Recently in the SPHERES Category


Playing With SPHERES in Space

The free-flying robots were equipped with stereoscopic goggles called the Visual Estimation and Relative Tracking for Inspection of Generic Objects, or VERTIGO, to enable the SPHERES to perform relative navigation based on a 3D model of a target object.

SPHERES in Space

In the International Space Station's Kibo laboratory, NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins, Expedition 37 flight engineer, conducts a session with a pair of bowling-ball-sized free-flying satellites known as Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES.

Progress and Future of MIT SPHERES

A presentation was made recently at the Future In-Space Operations (FISO) Working Group Telecon titled "SPHERES Overview" by Dr. Alvar Saenz-Otero, MIT SPHERES Lead Scientist. SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellites) provide researchers with a long term, replenishable, and upgradable testbed for the validation of high risk metrology, control, and autonomy technologies for use in formation flight and autnomous docking, rendezvous and reconfiguration algorithms.

Space Droids Calling

Secondary-school students can play the ultimate robot game: the annual Zero Robotics tournament turns the International Space Station into a playing field for European students to control minisatellites with self-developed software.

NASA Solicitation: SPHERES INSPIRE II

"NASA Headquarters has a requirement for support services, algorithm development, hardware development and integration, and the execution of specific Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)-requested technology development and science experimentation based on the unique SPHRERES facility onboard the International Space Station (ISS). NASA Headquarters intends to purchase these services from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) sole source. MIT Space Systems Laboratory is uniquely qualified to perform these supporting services, algorithm development, hardware development and integration, and to enable the execution of specific DARPA-requested technology development and science experimentation because they created the SPHERES facility and hold proprietary ownership of the date. MIT has proprietary rights to the software components of the SPHERES facility and is uniquely qualified to integrate the Universal Docking Ports (UDPs) and Robotic Arms, and to expand the software components to enable this hardware to be used both by DARPA researchers and Zero Robotics Competition." More

Robot Spheres in Zero-Gravity Action

"A squadron of mini satellites on the International Space Station will wake up this Friday to obey remote commands from students across Europe. Up until now the students have run their code in a virtual world, but this Friday the high-school finals will be held using the real thing: robotic droids on the International Space Station. This year's RetroSpheres scenario involves using the Spheres, which move using jets of compressed gas, to push simulated space debris out of orbit. Six alliances made of European finalists from Italy, Germany, Spain and Portugal will confront each other and see their computer code operate robots in space for the first time. ESA astronaut Andre Kuipers will provide commentary from ESA's space research and technology centre, ESTEC, in the Netherlands, as NASA's Kevin Ford and Tom Marshburn set up the games on the Station. Over 130 students will be at ESTEC with Andre to learn more about robotics and run their code on the Spheres floating in the Space Station." More

2012 Zero Robotics High School Tournament

"TopCoder(R), Inc., the world's largest competitive Community of digital creators, today announced that the next Zero Robotics High School Tournament will take place this Fall, offering high school students the opportunity to design experiments that will be tested in space. The popular Zero Robotics program, created by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), NASA, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Space Systems Laboratory and its partners, challenges high school student teams to write their own algorithms to fly the Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES. The competition starts online where teams compete to solve an annual challenge guided by mentors. Students can create, edit, share, save, simulate and submit code, all from a web browser. After several phases of virtual competition, finalists are selected to compete in a live championship aboard the International Space Station!" More.

SPHERES Zoom Around the Space Station

Photo: Zero Robotics (SPHERES ZR) Flying Inside the Space Station

"Two bowling-ball-sized free-flying satellites called Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites Zero Robotics (SPHERES ZR) are pictured during a test session in the Kibo laboratory of the International Space Station."

SPHERES operates inside the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM). As shown in the diagram below, we've defined a JEM coordinate system with X forward, Y starboard, Z toward the deck, and the origin in the middle of the module. For our test, Expedition 29 Commander Mike Fossum velcroed the smartphone to the -X face of the sphere and placed the sphere at the origin of the coordinate system. From a laptop, he ran a program on the sphere to translate it one meter to +X and back to center, one meter to +Y and back, and one meter to +Z and back. Then the sphere made a full rotation about each of the X, Y, and Z axes.

Students Write Code For Space

Students Across the US Write Code to Control Zero Gravity Satellites on ISS

"Twenty seven teams of high school students from across the United States competed in the Zero Robotics SPHERES Challenge which took place at MIT in Cambridge, MA and aboard the International Space Station (ISS) this week. "Team Rocket" from River Hill High School, Maryland, "Storming Robots" from Storming Robots LLC, of New Jersey and "SPHEREZ of Influence" from Rockledge High School, Florida posted the best cumulative score out of 9 multi team 'alliances' seeing their code tested in space by real astronauts."

Bot Battle in Space

Spheres Final Robot competition in Zero-gravity

"School teams from Europe and America have been commanding robots competing in the Spheres ZeroRobotics tournament in space. The arena: 400 km above Earth on the International Space Station. Student teams could send a single piece of instruction software to control the small robotic 'Spheres'. The goal of the tournament was to earn points through masterful operation via guidance and navigation control algorithms as well as choosing the best tactics to win the game."

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.

"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

NASA and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass., have selected 24 high schools to participate in a new science, technology, engineering, and math education program. The teams will design software to program small satellites aboard the International Space Station. The Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, and Reorient Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES, are three volley ball-sized spherical satellites that fly inside the space station's cabin to test advanced maneuvers for spacecraft, like formation flying and autonomous rendezvous and docking. Each contains its own power, propulsion, computing, and navigation equipment.

SPHERES Update

"NASA ARC has a requirement for engineering support services for the transition of technical and operational material and knowledge from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to NASA ARC for sustaining engineering and operation of the Synchronized Position Hold Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) hardware and software systems. NASA desires to transform the SPHERES small satellite systems resident on International Space Station (ISS) in orbit, into a National Laboratory Facility for use by a wide variety of researchers and educators. To do this, NASA HQs has directed NASA ARC to work with the SPHERES systems developer, MIT, to quickly become capable of maintaining, scheduling, and operating the SPHERES flight and ground systems." More

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.

"NASA/HQ has a requirement for Support Services for the ZERO Robotics competition. The ZERO Robotics competition enables high-school students to participate in the SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold Engage Re-orient Experimental Satellite) program by writing their own algorithms to solve a problem provided by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) team. The pilot program involves two high schools that will compete against each other during a test session that will be conducted aboard the ISS during the winter of 2009-2010. The contractor will support the pilot program to completion and evaluate its results, setting clear and realistic objectives for a potential national program to start in the Fall of 2010 or 2011. The Government intends to purchase the services from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). MIT is uniquely qualified to perform this pilot program and provide support engineering because they created the SPHERES program and hold proprietary ownership of the data." More