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NASA Hack Space: May 2011


F-104 jet fighters just like the ones astronauts trained in for decades will become a more regular part of the skyscape above NASA's Kennedy Space Center as a private company expands its fleet of jets with plans to conduct more research flights, launch very small satellites into space and even take paying passengers into the stratosphere. The developments come four years after the company made its first flight from the Shuttle Landing Facility, or SLF, at Kennedy in April 2007.

Chirag Parikh & Phil Larson: Earlier this month, we were honored to be invited to the Team America Rocketry Challenge held about 50 miles outside Washington, DC. There, hundreds of middle- and high-school students were participating in a model rocketry competition sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association.

As two guys with aerospace in our blood, we know firsthand the excitement and adrenaline rush of launching model rockets. For many youngsters--us among them--model rocketry is a rite of passage that springboards early dreamers to become the engineers and aerospace professionals of tomorrow. They will be the ones designing, building, and operating the next-generation rockets that launch astronauts into space, probes into the farthest reaches of our solar system, and Earth-orbiting satellites that touch every facet of our daily lives.

Competitions like the one we attended this month help embed in students the qualities necessary to succeed, such as creative thinking, problem solving, and teamwork. Each three- to 10-person team was challenged to design and build a rocket to climb exactly 750 feet during a 40- to 45-second flight. The payload, a raw egg, had to return to the ground by parachute undamaged.

Full post at OSTP with photos

The X PRIZE Foundation, the leading nonprofit organization solving the world's Grand Challenges of our time by creating and managing large-scale, global incentivized competitions, today announced a collaboration with Qualcomm Incorporated to design the Tricorder X PRIZE, a $10 million prize to develop a mobile solution that can diagnose patients better than or equal to a panel of board certified physicians. The X PRIZE Foundation and Qualcomm seeks to achieve this by combining advancements in expert systems and medical point of care data such as wireless sensors, advancements in medical imaging and microfluidics.

Mapping Dark Matter is a image analysis competition whose aim is to encourage the development of new algorithms that can be applied to challenge of measuring the tiny distortions in galaxy images caused by dark matter. The aim is to measure the shapes of galaxies to reconstruct the gravitational lensing signal in the presence of noise and a known Point Spread Function. The signal is a very small change in the galaxies'ellipticity, an exactly circular galaxy image would be changed into anellipse; however real galaxies are not circular. The challenge is to measure the ellipticity of 100,000 simulated galaxies.

From: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Category: Science & Technology
Partners: Royal University Edinburgh, University College London, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Submission Period: Start: May 25, 2011 End: Aug 18, 2011
Winners announced: Aug 25, 2011
Official page

Close-up of pump being tested on a Terrier-Improved Orion sounding rocket mission from the Wallops Flight Facility in June. Credit: NASA Larger image

The more advanced the electronics, the more power they use. The more power they use, the hotter they get. The hotter they get, the more likely they'll overheat. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand what typically happens next: The electronics fry.

Click to enlarge

A new microsatellite designed to give scientists less expensive access to space will be demonstrated during a NASA Terrier-Improved Orion suborbital sounding rocket flight between 7 and 10 a.m., June 9, from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The backup launch day is June 10.

The top six teams competing in the first "RealWorld-InWorld NASA Engineering Design Challenge" showcased their creative ideas for a panel of expert judges, fellow teams and others on April 14, 2011. The forum, held in a virtual online space, was the culmination for this year's "RealWorld-InWorld NASA Engineering Design Challenge." The challenge gives high school students a unique opportunity to work with university students to solve authentic NASA-inspired, design-based engineering problems using 21st century technology tools and skills.

A short documentary about the PhoneSat suborbital test launch in the Black Rock desert, this video covers both launches of the Nexus One cell phone. Watch to find out whether they survived their 5-second, 18G trips miles into the atmosphere! More videos.

A combined view of ground video, on-rocket video, and accelerometer data from the Nexus One rocket launch. More videos here.

"Bring It Back," a small and inexpensive microgravity spaceflight kit, has won the do-it-yourself technology and education space competition sponsored by NASA and MAKE Magazine. The competition challenged participants to design experiments that could be built for under $200 by high school students to eventually fly on a suborbital flight. In addition to being low cost, the winning entry also had to illustrate sound science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) principles. The competition was designed to inspire curiosity and create interest in STEM among classroom teachers and students.

DARPA is seeking ideas for an organization, business model and approach appropriate for a self-sustaining investment vehicle in support of the 100 Year StarshipTM Study. The 100 Year StarshipTM Study is a project seeded by DARPA to develop a viable and sustainable model for persistent, long-term, private-sector investment into the myriad of disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel practicable and feasible. The genesis of this study is to foster a rebirth of a sense of wonder among students, academia, industry, researchers and the general population to consider "why not" and to encourage them to tackle whole new classes of research and development related to all the issues surrounding long duration, long distance spaceflight. DARPA contends that the useful, unanticipated consequences of such research will have benefit to the Department of Defense and to NASA, and well as the private and commercial sector.

In fall 2011, NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL, mission is scheduled to launch twin spacecraft in tandem low-altitude orbits around the moon. The spacecraft will measure the moon's gravity in unprecedented detail. The mission will answer key questions about the moon's internal structure and give scientists a better understanding of how our solar system formed.

The satellites will carry special cameras, dubbed MoonKam, which stands for Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students. During the science phase of the mission, students will send in requests for the cameras to take photos of specific areas on the lunar surface. The images will be posted on the Internet, and students can refer to them as they study highlands, maria and other features of the moon's topography.

Register at the GRAIL MoonKam website to receive information and resources about this unique opportunity and stay up-to-date with GRAIL MoonKAM news and events.

Environmental Tectonics Corporation announces the formation of the NASTAR Foundation, a non-profit organization that fosters opportunities for people of all ages to experience the excitement of aerospace exploration.

Core focus areas of the NASTAR Foundation are to:

* Inspire, facilitate, and grow public awareness and participation in aviation and space activities
* Enhance workforce development through life-long learning opportunities
* Support innovative programs that improve science, technology, engineering mathematics (STEM) education
* Facilitate theoretical and applied research to meet the needs of the aerospace industry
* Advance health & safety through the creation of medical and training standards for the commercial space industry

Pro-football-player-turned-multi-mission-astronaut (an all-around Superman), Leland D. Melvin will meet and talk with museum-mentored high school students in a computer-generated, 3-D environment created by students on the Miami Science Museum's virtual world island in Second Life on Saturday, May 21st at 10 a.m. Using avatars that they have created, youth will interact with Mr. Melvin's avatar, who will talk about his passion for science, lend insight into his career path, and answer students' questions.

ROSES-11 Amendment 9: New proposal opportunities for Earth and space science experiments using short duration orbital platforms including CubeSats.

Short duration orbital platforms, such as CubeSats, may offer new capabilities for the conduct of NASA scientific research, education, and technology advancement. NASA has commenced a CubeSat Launch Initiative and begun regularly providing launch opportunities for CubeSats as secondary payloads on NASA launch vehicles.

Images were taken at approximately 64,000 ft. More to follow. More information at Questforstars.com. Additional photos are online here at Twitpic.

When Space Shuttle Endeavour makes its final trip into space it will be under the watchful eye of a high altitude balloon built and flown by students and volunteers from across the U.S. This will be the second flight of a camera-equipped payload, the first having been successfully flown during in February 2011 when images were obtained of Space Shuttle Discovery's launch from a vantage point of over 100,000 feet.

NASA has selected 16 payloads for flights on the commercial Zero-G parabolic aircraft and two suborbital reusable launch vehicles as part of the agency's Flight Opportunities Program. The flights provide opportunities for space technologies to be demonstrated and validated in relevant environments. In addition, these flights foster the development of the nation's commercial reusable suborbital transportation industry. The payloads and teams from ten states and the District of Columbia were selected from applications received in response to a NASA call issued last December. Of the payloads, 12 will ride on parabolic aircraft flights; two on suborbital reusable launch vehicle test flights; and two on both platforms.

A team from Rockwall-Heath High School in Heath, Tex., took first place at the ninth annual Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) finals Saturday afternoon, besting 99 teams from across the country to earn the title of national champion. Rockwall-Heath joined more than 600 participating teams in September 2010 on a journey that included rocketry design, simulated flights and test launches. Sponsored by the Aerospace Industries Association and the National Association of Rocketry, the contest encourages students to prepare for careers in the aerospace industry, which is working to boost the pipeline of students with science, technology, engineering and math skills. More

Airlines can not afford to fly with empty seats very often - and Space Shuttle orbiters can't leave valuable payload capacity "on the ground." Costing hundreds of millions of dollars per flight, NASA filled extra space in the shuttle's cargo bay using the Shuttle Small Payloads Project (SSPP). Hooks and power buses built into the shuttle bays allowed hundreds of small, modular experiments and technology test units to make the best use of missions that didn't need all 50,000 pounds of payload capacity. Between 1982 and 2003, more than 200 of these projects, including Get-Away Special (GAS) Cannisters, Hitchhikers and Spartans, flew in 108 missions.

The X PRIZE Foundation and the LEGO Group today announced MoonBots 2.0: A Google Lunar X PRIZE LEGO(R) MINDSTORMS(R) Challenge. This second annual contest will challenge teams of youth to design, program, and construct robots that perform simulated lunar missions similar to those required to win the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, a private race to the Moon designed to enable commercial exploration of space while engaging the global public. To further this purpose, the X PRIZE Foundation and the LEGO Group have partnered with WIRED magazine and FIRST robotics to offer a competition that will excite students and their families about the Moon, robotics,and team building.

"On June 4th and 5th, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, NASA, HP and the World Bank, through their initiative Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK), will bring together thousands of people in over 18 locations around the globe to create open solutions that can save lives and alleviate suffering. Random Hacks of Kindness is a community of innovation focused on developing practical open source solutions to disaster risk management and climate change adaptation challenges." More

April 1967: "Fifty Years of Data in One Week: Recently, Oran W. Nicks, NASA's Director of Lunar and Planetary Programs, remarked: "one astronomer has said that more information has been obtained in the first seven days of the Lunar Orbiter I project than in the last 50 years of study of the Moon." Truly, the matchless cooperation and inspired creativity exhibited in the design and construction of Lunar Orbiter spacecraft and, supporting equipment by NASA, the scientific community, and American industry has helped us to take those longer-strides that President Kennedy called for in 1961 when he first spoke of the Apollo landing of a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the earth."

More at the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project

Over the last two months, Yuri's Night has received hundreds of outstanding and inspiring space-themed videos, photos, and advertisements from around the world, and even more entries for our Global Sweepstakes. Without further ado, here are the winners and runners-up for each of our contests: More

"There has never been a robot competition like this. ESA is launching the Zero Robotics competition for students, asking them to create rival programs to control miniature satellites. The final tournament is set for the International Space Station! This fight is not about muscles and weapons, but about brains, intelligence and agility. These small, bowling-ball-sized spherical satellites are Spheres - Synchronised Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites. They are already used by NASA inside the Space Station to test sets of instructions for spacecraft performing autonomous rendezvous and docking." More

Innovate Our World, a Maryland educational nonprofit, has partnered with a leading Google Lunar X prize competitor, Astrobotic Technology of Pittsburgh, PA, to help student teams from two central Maryland high schools design payload concepts suitable for Astrobotic's planned 2013 Tranquility Trek mission to the Apollo 11 landing site. Using information about the lunar environment, previous missions to the Moon, basics of conceptual payload design, and local experts, students from Glenelg Country School in Ellicott City, Maryland and Oakland Mills High School in Columbia, Maryland proposed and designed two lunar payloads and will present their concepts to Astrobotic Technology on Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 1 p.m.

NASA announced partnerships with nine organizations that will help the agency implement its 2011 Summer of Innovation (SoI) education program. SoI uses NASA's out-of-this-world missions and technology programs to boost summer learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, particularly for underrepresented and underperforming students. The SoI 2011 partners are: