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NASA Hack Space: April 2013



Fourteen teams from across the country and around the globe are perfecting their hardware and software to compete for $1.5 million in prize money at NASA's 2013 Sample Return Robot Challenge, the latest competition of the agency's Centennial Challenges program. The event will take place in June at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Mass.


NASA today declared the winners of the 20th NASA Great Moonbuggy Race at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. Team 1 from Teodoro Aguilar Mora Vocational High School of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, won first place in the high school division; racers from the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao claimed the college-division trophy.

NASA, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. State Department and Nike have issued a challenge to identify 10 game-changing innovations that could enable fabric systems to enhance global economic growth, drives human prosperity and replenishes the planet's resources. The challenge is open through July 15 and seeks creative innovations in the materials from which fabrics are made, with a focus on positive social and environmental impact in space and on Earth. Ten innovators will be selected to present their fabrics solutions at the LAUNCH: System Challenge 2013 forum, which NASA will host Sept. 26-28 at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.


Driven by design software, 3-D printers churn out made-to-order objects on a desktop. A myriad of materials from polymers to metal alloys enable virtually anyone to manufacture almost anything they can imagine, including glow-in-the-dark pens, Lego-like building blocks, cogs and gears, electrical circuits and jewelry. Advanced applications produce living tissue for replacement organs in the body, intricate engine designs and parts for spacecraft during deep space missions.

Sol is the world's first interplanetary weather app. The mobile and tablet application integrates weather data from the Curiosity rover on Mars with weather data from here on Earth. The project aims to provide users with a sleek, visually appealing weather app that also incorporates information about the conditions and temperatures on Mars.

Also, a second companion app was created to augment the Sol experience. The augmented reality application offers two scenes for users to experience on Mars. The first scene allows users to a control a 3D version of the Curiosity rover as it rolls across the planet and through weather events, like a dust storm. In this scene, facts about Mars and weather on the planet appear as the rover moves around. The second scene is a 3D version of Mars that allows users to spin the planet around and read facts about the planet.

It was rockets ready, set, soar April 21 at the 2012-13 NASA Student Launch Projects challenge. More than 600 students, representing 56 middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities in 26 states, launched rockets of their own design -- complete with working science or engineering payloads -- at Bragg Farms in Toney, Ala. The students vied to see whose rocket could come closest to the 1-mile altitude goal and safely return its onboard science or engineering payload to Earth. Fifty-four teams took part, though six faced mechanical or technical issues and did not launch. Ten preliminary awards were presented. The grand prize -- $5,000 from ATK Aerospace Group of Magna, Utah -- will be awarded May 17 after final post-flight analysis and review are complete. This is the sixth year ATK has sponsored Student Launch Projects.

Three smartphones destined to become low-cost satellites rode to space Sunday aboard the maiden flight of Orbital Science Corp.'s Antares rocket from NASA's Wallops Island Flight Facility in Virginia. SpaceRef has been provided with new details and images.

International Space Apps Challenge, NASA

"The International Space Apps Challenge is an international mass collaboration focused on space exploration that takes place over 48-hours in 80 cities around the world (in 42 countries) on the weekend of April 20-21, 2013. The event embraces collaborative problem solving with a goal of producing relevant open-source solutions to address global needs applicable to both life on Earth and life in space. NASA is leading this global collaboration along with more then 150 partner organizations."

Join The Movement: International Space Apps Challenge, ESA

"In April, you are invited to join thousands of enthusiasts to invent and create applications to help space exploration and improve life on Earth at the International Space Apps Challenge. During this app-jam, participants are challenged to use freely available data and rework them for new purposes or present them in new ways."


NASA will host a one-day event for 30 social media followers on May 22, 2013, at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, home of Mission Control. The NASA Social will give guests an opportunity to learn more about the International Space Station, the scientific research conducted aboard, and the unique purpose-built facilities on the ground that enable this research. Participants will also have a chance to ask questions of space station management and scientists on the upcoming mission.

Engineers at NASA Ames Research Center have begun experimenting with 3D printers for some spacecraft design. CNET's Sumi Das visits one of its newly open workshops -- filled with state of the art equipment.


