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NASA Hack Space: August 2010


Citizen science has been around for centuries, with lay people collecting data and making observations for scientists in a variety of fields. And, citizen scientists are contributing to discoveries as much in the 21st century as ever before.

CubeSat EPS and Battery NASA GEVS Vibration test (video)

"Three Clyde Space CubeSat Electrical Power Systems (EPS) [a 1U EPS, 3U EPS and an XUEPS], were qualified to NASA GEVS vibration and shock levels to verify the manufacturing procedures we use for these products. Also included in the test were a 3U Battery and Battery daughter board."

Colorado Space Grant Consortium, Lockheed Martin To Develop CubeSat, Lockheed Martin

"Students from the Colorado Space Grant Consortium (COSGC) have teamed with Lockheed Martin [NYSE:LMT] to develop a miniature satellite, known as ALL-STAR, which stands for Agile Low-cost Laboratory for Space Technology Acceleration and Research. The ALL-STAR program, designed to inspire and develop America's future technological workforce, will provide students hands on experience in applying science, technology, engineering and math skills to building operational space systems. Lockheed Martin funded the program and company engineers from Sunnyvale, Calif., Palo Alto, Calif., Newtown, Pa., Albuquerque, N.M., and Denver are supplying their system engineering, program management and systems integration expertise to mentor the COSGC students as they design, develop, manufacture and deliver the CubeSat."

CubeSat Propulsion, SouthGate Amateur Radio Club

"Two videos on YouTube video show the concept for a CubeSat propulsion system using plasma electrolysis of water. This prototype shows that thrust can be produced by plasma electrolysis - it burns water, so to speak. The system has to be optimized to avoid "unburned" droplets. In this early prototype the water injection is triggered manually by short pumping bursts of an electric membrane pump. The next version will be designed to have an active burn control and the ability to operate with low voltage (high amps)."

How to make affordable solar pannels for CubeSat pico-satellites?, Northern Arizona Wind & Sun

"I am currently working on a CubeSat 10x10x10 cm cubical satellite whose total mass must not exceed 1 kg. I mention that this is a school project and it is unlikely the satellite will actually go in orbit. Most probable, once finished, the cubesat will remain in the lab."

Teams to Design Software for Small Satellites on the International Space Station

WASHINGTON -- NASA is challenging high school teams to design software to program small satellites aboard the International Space Station. The competition centers on the Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES.

SPHERES are bowling ball-sized spherical satellites used to test maneuvers for spacecraft performing autonomous rendezvous and docking. Three of these satellites fly inside the station's cabin. Each is self-contained with power, propulsion, computing and navigation equipment.

The Zero-Robotics investigation, run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., is designed to inspire future scientists and engineers. The teams are asked to address challenges of satellite docking, assembly and flight formation. The 2010 Zero-Robotics Challenge expands on a limited pilot program performed in fall 2009. This expanded pilot, called HelioSPHERES, will involve high schools from across the country during the 2010 - 2011 academic year. This new education program builds critical engineering skills for students, such as problem solving, design thought process, operations training, teamwork and presentation skills.

Danish inventors produce first amateur rocket designed to send humans into space (and one of them is going to test it out himself), Daily Mail

"It might not look much. In fact, it looks practically suicidal. But two Danish inventors hope to launch the world's first amateur-built rocket for human space travel. The homemade rocket is the brainchild of Danish firm Copenhagen Suborbitals, headed by Kristian von Bengtson and Peter Madsen."

Copenhagen Suborbitals

"Welcome to Copenhagen Suborbitals Our mission is very simple. We are working towards launching a human being into space. This is a non-profit suborbital space endeavor lead by Kristian von Bengtson and Peter Madsen, based entirely on sponsors and volunteers."

'Avatar' Director and NASA Focus on Earth Science Exploration in PSA Campaign

"James Cameron, director of "Avatar," the most successful film ever released, is featured in a series of new NASA public service announcements that describe the many contributions of the agency's Earth science program to environmental awareness and exploration of our home planet. "When NASA ventures into space, it remembers to keep a steady eye on home," Cameron said. "Its fleet of Earth-orbiting satellites constantly reveals our whole planet: its remotest places, its mysteries and the powerful influence of humans."

NASA is inviting students in grades 5-8 to participate in the 2nd Waste Limitation Management and Recycling Design Challenge. The challenge uses real-world scenarios that meet science and mathematics content standards. Students can participate in a formal, informal or home-school setting. Teams of up to six students will design a water recycling system for the unique environment of the moon. Teams will then test their system on a simulated wastewater stream. Proposals and results are due Feb. 28, 2011.

The winning teams will be announced in May 2011. The top three teams will receive awards. The first place team will receive an expense-paid trip to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During the winning team's visit to Kennedy, students will gain firsthand knowledge about NASA's missions, receive behind-the-scenes tours of NASA's launch facilities, and learn about future aerospace and engineering careers. For more information and contest rules, please visit http://wlmr.nasa.gov/. Questions about the challenge should be directed to Jay Garland at jay.l.garland@nasa.gov.

Design a space colony! Space colonies are permanent communities in orbit, as opposed to being on the moon or other planets. Designing a space colony involves physics, mathematics, space science, environmental science and many other disciplines. The NASA Space Settlement Design Contest is for 11-18-year-old students from anywhere in the world. Individuals or teams may enter. Grades 6-8, 9-10 and 11-12 are judged separately, except for the grand prize. All participants will receive a certificate. Submissions must be received by March 15, 2011. For more information about the NASA Space Settlement Design Contest, visit http://settlement.arc.nasa.gov/Contest/. If you have any questions about the contest, please e-mail Al Globus at aglobus@mail.arc.nasa.gov.

NASA's Ames Research Center and Mavericks Civilian Space Foundation, Moffett Field, Calif., today announced a collaboration to develop a high-altitude high-velocity air sampling system for NASA biological experiments.

Under the terms of a Space Act Agreement, Mavericks, in collaboration with NASA scientists, will develop and operate airborne science platforms to carry biological sampling devices and retrieve organisms, such as microbes, algal spores, viruses, and fungi, and other evidence of life from lower atmosphere to the upper atmosphere, or more than 78 miles above the surface of Earth. Mavericks will provide payload launch capabilities, instrumentation on sounding rockets and research balloons, and facilitate NASA flights on other space vehicles.

The National Space Grant Foundation is pleased to announce the X-Hab Academic Innovation Competition. The challenge is for a senior- and graduate-level design course in which students will design, manufacture, assemble and test an inflatable loft that will be integrated onto an existing NASA-built operational hard-shell prototype.

In June of 2011, the NASA-Habitat Demonstration Unit Project will conduct a head-to-head competition for successfully designing and demonstrating an attachable inflatable habitat "Loft" concept, given a list of requirements for the design. Universities may collaborate together on a Project Team. Up to three project teams will be selected for funding. The head-to-head competition will determine the winner that will be awarded additional funds to integrate their design with the HDU-Lab during the August-September 2011 HDU-Hab/Lab integrated field testing.

Idle computers are the astronomers' playground: Three citizen scientists--an American couple and a German--have discovered a new radio pulsar hidden in data gathered by the Arecibo Observatory. This is the first deep-space discovery by Einstein@Home, which uses donated time from the home and office computers of 250,000 volunteers from 192 different countries. This is the first genuine astronomical discovery by a public volunteer distributed computing project. The details of their discovery and the process of getting there are revealed in a paper published in the Aug. 12 edition of Science Express.

The new pulsar--called PSR J2007+2722--is a neutron star that rotates 41 times per second. It is in the Milky Way, approximately 17,000 light years from Earth in the constellation Vulpecula. Unlike most pulsars that spin as quickly and steadily, PSR J2007+2722 sits alone in space, and has no orbiting companion star. Astronomers consider it especially interesting since it is likely a recycled pulsar that lost its companion. However they cannot rule out that it may be a young pulsar born with an lower-than-usual magnetic field.

Chris and Helen Colvin, of Ames, Iowa, and Daniel Gebhardt, of Universitaet Mainz, Musikinformatik, Germany, are credited with this discovery. Their computers, along with half a million others from around the world, are harnessed to analyze data for Einstein@Home (volunteers contribute about two computers each).

Einstein@Home--based at the Center for Gravitation and Cosmology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, Albert Einstein Institute (AEI), Hannover, Germany--has been searching for gravitational waves in data from the U.S. based LIGO (Large Interferometer Gravitational Observatory) since 2005. Starting in March of 2009, Einstein@Home also began searching for signals from radio pulsars in astronomical observations from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Arecibo, a National Science Foundation (NSF) facility operated by Cornell University, is the world's largest and most sensitive radio telescope. About one-third of Einstein@Home's computing capacity is used to search Arecibo data.

NASA's chief technologist seeks to develop transformative programs, SJ Mercury News

"Ames has specialized in recent years in building closer ties with technology companies such as Google and Microsoft, and Braun said his office is exploring whether NASA can adapt another aspect of Silicon Valley, perhaps working with venture capitalists to develop some of those high-risk, high-reward technologies. "Venture capitalists, angel investors, they know how to take risks, and there is a lot that we can learn from them, and there is a lot that we can leverage," he said. Braun also said that NASA's future may not be about building bigger, more powerful rockets, but about building tiny satellites with the flexibility to accomplish a wide variety of missions in space -- somewhat like the 10-cubic centimeter "Cubesats" that were originally developed at Stanford and other universities."

NASA Synopsis: Rehabilitation of Hangar One at NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field CA

"NASA Ames Research Center is planning for the rehabilitation of Hangar One, a historic property located at Moffett Field, California. The hangar is currently undergoing environmental clean up to remove hazardous materials. The remediation of environmental contamination and the removal of hazardous material are being undertaken by the US Navy, as a Navy responsibility. At the conclusion of the Navy's environmental cleanup, the hangar will be returned to NASA as a structure free of hazardous materials but without the exterior siding, roof and windows. NASA's desire is to rehabilitate the hangar with new metal siding, restore the historic windows, install a new roof on the upper crown of the hangar and return the hangar to a state of usefulness. To date, funding has not been identified for this rehabilitation effort."

NASA Ames looking to pay for Hangar One restoration with its own funds, SJ Mercury News

"Though NASA officials have long said the agency doesn't have the millions necessary to restore the hangar and wanted the Navy to foot the bill instead, Feng said "people are more focused on it now." A contractor hired by the Navy is preparing to begin dismantling the interior of the structure in October and expects to remove the walls in the spring. "Now that we're kind of standing on the precipice of the Navy starting to take down the skin," Feng said, "it's becoming more real."

How Star Trek artists imagined the iPad... 23 years ago, Ars Technica

"To understand the thinking that led to the design of the Star Trek PADD, we spoke to some of the people involved in production of ST:TNG (as well as other Star Trek TV series and films), including Michael Okuda, Denise Okuda, and Doug Drexler. All three were involved in various aspects of production art for Star Trek properties, including graphic design, set design, prop design, visual effects, art direction, and more. We also discussed their impressions of the iPad and how eerily similar it is to their vision of 24th century technology, how science fiction often influences technology, and what they believe is the future of human-machine interaction."

Keith's note: One of the participants in this evening's reception in Washington, DC after the NEO conference was a NASA field center director. Given that he recently had some foot surgery and is not supposed to travel, he used an avatar instead. The center director? Why ARC's Pete Worden, of course. His avatar of choice was an "Anybot" droid. I have seen this little wonder in action in NASA CTO Chris Kemp's office at NASA ARC and will be reporting on it in the near future. This droid is currently on loan by the manufacturer to NASA for evaluation.

This droid is very cool. You can see what is going on and talk to people and they can talk to you. It is totally web browser controlled and has navigation software and obstacle avoidance hardware (and LIDAR) on board. You can inhabit not only your avatar but also other ones in remote locations - just like Cylons downloading into new bodies. Actually it is more like "Serge" the butler droid in the new prequel series "Caprica". Do not be surprised if you see one roaming around NASA HQ in the near future.

NASA is seeking proposals to establish two new SEMAA sites. Established in 1993, the Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy is an innovative, pre-college project designed to increase participation and retention of historically underrepresented youth (grades K-12) in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. The project currently serves over 50,000 students, parents and teachers annually at 15 locations nationwide. You can learn more about SEMAA by going to the website at www.nasa.gov/education/semaa.

Through this new RFP, NASA is seeking to partner with two- and four-year institutions, specifically Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCU; Hispanic Serving Institutions, or HIS; Tribal Colleges and Universities, or TCU; and Other Minority Universities, or OMU, to expand and replicate the SEMAA project to include two additional sites. Interested institutions responding to the RFP are encouraged to partner with local school systems to introduce underserved minority students and their families to the project.

A downloadable version of the Official SEMAA RFP can be found on the NASA portal by accessing www.nasa.gov/education/semaa. A hard copy of the RFP can be requested through the National SEMAA Office. Please note that there is a quick turn-around time to submit proposals. Questions about the RFP should be submitted by 4 p.m. EDT on Aug. 10, 2010, to Paragon TEC via e-mail to nasasemaa@paragon-tec.com or by fax at 216-361-9595, Attention Janice Costaras.

This year's proposals are due to the National SEMAA Office by 4 p.m. EDT on Sept. 3, 2010.

NASA has announced a second opportunity for small satellite payloads to fly on rockets planned to launch in 2011 and 2012. These CubeSats could be auxiliary cargo on previously planned missions.

CubeSats are a class of research spacecraft called nanosatellites. The cube-shaped satellites are approximately four inches long, have a volume of about one quart and weigh less than 2.2 pounds.

CubeSat investigations should be consistent with NASA's Strategic Plan or the Education Strategic Coordination Framework. The research should address aspects of science, exploration, technology development, education or operations.

Applicants must submit proposals electronically by 4:30 p.m. EST, Nov. 15. NASA will select the payloads by Jan. 31, 2011, but selection does not guarantee a launch opportunity. Collaborators may be required to provide partial reimbursement of approximately $30,000 per CubeSat. NASA will not provide funding for the development of the small satellites.

NASA recently announced the results from the first round of the CubeSat Launch Initiative. Twelve payloads have made the short-list for launch opportunities in 2011 and 2012. They are eligible for launch pending an appropriate opportunity and final negotiations. The satellites come from 10 states: Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Utah and Vermont.

For additional information on NASA's CubeSat Launch Initiative program, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/directorates/somd/home/CubeSats_initiative.html

For more information on NASA's Strategic Plan, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/budget

For more information on NASA's Education Strategic Coordination Framework, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/offices/education/performance/strategic_framework.html


NASA has issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) to purchase specific data resulting from industry efforts to test and verify vehicle capabilities through demonstrations of small robotic landers. The purpose is to inform the development of future human and robotic lander vehicles. The Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data (ILDD) BAA will result in multiple small firm-fixed price indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts with a total value up to $30.1 million through 2012. Multiple awards are possible with a minimum government purchase of $10,000 for each selected contractor. A minimum order will be funded using FY10 dollars. Orders above the minimum would be competed among the successful offerors dependent on future budget availability. The deadline for submitting proposals is Sept. 8.

At dusk, a car stops at a checkpoint in Afghanistan. It is a tense moment for all. Because an interpreter is not available, U.S. Marines use hand gestures to ask the driver to step out of the car and open the trunk and hood for inspection. There's a lot of room for error.

This scene was re-enacted recently during an evaluation at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)--but, this time, the Marine had a new smart phone-based device that translates his English into the driver's native Pashto and the Pashto back into English.

For the past four years, scientists at NIST have been conducting detailed performance evaluations of speech translation systems for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Previous systems used microphones and portable computers. In the most recent tests, the NIST team evaluated three two-way, real-time, voice-translation devices designed to improve communications between the U.S. military and non-English speakers in foreign countries.