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.”

Astronauts Celebrate With Builders Topping of Crew Access Tower

Four astronauts training for test flights with NASA’s Commercial Crew program joined the festivities at Space Launch Complex 41 Thursday morning as one of the highest steel beams was placed on the Crew Access Tower during a “topping off” ceremony with United Launch Alliance, Boeing and Hensel Phelps at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch site in Florida.

“It’s really an honor to get down here. We’re humbled to be a part of launching rockets for the United States again,” said Doug Hurley, a veteran of space shuttle missions and one of the four chosen to work closely with partners of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program during development, testing and training. Bob Behnken, Eric Boe and Suni Williams were also selected and took part in the employee-focused event.

“It’s amazing how many people it takes to get us into space,” Boe said.

A large crowd of employees from numerous companies gathered mid-morning to sign the 650-pound beam and watch a crane lift it into place atop the 200-foot-tall Crew Access Tower constructed over the past year. It was built in segments complete with stairs, cable trays and other fittings a few miles from the launch pad, then those segments were stacked on top of each other to form the tower. The Crew Access Arm and White Room the astronauts looked over today will be attached to the tower after several months’ of testing and fit checks.

“We’ve poured 1,000 cubic yards of concrete and mounted nearly 1 million pounds of steel, and we’ve done it in spectacular fashion,” said Howard Biegler, launch operations lead for ULA’s Human Launch Services.

Employees were asked to sign the beam before it was lifted into place and welded to the top of the tower.

“Today you are part of history,” said Kathy Lueders, program manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “Stop and enjoy this moment. I hope everyone has been able to write their name on the beam because you are part of the critical safety network that is making this all possible.”

Prior to the ceremony at SLC-41, the astronauts toured the White Room and Crew Access Arm undergoing testing at a construction yard near Kennedy Space Center. The White Room will be the stepping off point to space for astronauts as they board a Boeing CST-100 Starliner for liftoff on a ULA Atlas V rocket. Designed as a clean area to keep contaminants out of the spacecraft and off the astronauts’ suits, white rooms are the place where technicians make last-minute additions to the spacesuit and make sure everything is ready to flight as the flight crew climbs inside for launch. White rooms have always been a part of NASA’s human spaceflight efforts, from Mercury to Gemini and Apollo to the space shuttle.

“This is the last thing that whoever flies the Starliner is going to see before they go into space,” Hurley told the workers who built the structures.

Boeing and SpaceX are developing a new generation of spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station beginning in 2017. Both companies are also deep into construction and modification of launch facilities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to safely host astronaut crews as they launch from American soil for the first time since 2011. Designs for launch facilities have been confirmed through NASA panels and in-depth examinations.

For Boeing, launching from SLC-41 meant building the Crew Access Tower, the first crew-focused structure at Cape Canaveral since Apollo 7. SpaceX is modifying historic Launch Pad 39A for its commercial crew missions on the Crew Dragon spacecraft launching on its Falcon 9 rockets. It also will have a White Room tailored to its designs that will offer astronauts and ground crew safety as they board and a way to leave the spacecraft in a hurry before launch in the unlikely event of an emergency. Photo credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Successful Launch Sends Cygnus on its Way to ISS

Liftoff of ULA Atlas V rocket with Orbital ATK's Cygnus spacecraft at 4:44 p.m. EST on Dec. 6New hardware that will support dozens of NASA investigations and other science experiments from around the world is among the more than 7,000 pounds of cargo on the way to the International Space Station aboard Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft. It launched at 4:44:57 p.m. EST Sunday on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The mission is Orbital ATK’s fourth cargo delivery flight to the station through NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract. This is the first flight of an enhanced Cygnus spacecraft to the station. The cargo freighter now features a greater payload capacity, new UltraFlex solar arrays and new fuel tanks. Cygnus’ pressurized cargo module has been extended and increases the spacecraft’s interior volume capacity by 25 percent, allowing more cargo to be delivered with each mission. It’s also the first Cygnus mission using the Atlas V launch system.

For more information on this mission, visit https://www.nasa.gov/orbitalatk. To join the online conversation about the Orbital ATK CRS-4 launch and the International Space Station on Twitter, follow @Space_Station and #Cygnus.

Photo credit: NASA TV

Launch Forecast Improves; Follow Launch Blog for Updates

United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, carrying Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft on the company's CRS-4 mission, awaits liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41Launch Weather Office Clay Flinn briefed the Orbital ATK CRS-4 launch team in advance of fueling the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Conditions at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41 have improved, as has the forecast. There now is a 70 percent chance of favorable weather for the launch of the Atlas V and Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft to the international Space Station at 4:44:57 p.m. EST.

Follow NASA’s Launch Blog for frequent updates throughout the countdown starting at 3:45 p.m.

For background information on the mission, visit https://www.nasa.gov/orbitalatk. To join the online conversation about the Orbital ATK CRS-4 launch and the International Space Station on Twitter, follow @Space_Station and #Cygnus.

Launch Moves to Sunday: Forecast 40 Percent ‘Go’

The launch of Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station has moved to Sunday at 4:44 p.m. EST, the start of a 30-minute launch window for the uncrewed spacecraft to begin it mission. Countdown and launch coverage will begin on NASA’s Launch Blog and on NASA TV at 3:45 p.m.

Saturday’s attempt was called off because of high winds that were expected to violate launch criteria throughout the 30-minute launch window. The weather forecast for Sunday improved to a 40 percent chance of acceptable conditions at launch time.

For background information on the mission, visit https://www.nasa.gov/orbitalatk. To join the online conversation about the Orbital ATK CRS-4 launch and the International Space Station on Twitter, follow @Space_Station and #Cygnus.

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket set to launch the Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station is in place at Space Launch Complex 41

Orbital ATK CRS-4 Launch Update

Launch managers have set Saturday, Dec. 5 at 5:10 p.m. EST for the next launch attempt of the fourth Orbital ATK commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. NASA Television coverage will begin at 4 p.m. Earlier this evening, the 30-minute launch window tomorrow had a 30 percent chance of acceptable conditions.

The Cygnus is loaded with more than 7,000 pounds of supplies and science and research investigations that are important to advancing NASA’s exploration goals on the journey to Mars, demonstrating technologies that drive innovation, and providing benefits to Earth.

Follow NASA’s Launch Blog for frequent updates.

For background information on the mission, visit https://www.nasa.gov/orbitalatk. To join the online conversation about the Orbital ATK CRS-4 launch and the International Space Station on Twitter, follow @Space_Station and #Cygnus.

Launch Scrubbed Due to Winds

Because of wind gusts that exceeded the weather criteria for launching, Orbital ATK and United Launch Alliance have postponed the planned launch of the Atlas V rocket carrying the Cygnus spacecraft. It is Orbital ATK’s fourth commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. Mission managers will be evaluating when to make the next launch attempt.

Follow NASA’s Launch Blog for frequent updates.

For background information on the mission, visit https://www.nasa.gov/orbitalatk. To join the online conversation about the Orbital ATK CRS-4 launch and the International Space Station on Twitter, follow @Space_Station and #Cygnus.

Orbital ATK CRS-4 Launch Updates

Countdown clocks at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida are ticking down to the planned liftoff of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft on the company’s fourth commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. Launch now is scheduled for 6:03 p.m. EST.

Follow NASA’s Launch Blog for frequent updates throughout the countdown.

For background information on the mission, visit https://www.nasa.gov/orbitalatk. To join the online conversation about the Orbital ATK CRS-4 launch and the International Space Station on Twitter, follow @Space_Station and #Cygnus.

Orbital ATK CRS-4 Liftoff Scrubbed Due to Weather

Because of thick clouds and precipitation that violated the weather rules for launching, Orbital ATK and United Launch Alliance have postponed the planned launch of the Atlas V rocket carrying the Cygnus spacecraft. It is Orbital ATK’s fourth commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station.

The next 30-minute launch window opens tomorrow, Dec. 4, at 5:33:11 p.m. EST. The chance of favorable weather for the next launch is 30 percent. NASA Television coverage will begin at 4:30 p.m. and can be viewed online at https://www.nasa.gov/nasatv.