Kentucky Space LLC today announced the creation of Space Tango, one of the nation's first business accelerators specifically for space enterprises and entrepreneurs. Space Tango is an early-stage venture fund, business accelerator and community of entrepreneurs for space-driven startups, with the goal of assisting businesses in developing innovations, novel applications and diverse markets. The global space marketplace is now poised for significant growth and opportunity. Unprecedented access to space coupled with the rapid advancement of micro technologies and other innovations are combining to create a dynamic space industry. The 2013 report from the Space Foundation noted that "The global space economy grew by nearly 7% in 2012 reaching a new record of $304.31 billion. As in previous years, the vast majority of this growth was in the commercial sector, which now constitutes nearly three-quarters of the space economy, with government making up the rest".

The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit organization promoting and managing research on board the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, showcased its new education website, "CASIS Academy," over the weekend at the National Science Teachers Association conference in San Antonio, Texas.

For a second year, NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate is seeking proposals for suborbital technology payloads and spacecraft capability enhancements that could help revolutionize future space missions. Selected technologies will travel to the edge of space and back on U.S. commercial suborbital vehicles and platforms, providing opportunities for testing before they are sent to work in the unforgiving environment of space.


High school students from 8 different ESA Member States have completed the third European Cansat Launch Campaign, which was held in The Netherlands for the first time. 15 student teams from across Europe participated in the four-day event. Preparations for the flight campaign began soon after the teams arrived at the Delft University of Technology on 10 April, when technical inspections were made to ensure that each of the CanSats could be integrated in the rockets.

NASA's Office of Education has awarded a cooperative agreement to the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) to support the agency's education internship programs. The award's value is estimated at $3 million and $10 million per year, depending on options. The period of performance will not exceed five years. The agreement covers NASA's Minority University Research and Education Program (MUREP) and the Space Grant Program, which provide internship opportunities to qualified STEM students and educators.

Four teams of high school students received top honors at the 2013 Innovation Summit, the final round of competition for the 2012-2013 Spirit of Innovation Challenge. Their efforts to create a product or service to benefit humanity earned winning teams a total of more than $50,000 in cash prizes and awards. The Conrad Foundation's Spirit of Innovation Challenge celebrates the life and entrepreneurial spirit of astronaut Pete Conrad, third man to walk on the Moon. Presented by Lockheed Martin and Battelle, the annual program is a multi-phase, business and technical plan competition, free and open to students ages 13 - 18 from around the world. During the course of seven months, students use science, technology, engineering and math skills along with creativity and collaboration and entrepreneurship to develop innovative products and services in one of four categories: Aerospace and Aviation, Cybertechnology and Security, Energy and Environment, and Health and Nutrition.


An infrared sensor that could improve NASA's future detecting and tracking of asteroids and comets has passed a critical design test. The test assessed performance of the Near Earth Object Camera (NEOCam) in an environment that mimicked the temperatures and pressures of deep space. NEOCam is the cornerstone instrument for a proposed new space-based asteroid-hunting telescope. Details of the sensor's design and capabilities are published in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Optical Engineering. The sensor could be a vital component to inform plans for the agency's recently announced initiative to develop the first-ever mission to identify, capture and relocate an asteroid closer to Earth for future exploration by astronauts.


On the 40th anniversary of the famous 'Blue Marble' photograph taken of Earth from space, Planetary Collective presents a short film documenting astronauts' life-changing stories of seeing the Earth from the outside - a perspective-altering experience often described as the Overview Effect.

NASA and over 150 partner organizations worldwide will be hosting the International Space Apps Challenge on April 20-21, 2013. The International Space Apps Challenge is a technology development event during which citizens from around the world work together to solve challenges relevant to improving life on Earth and in space.

NASA and its partners have released 50 challenges for the second International Space Apps Challenge. Participants are encouraged to develop software, hardware, data visualization, and mobile/web applications that will contribute to space exploration missions and help improve life on Earth.


Few people know this but NASA actually has a warp drive program underway at Johnson Space Center. A recent article on the program created some open-ended questions that needed to be answered. The article seemed to imply that Harold White (who heads the project) had signed non-disclosure agreements such that he could not discuss public-funded research. That's a little unusual for NASA. So I sent a series of questions to Harold White and NASA PAO.

Dr. Andrew Rader has outlined plans to conduct a student's science experiment if he wins a suborbital contest. Recently, along with numerous radio and television appearances, Andrew has been invited to speak with students at schools across Canada to spark interest in science and engineering. "Students are excited - I've already received dozens of highly creative experiment ideas."

Copenhagen Suborbitals is just weeks away from our first actively guided rocket flight. The Sapphire rocket has a liftoff mass of 200 kg, and stands six meters tall. Its nitrous oxide / polyurethane HATV type hybrid, controlled by servo operated copper jet vanes in the rocket jet. These powerful motors have a flawless record. The instrumentation and payload is now passing parachute separation tests - and the two test performed confirmed our expectations for the parachute system. The purpose of Copenhagen Suborbitals is to launch a human into space. You can god to space with a passive stable finn only rocket - but the initial acceleration needed to stay on course is too high for humans to endure. Therefore CS must master active guidance. The fist and last purpose of the Sapphire mission is to test active guidance.


"Registration is open for teams seeking to compete in the $1.5 million energy storage competition known as the Night Rover Challenge, sponsored by NASA and the Cleantech Open of Palo Alto, Calif. To win, a team must demonstrate a stored energy system that can power a simulated solar-powered exploration vehicle that can operate through multiple cycles of daylight and extended periods of darkness. "The goal of the Night Rover Challenge is to stimulate innovations in energy storage technologies of value in extreme space environments, such as the surface of the moon, or for electric vehicles and renewable energy systems here on Earth," said Michael Gazarik, NASA's associate administrator for Space Technology at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "NASA wants this challenge to generate new ideas that will allow planetary rovers the ability to take on a night shift, and possibly create new energy storage technologies for applications of benefit here on our home planet." More

"The International Space Apps Challenge is an international mass collaboration focused on space exploration that takes place over 48-hours in 80 cities around the world (in 42 countries) on the weekend of April 20-21, 2013. The event embraces collaborative problem solving with a goal of producing relevant open-source solutions to address global needs applicable to both life on Earth and life in space. NASA is leading this global collaboration along with more then 150 partner organizations." More

"NASA has selected 295 research and technology proposals from 216 American small businesses for negotiations that may lead to contract awards worth a combined $38.7 million. The proposals are part of NASA's Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program. SBIR addresses specific technology gaps in agency missions while striving to complement other agency research investments. Numerous NASA efforts, including modern air traffic control systems, Earth-observing spacecraft, human spaceflight and the International Space Station, and NASA's Mars rovers have benefited from the program. The STTR program additionally facilitates the transfer of technology developed by a research institution through the entrepreneurship of a small business." More

"Icarus Interstellar today announced that registration is open for Starship Congress, the first-ever international assemblage of recognized interstellar space proponents. The Congress will be held August 15-18, 2013 at the Anatole Hilton in Dallas, Texas. Starship Congress will host interstellar organizations and distinguished speakers of the interstellar community. Registration for Starship Congress is now open on the Icarus Interstellar website. A call-for-papers is to be made in April with selected presenter's papers to be published in a special issue of British Interplanetary Society. Schedule for the 4-day event is included below here. Presentations are by invitation but Icarus Interstellar welcomes queries from interested parties and individuals." More

"The launch service shall be capable of delivering a total mass of between 15kg-150kg to a minimum orbital altitude of 425km with a launch inclination from 0 to 98 degrees. The contractor will be responsible for performance of launch vehicle advance planning and analysis; as well as design, development, production, integration, and testing required to provide the launch services appropriate to transport these payloads to a desired orbit. There are multiple CubeSat configurations based on the 1U form factor such as a 2U (22cm x 10cm x 10cm), 3U (34cm x 10cm x 10cm), 6U (34cm x 20cm x 10cm) etc. The minimum launch service shall have the capability to launch three Government provided (3 - 3U) Cubesat-Class payloads, with the offeror determining the total number or mass that the launch vehicle will be able to accommodate. Launch is anticipated in the 2016 timeframe, however it could be earlier if the provider is ready. The launch service provider will be responsible for obtaining a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) license and securing any necessary Range assets for the launch." More

"In April, you are invited to join thousands of enthusiasts to invent and create applications to help space exploration and improve life on Earth at the International Space Apps Challenge. During this app-jam, participants are challenged to use freely available data and rework them for new purposes or present them in new ways. Can you return the Mars Curiosity rover to Earth, visualise Solar flares that are invisible to the naked eye, catch a meteor, improve air traffic control or print an ESA satellite? One of last year's winners aims to take data from Earth observation satellites, such as the local weather and soil type, to suggest which fruit and vegetables will grow best in your garden. It will even remind you when to plant seeds and when to harvest. Taking place over 48 hours beginning 20 April, participants will share ideas and skills and work on creating the applications. Everyone from designers and mathematicians to visionaries and coders are welcome to join and bring their skills to the hackathon." More

"This solicitation seeks unique, disruptive, or transformational space technologies that have the potential to lead to dramatic improvements at the system level - performance, weight, cost, reliability, operational simplicity or other figures of merit associated with space flight hardware or missions. Although progress under an award may be incremental, the projected impact at the system level must be substantial and clearly defined. This solicitation is not seeking literature searches, survey activities or incremental improvements of an existing technology. This solicitation exclusively seeks proposals that are responsive to one of the five topics described: Asteroid Detection, Remote Characterization, and Impact Avoidance; Technologies for In Situ Instruments; Optical Coatings and Thin-film Physics; Oxygen Recovery Technology; and Improved Understanding of Cryogenic Propellant Physics. NASA anticipates addressing other areas/topics in future Space Technology Research Opportunities solicitations." More

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Ames Research Center (ARC) is releasing a Cooperative Agreement Notice (CAN) for Smallsat Technology Partnerships in support of the Small Spacecraft Technology Program in the Space Technology Mission Directorate. Through this CAN, NASA is seeking proposals from colleges and universities across the United States to develop and/or demonstrate new technologies and capabilities for small spacecraft in collaboration with NASA. Projects may be technology development or development of spacecraft or payloads for suborbital, balloon or orbital space flights. NASA intends to enter into cooperative agreements with institutions for selected projects." More

"Hundreds of students from across the country will meet May 11 at Great Meadow in The Plains, VA to decide the winner of the world's largest student rocket contest. The Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) has been captivating students nationwide for the past decade, encouraging them to advance their education and pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). In a year of record turnout, attracting 725 teams, only the top 100 will proceed to compete in TARC's final fly-off. The top 100 teams represent 29 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands and a diverse cross-section of American youth. Teams include students from urban and rural America, all-girls teams, a record number of 4-H teams and a team comprised entirely of Civil Air Patrol volunteers." More

"The 2014 Night Rover Challenge is scheduled and teams that wish to compete may register. Centennial Challenges is a program of prize competitions to stimulate innovation in technologies of interest and value to NASA and the nation. The 2014 Night Rover Challenge is a prize competition designed to encourage development of new energy storage technologies or application of existing storage technologies in unique ways for application in extreme space environments. Competitors will need to demonstrate high energy density storage systems (>330w-hr/kg) that would enable a rover to operate throughout lunar darkness cycles. Cleantech Open of Palo Alto, California administers the Challenge for NASA. NASA is providing the $1,500,000 prize purse." More

"TopCoder(R), Inc., the world's largest open innovation platform and competitive community of 470,000 digital creators, today announced two new marathon competitions hosted through the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL) that will look to continue delivery of output-based high value returns in the most cost-effective and measurable software development process currently available to government agencies. The competitions will center on NASA's famous space robot Robonaut 2 aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The initial challenge will focus on enabling Robonaut 2 to interact visually with different types of input devices the astronauts use on the Space Station." More

"The eXploration Habitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge is a university-level competition designed to engage and retain students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) disciplines. College and university students now have a chance to help design a deep-space habitat. The Exploration Habitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge, first offered in 2010, is now accepting applications for the 2014 challenge. But they need to act fast. May 1, 2013 is the deadline for student teams to submit their plans for designing, manufacturing, assembling and developing test systems for use on NASA's deep-space habitat prototype." More

"The latest in cutting-edge manufacturing is already making a significant impact in the future of space exploration. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif., the prime contractor for the J-2X engine, recently used an advanced 3-D printing process called Selective Laser Melting, or SLM, to create an exhaust port cover for the engine. SLM uses lasers to fuse metal dust into a specific pattern to build the cover, which is essentially a maintenance hatch for the engine's turbo pumps." More