NASA Hack Space: June 2011

Don't Miss Out on Creating the Future, NASA TechBriefs

"Time is running out to enter the 2011 "Create the Future" Design Contest. Entries for the ninth annual contest are due by June 30th. Click here to submit your design idea. Sponsored by COMSOL, Creo - a PTC product, and Tech Briefs Media Group, the contest recognizes outstanding innovations in product design, awarding a Grand Prize of $20,000 USD. New this year is an Electronics Design category sponsored by Digi-Key Corp. Other categories are Consumer Products, Machinery & Equipment, Medical, Safety and Security, Sustainable Technologies, and Transportation. Entries can be submitted by individuals and/or teams in up to seven categories. The top entry in each category will receive a workstation computer from Hewlett-Packard. The top ten most popular entries, as voted on by site registrants, will get a 3D mouse from 3Dconnexion. All qualified entrants will be included in a drawing for NASA Tech Briefs T-shirts, and the winning entries will be featured in a special supplement to NASA Tech Briefs magazine. If you haven't submitted your design, you have until June 30th to visit and enter your great idea."

Titan 1 #61-4492 (apparently) arriving at NASA Ames Research Center Building N242 in 1969. Photo courtesy of Arthur LeBrun. Click on image to enlarge.

Building N242 as it appeared on 22 June 2011

As was noted in an earlier post, "The Origin of The Titan 1 at NASA Ames", "The Titan I was brought to Ames in 1969, along with an Atlas missile, and they were among the last items tested in the Structural Dynamics Laboratory (N242).  The SDL was built to study buffeting during atmospheric ascent." After posting a requests for information about Titan 1 #61-4492 on the missile_talk group, Arthur LeBrun was kind enough to send along 3 high resolution photos of the Titan and the Atlas rockets being moved at building N242.

Additional photos below.

NASA Inspector General Paul Martin today released a report that examines the $32.8 million re-siding project for Hangar One - one of the world's largest freestanding structures - at NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California. Hangar One, built in the 1930s to house the naval airship the USS Macon, covers approximately 8 acres and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. NASA acquired the hangar in 1994 as a result of the base realignment and closure process that involved Moffett Field, a Navy base adjoining Ames. More

A team at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville has developed a new website, IceHunters (, to challenge the public to discover Kuiper Belt objects in the outer solar system. It is hoped that among the myriad of new objects found by IceHunters there will be an object (or maybe even objects) with just the right orbit to carry it on to a rendezvous with NASA's New Horizons spacecraft.

NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are offering high school students the opportunity to design experiments that will be tested in space. The 2011 Zero Robotics challenge is a continuation and expansion of a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education program using bowling ball-sized spherical satellites aboard the International Space Station.

NASA issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) seeking proposals for mission concept studies of a solar electric propulsion system demonstration to test and validate key capabilities and technologies for future exploration missions. Multiple studies have shown the advantages of using solar electric propulsion to efficiently transport heavy payloads from low Earth orbit to higher orbits. This concept enables the delivery of payloads to low Earth orbit via conventional chemical rockets. The use of solar electric propulsion could then spiral payloads out to higher energy orbits, including Lagrange point one, a potential assembly point in space between Earth and the moon. This approach could facilitate missions to near Earth asteroids and other destinations in deep space.

Pentagon dreams of interstellar travel, AP

"This month 150 competitors answered the federal government's initial call for private sector cosmic ideas. Officials say some big names are among those interested. The plan is to make interstellar travel possible in about a century."

Could You Head Up DARPA's 100-Year Starship Program?, Universe Today

"Just like all the technology development that DARPA has done in the past which required only small initial investments but ultimately lead to things, such as the internet and GPS technology -- as well as NASA's investment in space travel which has spawned items we use every day here on Earth -- they believe a small investment now could lead to a big payoff for everyone in the future."

Let's Reconstitute Humans From Genomes Launched Into Space! and Other Ambitious Proposals for Galactic Colonization, Popular Science

"We have no idea what interstellar travel might look like in 100 years, of course -- just as Jules Verne could never have conceived of the technology required to really send humans to the moon when he wrote about it in 1865. But if we start now, we can make it happen, according to David Neyland, who directs DARPA's Tactical Technology Office."

DARPA, NASA seek ideas for starship travel, Computer World

"One hundred years is a pretty good period of time to inspire research to go out and tackle problems that will have you asking questions you didn't even know to ask at the beginning," said David Neyland, director of the Tactical Technology Office for DARPA, today. "The investment must have a long-term goal and ancillary benefits to the government and NASA."

Making Star Trek Reality: NASA Wants Ideas, Information Week

"This won't just be another space technology conference--we're hoping that ethicists, lawyers, science fiction writers, technologists, and others, will participate in the dialog to make sure we're thinking about all the aspects of interstellar flight," said David Neyland, director of DARPA's tactical technology office, in a statement. "This is a great opportunity for people with interesting ideas to be heard, which we believe will spur further thought, dreaming, and innovation."

Nerds -- Darpa Wants Your Advice on Interstellar Flight, Wired

"But technology isn't sufficient for an effort as epochal as reaching other galaxies. That's why they're holding an open symposium on the implications of interstellar travel in Orlando come September. And they want you to submit your thoughts."

NASA, DARPA want public input for futuristic space exploration ideas

"DARPA and NASA Ames Research Center today said they are soliciting abstracts, papers, topics and members for discussion panels, to be part of the 100 Year Starship Study Symposium to be held in Orlando, Fla., from Sept. 30 through Oct. 2."

DARPA Encourages Individuals and Organizations to Look to the Stars - Issues Call for Papers for 100 Year Starship Study Public Symposium

"A century can fundamentally change our understanding of our universe and reality. Man's desire to explore space and achieve the seemingly impossible is at the center of the 100 Year Starship Study Symposium. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA Ames Research Center (serving as execution agent), are working together to convene thought leaders dealing with the practical and fantastic issues man needs to address to achieve interstellar flight one hundred years from now."

Keith's note: Cool stuff. Yet NASA PAO makes zero mention of this event. I asked DARPA why this is the case in a telecon today. They said that this is because they have the lead on this and that NASA is doing the right thing by referring all inquiries to DARPA. I then asked if NASA will be allowed - encouraged - to openly participate in the conference that DARPA is holding in Orlando this Fall. DARPA said that NASA would be sending speakers, etc. DARPA is supposed to be posting a link to the proceedings of a workshop that they held with NASA a few months ago. When I asked if NASA would be asked to post a link to this report, DARPA did not know.

This is all rather baffling. The intent of this project is to spur imagination and new technologies such as life support, energy production etc. The DARPA folks are really good at this sort of thing and are being very inclusive. The cost is barely a blip on people's radar screens. This thing is bursting at the seams with potential spinoffs - and is the sort blue sky, what-if activity that you'd expect - hope - that a forward-thinking space agency would engage in - yet NASA HQ is going out of its way to ignore it. Go figure.

Odyssey Space Research, L.L.C., has announced a space-based, experimental app, dubbed SpaceLab for iOS, which will be used for space research aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The SpaceLab for iOS app will make its way to the ISS on an iPhone(R) 4 aboard the orbiter Atlantis on the space shuttle fleet's historic final mission, STS-135, and will remain there for several months for the ISS crew to conduct a series of experiments. Odyssey also announced it is bringing the astronauts' on-orbit experimental tasks down to earth for "terrestrial" consumers to enjoy via the SpaceLab for iOS app available today from the App Store

From: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Category: Science & Technology
Partners: TBD
Prizes: $1,500,000

To demonstrate a solar-powered exploration vehicle that can operate in darkness using its own stored energy. The prize purse is $1.5 million. Detailed rules and plans will be announced in the coming months.  The competition is expected to occur in 2011. More information at
NASA has not yet selected a partner to manage this challenge.   Updates will be posted at

Submission Period: Start: Sep 01, 2011

More information at

From: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Category: Science & Technology
Partners: Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Prizes: $1,500,000

To demonstrate a robot that can locate and retrieve geologic samples from a wide and varied terrain without human control. The prize purse is $1.5 million.  The detailed rules and competition plans will be announced in the coming months.  The competition is expected to occur in 2012.  More information at and

Submission Period: Start: Sep 01, 2011

Update: Draft Rules for Sample Return Robot Challenge have been posted for public comment at The public and potential competitors may provide input on the draft rules until June 17, 2011. After the 17th, the rules will be removed from the website, modified by the judging committee, and then final rules posted on or around June 28, 2011.

More information at

The NASA Minority Innovation Challenges Institute (MICI) is offering opportunities for minority serving institutions to apply for a $5,000 grant to enter the 2012 University Student Launch Initiative (USLI) or Lunabotics Mining Competition. Applications for both competitions are due June 30.

NASA Centennial Challenge to deliver two small satellites to Earth orbit in one week

From: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Category: Science & Technology
Partners: TBD
Prizes: $2,000,000

Objectives: 1) Safe, low-cost, small payload delivery system for frequent access to Earth orbit. 2) Innovations in propulsion and other technologies as well as operations and management for broader applications in future launch systems. 3) A commercial capability for dedicated launches of small satellites at a cost comparable to secondary payload launches -a potential new market with Government, commercial, and academic customers.

Deliver a payload with a mass of at least 1 kilogram and dimensions of at least 10x10x11 centimeters to Earth orbit, complete at least one orbit past the launch site and deliver payloads successfully at least two times in one week. The detailed rules and competition plans will be determined in the coming months, probably by early spring 2011.  The competition is expected to begin in 2011.  More information at

Submission Period: Start: Sep 01, 2011

More info at

The second series of flights in ESA's 'Fly Your Thesis!' programme concluded recently. After many months of preparation, the 10-day campaign culminated with four student experiments making three parabolic flights aboard the Airbus A300 Zero-G aircraft. Four student teams, from the UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, were selected for this rare opportunity to conduct their own experiments during ESA's 54th Parabolic Flight Campaign. The students arrived at the Novespace facilities in Bordeaux, France, on 16 May, and began to unpack their experiment racks. Over the next three days, they loaded the racks onto the aircraft and prepared for flight. Following a weekend break, the excitement mounted as they were given their flight suits. More

A new way to fly experiments takes off tomorrow with the first campaign dedicated to research in 'partial' gravity. Scientists on Europe's 'Zero-G' Airbus will experiment with gravity conditions like those on the Moon and Mars. The Joint European Partial-g Parabolic Flight campaign is an unprecedented research mission organised jointly by ESA and the French and German space agencies, CNES and DLR. The pilots will follow special parabolic paths to create Moon and Mars gravity conditions for at least 25 seconds each time. The final parabola will provide full weightlessness for the experiments. More

Payloads selected under this announcement will fly on aircraft that provide parabolic flight trajectories and on suborbital reusable launch vehicles (sRLVs) that are capable of flying to altitudes above 100 km, providing exposure to reduced gravity and near-zero gravity environments. In exchange for the opportunity to fly, the proposer will provide data, designs, processes, and other relevant information to help NASA accomplish its mission. NASA is presently not considering human-tended payloads to be flown on sRLVs, and there will not be any NASA sponsored participants on sRLV flights relating to this particular announcement. The payloads to be flown on sRLV flights must operate autonomously. More

Global Community Experts and Volunteers Tackle Development Problems Through Random Hacks of Kindness

"RHoK is embracing the concept of 'open innovation', the idea of bringing together thousands of people from around the world to crowd source some of our toughest challenges," said Deborah Diaz, Deputy Chief Information Officer at NASA. "NASA is excited about this critical step for the innovation community. This expansion of the RHoK mission will allow more creative interaction with NASA's open data to develop impactful solutions."

Competitors build life-saving apps for disasters and emergencies in global weekend challenge

"The teams at Random Hacks of Kindness Toronto (RHoK Toronto) are among some 1,000 people in 18 cities across 6 continents participating in a global weekend-long hacking marathon, or "hackathon," that unites technologists and humanitarian experts in an effort to solve pressing problems."

Hacking for a good cause, Canoe

"It's unbelievable that the teams are able to create these mobile apps and online tools in less than 48 hours," said Heather Leson, lead organizer of RHoK Toronto. "By dinner time Saturday, one team here had already programmed a working prototype! "The best part of Random Hacks of Kindness is that no matter which teams win Toronto's pitch competition, all the participants learn, mentor and share in their world. Plus, some projects will continue and maybe become fully built," she said."

Random Hacks of Kindness rocks the ATDC, Georgia Tech

"ATDC and the Georgia Tech Research Institute are co-sponsoring Random Hacks of Kindness Atlanta going on today at the ATDC. Over 40 developers, designers, project managers and subject matter experts convened on Friday. Seven pitches were made to the group for hacks to benefit humanity. Six of the projects were picked up and are all well underway and on track to be ready by the end of the 24-hour hackathon."

To support upcoming robotic and human exploration needs, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) anticipates that it and others will need to implement a unified architecture for internetworked communication and navigation services that span the solar system. Unlike the terrestrial internet, a future Solar System Internet (SSI) must be capable of accommodating intermittent connectivity, long or variable delays, asymmetric data rates, and high data loss rates. The underlying capability that enables the SSI is commonly referred to as "Disruption-Tolerant Networking" (DTN). The SSI will employ both opportunistic and scheduled communications paths to optimize routing among nodes of the SSI, while maintaining low communications overhead and data processing load.


Currently, NASA has several ways the public can learn about ISS sighting opportunities, including NASA Sky Watch. However, NASA's websites do not disseminate this information to the public- the public must seek it out proactively instead.

NASA seeks to increase public awareness of the ISS, its visibility, and mission by making ISS sighting information, including personalized notifications, readily available to the general public in an easily accessible and understandable way. To that end, NASA seeks to collaborate with a domestic entity, on an unfunded basis, to support an ISS sighting notification tool.

Specifically, NASA seeks submissions for developing and releasing a tool to notify users from the general public, via email or Short Messenger Service (SMS) texts, when the ISS will pass overhead (i.e., when an ISS "sighting" will occur in the user's vicinity). Possible features include options (configured via a website) to: obtain location from IP geolocation, smartphone device geolocation, or user-entered location; specify time periods for notification (i.e., evening or morning passes only); specify minimum elevation (higher elevations are necessary to be seen by city dwellers); and specify minimum pass duration. Other features may involve depiction of ISS data integrated into existing presentation frameworks (e.g., attitude dependent skymaps on smartphones).


Thirty-six teams of undergraduate and graduate students from around the globe tested their robot designs in a challenge at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida from May 26-28. During the competition, teams remotely controlled excavators, called lunabots, to determine which could collect the most simulated lunar soil during a specified timeframe. The first place mining competition team was Laurentian University in Ontario, Canada. The Joe Kosmo Award for Excellence winner was the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

The three competing universities are (1) Oklahoma State University; (2) University of Maryland; and (3) University of Wisconsin. All three have been in a year-long design, build, and test curriculum that produced this product. It has been a great inspiration and learning experience for these teams. Please join us for the competition. NASA JSC will have each team set-up, deploy, evaluate, and take down 3 consecutive weeks.

Media coverage time slots:

- Oklahoma State (6-10 Jun 2011): 9 Jun (Thursday) 2:00 - 4:00 pm Media Event
- University of Maryland (13-17 Jun 2011): 16 Jun (Thursday) 2:00 - 4:00 pm Media Event
- University of Wisconsin-Madison (20-24 Jun 2011): 23 Jun (Thursday) 2:00 - 4:00 pm Media Event


- X-Hab sites: 2011-X Loft :
- 2012:
- HDU Public site: