic strength of the USA.

For more information on the RMC, associated activities and social media, visit https://www.nasa.gov/offices/education/centers/kennedy/technology/nasarmc.html.

NASA Swarmathon University Challenge Yields Recognition for Student Teams

Swarmathon University Challenge first place winners for 2019.
The Swarmathon team from Cabrillo College received first place in NASA’s Swarmathon University Challenge IV, during a ceremony at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida on June 12, 2019. At far left is Melanie Moses, a professor of computer science at the University of New Mexico, the host location for Swarmathon. Third from left is Theresa Martinez, Minority University Research and Education Program (MUREP) Science Technology Education and Math (STEM) engagement manager, at Kennedy. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

Students from Cabrillo College in Aptos, California, received the top honors for this year’s NASA Swarmathon University Challenge. They received the recognition for developing an algorithm that they programmed, which was used in a set of Swarmie robots who scurried about collecting coded cubes and depositing them in a predetermined location.

“The Swarmathon has been a huge inspiration to my students. I saw their skill and confidence grow,” said Michael Matera, faculty team mentor at Cabrillo College. “The Swarmathon has immeasurably enriched my students’ education, and I’m very grateful to your team for organizing it.”

To culminate the fourth and final year of the Swarmathon challenge, a Swarmathon Robotics Workshop was held at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida on June 11, 2019. Students and mentors showcased the best of their work in Swarmathon. They heard from guest speakers, delivered a presentation during the poster session, talked to NASA employees and received information about NASA internships. The award ceremony was held at the visitor complex on June 12, 2019. Teams not able to attend the workshop or award ceremony joined in virtually.

This year’s competition started with a virtual competition, with 16 teams from colleges and universities in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The top eight teams competed physically at the host location, the University of New Mexico, in May 2019. Teams built their Swarmies, small robotic vehicles equipped with sensors, a webcam, a GPS system and Wi-Fi antenna, to test their code during development. The Swarmies were programmed by the students to communicate and interact autonomously as a collective swarm.

“Real-world applications of college school work is a proven method of helping students absorb new topics and gain a thorough understanding of new concepts. It is well documented that ’hands-on’ projects for students lead to higher rates of recruitment and retention within STEM majors,” said Theresa Martinez, Minority University Research and Education Program (MUREP) Science, Technology, Education and Math (STEM) engagement manager at Kennedy Space Center.

The NASA Swarmathon challenge is an innovative swarming robotics competition for university students. The challenge has been administered by the University of New Mexico through a NASA MUREP grant in partnership with a technical NASA subject matter expert at the Swamp Works facility at Kennedy.

Swarmathon students gain experience with code integration, hardware testing, software engineering, project management and team collaboration critical to their future success in robotics and computer science. The students’ efforts advance swarm robotics technology for future NASA space exploration missions.

On a Roll! Ascent Abort Test-2 Flight Test Article Moves to Launch Pad 46

The flight test article for Orion’s Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) flight test passes by the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on its 21.5-mile-trek to Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on May 22, 2019.
The flight test article for Orion’s Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) flight test passes by the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on its 21.5-mile-trek to Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on May 22, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

Engineers rolled a test version of the Orion spacecraft integrated with the Launch Abort System for the Ascent Abort-2 flight test from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Abort System Facility to Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in preparation for its launch this summer.

The 21.5 mile trek began around 6 p.m. on May 22, and finished at 3:18 a.m. on May 23. The team will be stacking all the AA-2 elements together at the launch pad over the next several weeks.

During the flight, planned for July 2, a test version of Orion will launch on a booster to more than six miles in altitude, where Orion’s launch abort system will pull the capsule and its crew away to safety if an emergency occurs during ascent on the Space Launch System rocket.

The test helps pave the way for Artemis missions at the Moon and will enable astronauts to set foot on the lunar surface by 2024.

Orion Flight Test Article Attached to Launch Abort System for Ascent Abort-2

The Launch Abort System flight test article for AA-2 is stacked inside the Launch Abort System Facility at Kennedy Space Center.
Inside the Launch Abort System Facility (LASF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a test version of the Orion crew module has been integrated with the Launch Abort System (LAS) on May 18, 2019. It is being lifted by crane for transfer to a KAMAG transporter. Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

The 46,000-pound flight test article that will be used for a test of Orion’s Launch Abort System (LAS) was lifted and mated to its transportation pallet inside the Launch Abort System Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 18, 2019. The flight test article includes the Orion test article, a separation ring created for this test, and the LAS. This operation marks the completion of the flight test article integration and checkout operations necessary for NASA’s Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) flight test scheduled for July. Next, the system will roll to Pad 46 where the team will be stacking all the AA-2 elements together at the launch pad over the next several weeks.

The flight test vehicle for AA-2 is integrated inside the Launch Abort System Facility at Kennedy Space Center.
Inside the Launch Abort System Facility (LASF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, workers are completing the integration of a test version of the Orion crew module with the Launch Abort System (LAS) on May 18, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

AA-2 will demonstrate the abort system can activate, steer the spacecraft, and carry astronauts to a safe distance if an emergency arises during Orion’s climb to orbit as the spacecraft faces the greatest aerodynamic pressure during ascent. AA-2 is an important test to verify Orion’s design to safely carry astronauts on deep space missions as NASA works to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024

During the three-minute test, the LAS with the Orion test article will launch atop a booster from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, to an altitude of about six miles and traveling at more than 1,000 mph. The abort motor will quickly whisk the crew module away from the booster, and the attitude control motor will maneuver the assembly into position to jettison the crew module. Test data from 890 sensors will be sent in real-time to ground sites as well as recorded on board by 12 data recorders. The 12 data recorders will eject from the crew module before Orion reaches the water and will be retrieved after the test.

With no astronauts on board, the test concludes after the data recorders are ejected and does not include parachutes or recovery of the test capsule. AA-2 is focused on testing Orion’s ability to abort during ascent, and NASA has already fully qualified the parachute system for flights with crew through an extensive series of 17 developmental tests and 8 qualification tests completed at the end of 2018.

The LAS was designed and built by NASA and Lockheed Martin with motors provided by Northrop Grumman and Aerojet Rocketdyne. NASA’s Orion and Exploration Ground Systems programs, contractors Jacob’s, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, in conjunction with the Air Force Space and Missile Center’s Launch Operations branch and the 45th Space Wing will perform flight operations for AA-2.

Former Kennedy Space Center Director Richard G. Smith Passes Away

Official portrait of Kennedy Space Center Director Richard G. Smith. Photo credit: NASA

Richard G. Smith, a former director of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, passed away March 14, 2019, in Decatur, Alabama. He was 89 years old.

Smith served as director of Kennedy from Sept. 26, 1979 to Aug. 2, 1986. During his years as director, the buildup of the space shuttle was completed, 25 space shuttle missions were launched and planning efforts began for the International Space Station.

At the beginning of his career, Smith became a member of the rocket research and development team at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama in 1951. He transferred to NASA in July 1960 when the Development Operations Division of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency became the nucleus for the establishment of the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

Smith served in various positions at Marshall, including in the former Guidance and Control Laboratory and in the Systems Engineering Office prior to being appointed deputy manager and later manager of the Saturn Program. In 1974, Smith was named deputy director of the Marshall Center.

In August 1978, Smith accepted a one-year assignment as deputy associate administrator for Space Transportation Systems at NASA Headquarters in Washington. He served as director of the Skylab Task Force, appointed by the NASA administrator to represent NASA preceding and following the re-entry of Skylab.

For his contributions to the Apollo Lunar Landing Program and the Skylab Program, Smith received the NASA Medal for Exceptional Service in 1969 and the NASA Medal for Distinguished Service in 1973. Smith was inducted into the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame in 2011.

Smith was born in Durham, North Carolina, 1929. He attended Florence State College and Auburn University in Alabama, where he received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1951. In June 1981, he was awarded an honorary doctorate of science degree by Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Florida. He also was awarded an honorary doctorate of science degree by his Alma Mater, Auburn University, in December 1983.

He is survived by his wife of close to 66 years, Louise Self Smith, two daughters, two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Demo-1 Flight Readiness Concludes

Artist illustration of SpaceX Crew Dragon docking to the International Space Station.Following a full day of briefings and discussion, NASA and SpaceX are proceeding with plans to conduct the first uncrewed test flight of the Crew Dragon on a mission to the International Space Station. Launch is scheduled for 2:48 a.m. EST Saturday, March 2 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It will be the first time a commercially built and operated American rocket and spacecraft designed for humans will launch to the space station.

While the review was ongoing, crew members on station utilized a computer-based trainer and reviewed procedures to refresh themselves with the Crew Dragon spacecraft systems, rendezvous and docking, ingress operations, changes to emergency responses, and vehicle departure. Demo-1 is the first uncrewed flight to the space station for the Crew Dragon.

NASA will provide full mission coverage for activities from now through launch, docking, departure and splashdown.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with two American companies to provide safe, reliable and cost-effective crew transportation to and from the International Space Station, which could allow for additional research time and increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration.

NASA Announces Updated Crew Assignment for Boeing Flight Test

Astronaut Edward M. (Mike) Fincke, Expedition 9 NASA ISS science officer and flight engineer, performs one of multiple tests of the Capillary Flow Experiment (CFE) investigation in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station in September 2004.
Astronaut Edward M. (Mike) Fincke, Expedition 9 NASA ISS science officer and flight engineer, performs one of multiple tests of the Capillary Flow Experiment investigation in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station in September 2004. Photo credit: NASA

NASA astronaut E. Michael “Mike” Fincke has been added to the crew of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner’s Crew Flight Test, scheduled to launch later this year.

Fincke takes the place of astronaut Eric Boe, originally assigned to the mission in August 2018. Boe is unable to fly due to medical reasons; he will replace Fincke as the assistant to the chief for commercial crew in the astronaut office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Fincke will begin training immediately alongside NASA’s Nicole Mann and Boeing’s Chris Ferguson, who were both assigned to the mission in August 2018.

The Starliner’s Crew Flight Test will be the first time that the new spacecraft, which is being developed and built by Boeing as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, is launched into space with humans on board.

For more information:  https://go.nasa.gov/2UaSBOV.

Weather Improves to 60 Percent Chance Favorable for SpaceX CRS-16 Launch

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket soars upward after lifting off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 4:30 p.m. EDT on April 2, 2018,.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket soars upward after lifting off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 4:30 p.m. EDT on April 2, 2018, carrying the SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft. On its 14th commercial resupply services mission for NASA, Dragon will deliver supplies, equipment and new science experiments for technology research to the space station. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray, Tim Powers, Tim Terry

Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing predict a 60 percent chance of favorable weather for liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for the company’s 16th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. Launch is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec 4 at 1:38 p.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. On launch day, the primary weather concerns are violation of the thick cloud layer and cumulus cloud rules and flight through precipitation.

Science Briefing, Prelaunch News Conference Set for SpaceX CRS-16

SpaceX is targeting 1:38 p.m. EST Tuesday, Dec. 4, for the launch of its 16th resupply mission to the International Space Station.
A two-stage SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on June 29, 2018. SpaceX is targeting 1:38 p.m. EST Tuesday, Dec. 4, for the launch of its 16th resupply mission to the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA

SpaceX’s 16th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA is targeted to launch at 1:39 p.m. EST Tuesday, Dec. 4, from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Join us Monday, Dec. 3, as we start SpaceX CRS-16 launch week coverage with prelaunch events on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

9:30 a.m. – What’s on Board science briefing from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The briefing will highlight the following research:

Jill McGuire, project manager, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, will discuss RRM3.

Dr. Ralph Dubayah, principal investigator, University of Maryland, and Bryan Blair, deputy principal investigator, Goddard, will discuss GEDI.

Dr. Elaine Horn-Ranney, principal investigator, Tympanogen, will discuss an investigation into novel wound dressings and how antibiotics can be directly released on wound sites.

Nicole Wagner, LambdaVision, will discuss the Enhancement of Performance and Longevity of a Protein-Based Retinal Implant.

Winners of the Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy Space Station Challenge:

Adia Bulawa, project lead, Staying Healthy in Space

Sarina Kopf, project lead, Aeroponic Farming in Microgravity

3:30 p.m. – Prelaunch News Conference from Kennedy with the following representatives:

Joel Montelbano, deputy ISS program manager, NASA’s Johnson Space Center

Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of Build and Flight Reliability at SpaceX

Kirt Costello, ISS program chief scientist, Johnson

Clay Flinn, launch weather officer

For the latest schedule of prelaunch briefings, events and NASA TV coverage, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/content/spacex-crs-16-briefings-and-events/

Learn more about the SpaceX resupply mission to the International Space Station at: https://www.nasa.gov/spacex

High School Scholars Tour Kennedy Space Center, Have Lunch with an Astronaut

Top scholars from Brevard County high schools tour Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on Nov. 7, 2018.
Top scholars from Brevard County high schools tour Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on Nov. 7, 2018, and stop for a group photo near the Vehicle Assembly Building. Photo credit: NASA/Jennifer Hudgins

Seniors from Brevard County area high schools were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, ate lunch with an astronaut, and participated in a roundtable discussion with Kennedy engineers, scientists and business experts at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Nov. 7, 2018.

The students heard from astronaut Bob Springer, a member of the second class of NASA astronauts, who flew on the STS-29 and STS-38 missions. Mixing pertinent information with humor, Springer shared his experiences in training and flying on a space shuttle, and the astronaut selection criteria.

The annual event, hosted by the NASA Academic Engagement Office at the center, also provided information about NASA’s internships and scholarships. At the end of the day, each student received a certificate of recognition. From there, they were invited to tour the visitor complex and view the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit.

“Each year, the schools select a superb group of students to participate,” said Denise Coleman, Education Program specialist. “They were engaged and eager to see and hear as much as possible about Kennedy, NASA missions, and how all of that might relate to their future.”