IDEAS Technology Potential to Improve Mission Safety, Efficiency

David Miranda, a project lead in NASA's Operations Integration Branch of Ground Systems Development and Operations, explains the Integrated Display and Environmental Awareness System
David Miranda, a project lead in NASA’s Operations Integration Branch of Ground Systems Development and Operations, explains the Integrated Display and Environmental Awareness System, or IDEAS, for members of the news media during a demonstration and the offices of digital creative agency Purple, Rock, Scissors in Orlando, Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Charles Babir

NASA continues to invest in the future by developing transformative capabilities and cutting-edge technologies. On Dec. 9, the agency unveiled an innovative system that could allow an engineer or technician working on a space system to immediately access all the information needed to complete a task. The “IDEAS” project being developed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center was demonstrated at the offices of Purple Rock Scissors, a digital creative agency in Orlando, Florida.

Called IDEAS, for the Integrated Display and Environmental Awareness System, it is a wearable, optical computer that allows users to view and modify information on an interactive display.

According to David Miranda of the Operations Integration Branch of Ground Systems Development and Operations, wearable technologies now are showing promise across many industries, from manufacturing to medicine. NASA now is investing in this new technology to apply it to the agency’s missions.

“The technology being developed here at Kennedy is designed to help technicians do their jobs more efficiently and safely,” Miranda said. “The glasses become a wearable computer system much like a heads-up display. It can provide various means of communication and access to documentation needed to complete a task.”

While the user may simply look like a person wearing glasses, those operating the system will see a screen with instructions for a task – no printed instructions or laptops necessary.

“The glasses include a camera to take photographs or video that could be provided to a console operator in the event something unexpected comes up,” Miranda said. “This would allow real-time troubleshooting of a problem.”

The photo-video capability also adds an extra safety margin.

“An infrared camera will allow detection of hot and cold,” said Miranda. “That would aid in spotting a cryogenic leak or a fire. Hydrogen fires are invisible, but infrared would detect that immediately.”

Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) attended at the recent demonstration. STMD oversees the agency’s Game Changing Development (GCD) Program. The IDEAS project began in January of 2015 and is managed by a NASA Early Career Team at Kennedy as part of. GCD.

As part of GCD, projects develop technologies through component and subsystem testing on Earth to prepare them for future use in space. New ideas and approaches are investigated that could solve significant technological problems and revolutionize future space endeavors. One of the most promising applications for NASA may be deep-space missions.

“Astronauts traveling far from Earth, such as a mission to Mars, will need to work with autonomy,” said Miranda. “IDEAS could help them operate a spacecraft far for home and have the resources quickly available to respond to the unexpected.”

This Kennedy team is one of four that were selected from across the agency as part of STMD’s Early Career Initiative pilot program. The effort encourages creativity and innovation among NASA technologists who earned a bachelor’s degree within in the past 10 years by engaging them in hands-on technology development opportunities needed for future missions.

The NASA IDEAS team has partnered with Abacus Technology at Kennedy, the Florida Institute of Technology’s Human Centered Design Institute in Melbourne, Florida, and Purple Rock Scissors.

Miranda explained that Abacus is providing software development for the program. Florida Tech is integrating human factors that is ensuring the hardware meets the needs of the people using the system. Purple Rock Scissors is integrating the hardware with the software and providing feedback from those testing the system.

“The IDEAS will have a wide range of applications beyond NASA’s use in the space program,” Miranda said. “Imagine first responders reporting back to a hospital from the scene of an accident, military personnel reporting in from a battlefield or those working in a hazardous environment. All could benefit from such a system.”

Miranda points out that IDEAS is simply the next step in the evolution of computers.

“Originally, a computer system would fill a building,” he said. “It was a dramatic breakthrough when desktops were developed allowing home use. Then came portable laptops. Miniaturization further reduced the size of computers to a pocket-size smart phone. Wearable computing systems is simply the next step.”

Forecast: 60 Percent Chance of Acceptable Conditions

2015-3389The launch day forecast remains at 60 percent “go” for the liftoff of an Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft aboard an Atlas V rocket Thursday at 5:55 p.m. EST. The primary concerns are cumulus clouds, disturbed weather and thick clouds at launch time. Our launch coverage on the NASA Blog and on NASA TV will begin at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

Flying from Space Launch Complex 41, the rocket and spacecraft have a 30-minute window to be able to launch and meet up with the International Space Station in orbit. The Cygnus, an enhanced version carrying more materials than the standard models that flew before, is loaded with more than 7,300 pounds of equipment, supplies and experiments for the station and its crew. Some of the Cygnus payloads will contribute directly to research by astronaut Scott Kelly during his one-year mission on the station. This flight also includes other science cargo include a microsatellite deployer and the first microsatellite to be deployed from the station.

You can read more about the mission here.

OA-4 Coverage and Briefings Next Week

jb_wintery_grungeLaunch week at Kennedy will be as busy as ever heading toward the Dec. 3 liftoff of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying an Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft stuffed with 7,300 pounds of supplies and equipment for the International Space Station. Launch is scheduled for 5:55 p.m. EST. The launch will be shown live on NASA TV and covered here on the NASA Blog from the launch site beginning at 4:30 p.m.

There are numerous briefings and activities planned leading up to launch. The details can be found here. Here’s a quick look at the briefings on tap for next week, too. All will be shown on NASA TV which can be streamed at


Wednesday, Dec. 2: An ISS Science, Research and Technology briefing will be held at Kennedy’s Press Site at 1 p.m. NASA Television will provide live coverage, as well as streaming Internet coverage.
Participants will be:

  • Kirt Costello, deputy chief scientist, International Space Station Program Science Office, NASA’s Johnson Space Center
  • Ken Shields, director of Operations and Education Outreach, Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS)
  • Dr. Brian Motil, principle investigator, Packed Bed Reactor Experiment (PBRE), NASA’s Glenn Research Center, Cleveland
  • Talbot Jaeger, chief technology officer, NovaWurks, and principle investigator, Nanoracks-MicroSat-SIMPL (Satlet Initial-Mission Proofs and Lessons)
  • Andrew Petro, program executive, Small Spacecraft Technology Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington
  • Eleanor McCormack, principal, St. Thomas More Cathedral School, St. Thomas More (STM)Sat-1


Wednesday, Dec. 2: A prelaunch status will be held at Kennedy’s Press Site at 2 p.m. NASA Television will provide live coverage, as well as streaming Internet coverage.
Participants will be:

  • Kirk Shireman, International Space Station Program manager
  • Frank Culbertson, Jr., Space Systems Group president, Orbital ATK
  • Vernon Thorpe, program manager for NASA missions, United Launch Alliance
  • Todd McNamara, launch weather officer, 45th Weather Squadron


Thursday, Dec. 3: A post-launch news conference will occur at about 8 p.m. and NASA Television will provide live coverage, as well as streaming Internet coverage.
Participants will be:

  • Kirk Shireman, International Space Station Program manager
  • Frank Culbertson, Jr., Space Systems Group president, Orbital ATK
  • Vernon Thorpe, program manager for NASA missions, United Launch Alliance

Orion Is Calling . . . Come Be A Deep Space Astronaut


NASA is developing a spacecraft capable of taking astronauts farther than ever before and the agency needs some special individuals to pilot it and conduct the defining work that will be performed by humans far away from their home planet. Orion is the first spacecraft since Apollo that NASA has built with an eye on distant worlds. NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, now in development, will enable humans to reach asteroids beyond lunar orbit, Mars and other potential destinations.

Built with the latest manufacturing technology around systems that are state-of-the-art for safe space travel, the Orion will be able to venture into a three-week flight on its own, and extend its range for a journey to Mars with the use of a habitat module.

The space agency also is guiding an unprecedented transition to commercial spacecraft for crew and cargo transport to the space station. Flights in Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon will facilitate adding a seventh crew member to each station mission, effectively doubling the amount of time astronauts will be able to devote to research in space. The science conducted on the orbiting laboratory will be applied to Earthbound uses and to decipher what needs to be done for space explorers headed into deep space.

If the opportunity to explore realms never touched by humans before entices you, circle Dec. 14 on your calendar, because that’s when our astronaut application cycle begins. Gather your credentials, review your transcripts and papers and count down to the chance to join one of the most selective groups of professionals in the nation. Orion is calling!

Cygnus Moved to Launch Pad for Dec. 3 Liftoff


2015-3363Orbital ATK’s enhanced Cygnus spacecraft was transported to Space Launch Complex 41 early this morning and was lifted to the top of a waiting United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket for launch Dec. 3 on a resupply mission to the International Space Station.

Sealed inside a protective payload fairing, the 20.5-foot-long Cygnus left the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at about 3:20 a.m. EST. It arrived at the pad at about 5:30 a.m. A crane at the Vertical Integration Facility at SLC-41 hoisted the spacecraft and fairing into place on the Atlas V with the first phase of the connection complete around 9:30 a.m.

The spacecraft and fairing will be secured in place and a series of tests run to confirm a proper attachment. The enhanced Cygnus, which carries 25 percent more mass than the previous version, has been loaded with more than 7,100 pounds of equipment and supplies that will be used by the space station crew for daily operations and to conduct cutting edge science on the orbiting laboratory. Launch time Dec. 3 is 5:55 p.m. EST to set up a rendezvous with the station Dec. 6. The launch window extends 30 minutes. Photo credits: NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis

Kennedy Emergency Response Team Hones Skills at Annual SWAT Round-up International

Members of NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Emergency Response Team take off running during a challenge at the 33rd annual SWAT Round-up International in Orlando, Fla.NASA’s Protective Services organization is tasked with protecting one-of-a-kind facilities and a world-class workforce at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Ensuring the safety and security of this 144,000-acre, multi-user spaceport allows agency programs to stay focused on mission success.

One of NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Emergency Response Team members scales the outside wall of a concrete tower at the 33rd annual SWAT Round-up International in Orlando, Fla.It’s a 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year job that demands constant training for any number of real-life scenarios. Last week, eight members of Kennedy Space Center’s Emergency Response Team took part in the 33rd annual SWAT Round-up International alongside 60 other teams from across the country and around the world.

“The entire week is very physically demanding and challenging. The teams competing in these events are all very good and some dedicate much of their training time specifically for this competition,” explained Emergency Response Team Commander Bill Young of Chenega Security and Support Solutions.

Although the Kennedy team does train specifically for the competition in the weeks leading up to the five-day event, it spends the vast majority of the year focusing on protecting the spaceport.

“Our training time is spent on site preparing for responses to potential critical incidents that might occur here,” Young said, pointing out that the greatest benefit to participating in the annual Round-up is the chance to meet and work with other teams.

“With the threats and challenges that exist for law enforcement today, it’s short sighted to think any SWAT team can handle it all alone,” Young said.

“The ability for our officers to effectively communicate and even integrate with other teams during a crisis is a force multiplier for our Protective Services, which benefits our center and the entire community.”

Photos by NASA/Kim Shiflett

Cygnus Sealed Inside Fairing

23004328681_f754a1c2fd_oThe enhanced Cygnus spacecraft and more than 7,100 pounds of cargo have been enclosed inside a payload fairing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida as processing moves ahead on schedule for a Dec. 3 launch. The Orbital ATK Cygnus will be moved to Space Launch Complex 41 early Friday and lifted to the top of a waiting United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

The spacecraft, which will carry no people, is to lift off aboard the Atlas V to take equipment, experiments and supplies to the International Space Station for use by the residents there including yearlong-crew member astronaut Scott Kelly. Speaking to the news media last week, Orbital ATK’s Dan Tani – a former astronaut who served as a station resident – said a 22442657874_f07a7bb177_onew round of cargo always brings excitement: “It’s a real morale boost. It’s like coming home from the store and unpacking the trunk full of the things you bought. A lot of stuff you didn’t know you needed along with a lot of things like notes from home and other items that are really meaningful.”

The enhanced Cygnus can carry about 25 percent more mass than its predecessor and features upgraded Ultraflex solar arrays that unfurl like a fan into a circle and are lighter than the previous models. For NASA, the increased capacity brings the obvious benefit of taking more to the station at once, ranging from daily supplies of food and clothing for the station residents to new experiments so astronauts can continue to use the space-based laboratory to the benefit of all on the Earth. For the astronauts, the new round of cargo brings excitement. Photo credits: top – NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis, below – NASA/ Kim Shiflett.

Space-Grown Flowers Will be New Year Blooms on International Space Station

Veggie_Patch_finalFlowers could be blooming on the International Space Station after the New Year.

This morning, Nov. 16, NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren activated the Veggie plant growth system and its rooting “pillows” containing zinnia seeds on the space station.

It is the first time that a flowering crop experiment will be grown on the orbiting laboratory. Growing zinnias in orbit will help provide precursory information about other flowering plants that could be grown in space.

“Growing a flowering crop is more challenging than growing a vegetative crop such as lettuce,” said Gioia Massa, NASA Kennedy Space Center payload scientist for Veggie. “Lighting and other environmental parameters are more critical.”

Lindgren will turn on the red, blue and green LED lights, activate the water and nutrient system to Veggie, and monitor the plant growth. The zinnias will grow for 60 days, which is twice as long as the first and second crop of Outredgeous red romaine lettuce that grew on the space station.

During the growth cycle, the LED lights will be on for 10 hours and off for 14 hours in order to stimulate the plants to flower.

“Growing the zinnia plants will help advance our knowledge of how plants flower in the Veggie growth system, and will enable fruiting plants like tomatoes to be grown and eaten in space using Veggie as the in-orbit garden,” said Trent Smith, Veggie program manager at Kennedy.

Researchers also hope to gather good data regarding long-duration seed stow and germination, whether pollen could be an issue, and the impacts on crew morale. Growing tomato plants on the space station is planned for 2017.

The Veggie system was developed by Orbital Technologies Corp. (ORBITEC) in Madison, Wisconsin, and tested at Kennedy before flight. Veggie, along with two sets of pillows containing romaine seeds and one set of zinnias, was delivered to the station by SpaceX on the third cargo resupply mission in April 2014.

Cygnus Prepped for More Cargo Loading

22793270772_21ec1db68f_oEngineers are opening the hatch on the Enhanced Cygnus spacecraft and the spacecraft is being rotated to its horizontal position today in the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center during preparations for launch December 3 to the International Space Station.

The Orbital ATK-built spacecraft, which will carry more than 7,000 pounds of equipment, experiments and supplies, is being moved and opened so teams can load the last of the gear slated for this resupply mission. The stowage loading will take place Nov. 8 to 10.

Also on Nov. 8, the Delta Mariner will dock at Port Canaveral to deliver the first stage of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that will lift the Enhanced Cygnus into orbit. The booster stage will be hoisted into the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 on Nov. 11. The latest version of the Cygnus is bigger than its predecessors and can carry 25 percent more supplies on unpiloted missions to the space station. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Astronauts to Mark Station’s 15-Year Anniversary

22588197126_8b6731d892_oHumans have lived aboard the International Space Station continuously for 15 years, a record accomplishment that astronauts and cosmonauts will discuss from orbit this morning at 10:05 eastern on NASA TV. Although placed in orbit in 1998, the station did not welcome its first three residents until Nov. 2, 2000. That was the day NASA astronaut Bill Shepard and cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev docked with the fledgling orbital outpost.

It would take dozens more astronauts and cosmonauts along with space shuttle missions and more than 180 spacewalks to turn the station into the functioning, cutting-edge laboratory it is today. Expedition 45 crew members will talk to the world’s news media about the space exploration milestone and what it means for research for those on the Earth and how it will help our goals for deep-space exploration in the future. The anniversary also comes as NASA stands at the cusp of launching a new generation of human-rated spacecraft to the station with partners Boeing and SpaceX.

Well-suited for years more research from its unique place in space, the International Space Station will host twice as much research time when the new spacecraft – called the CST-100 Starliner and Crew Dragon – begin making operational flights to orbit carrying four station crew members at a time.