Showing posts with label NASA KSC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NASA KSC. Show all posts

Friday, May 24, 2013

Project Morpheus Tether Test 21

This was "the first tether test of the v1.5b," Project Morpheus Bravo vehicle. The video runs about 29 seconds.

"We had a good ignition and climb. However, as the vehicle attempted to stabilize itself it exceeded the internally set boundary limit causing a soft abort."

Monday, February 11, 2013

Morpheus and ALHAT teams, still hard at work

The Project Morpheus team has been hard at work preparing for this year’s series of tests and building the new Morpheus 1.5B and 1.5C vehicles.  "We have been busy assembling the vehicle structures, wiring in all of our sensors, running integrated tests, continuing engine firings at Stennis Space Center, and more."

Before and after the catastrophic loss of what had been the primary unmanned Morpheus lander test platform, testing the next generation (and the generation after) fueling, hazard avoidance and guidance technologies at the Johnson and Kennedy Space centers. Built by Armadillo Aerospace with the aim of developing a cutting edge vehicle for soft-landing 500 kg on the Moon, this platform was lost following failure of a real-time Inertia Measurement Unit (IMU) last August.
The Morpheus and ALHAT teams are now a combined team, which enables a more integrated series of tests as we prepare for future flight tests.  One of these integrated tests took place at Kennedy Space Center in December.  We used a Langley Research Center Huey helicopter as a stand-in for Morpheus.  We mounted the ALHAT sensors under the belly of the helicopter pointed in the direction of the helicopter motion.  Other components such as sensor electronics, Morpheus flight computer, real-time communications equipment and support hardware were placed in the passenger/cargo area.  This allowed both onboard and ground support teams to monitor progress in real-time.  The helicopter was  flown repeatedly on Morpheus-type trajectories towards the hazard field.

Read the report HERE.

Moving Forward, Not Starting Over

"A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for."
-John Augustus Shedd

On Thursday we made our second free flight attempt with the Morpheus prototype vehicle.  As you can see in the video below, shortly after liftoff we experienced a hardware failure and lost the vehicle.  The root cause is still under investigation,  but what we do know is that at the start of  ascent we lost data from the Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) that supplies navigation updates to the flight computer.  Without this measurement the vehicle is blind and does not know which way it is pointing or accelerating.  Since this data is needed to maintain stable flight, the vehicle could not determine which way was up and began to tumble and  impacted the ground about 50 feet from the launch site.  No one was injured, no property was damaged besides the vehicle and we have been able to recover significant data, which will give us greater insight into the source of the problem.

We have said it before and will continue to say, this is why we test.  We have already learned a lot from this test and will continue to learn as we recover data and evaluate the hardware.   No test article should be too precious to lose.  A spare vehicle was planned from the start and is just a few months away from completion.  The basic development approach is to quickly build, test and redesign the hardware to achieve many design cycles and maturity before building flight articles.

Read the report HERE.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Alabama Lunabotics sweeps KSC competition

Alabama Lunabotics, a team of students from The University of Alabama and Shelton State Community College, won the top prize in the NASA Lunabotics Mining Competition at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The week-long contest included more than 50 teams from universities around the world.

On May 26, the last day of the contest, NASA officials announced Alabama Lunabotics notched the most points in the competition, winning the Joe Kosmo Award for Excellence. The team also won first place for its presentation and demonstration, first place for team spirit and second place in the mining portion of the competition.

In all, Alabama Lunabotics won $8,000 to use for next year’s competition, and NASA will pay for this year’s team and faculty adviser to participate at one of NASA’s remote research and technology tests. They also received an invitation to watch a spacecraft launch at Kennedy Space Center as guests of NASA.

The group was led by experienced students marking their second or third year on the team. In 2010, the first year NASA held the competition, Alabama Lunabotics placed sixth, and, in 2011, the team placed fourth, said Dr. Kenneth Ricks, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and the team’s faculty adviser.

“The students on this UA team are very talented engineers with competition experience,” Ricks said. “That experience of being at the competition before is very valuable, so they knew what had to be done to be competitive.”

Excerpt from full article, HERE.

Friday, May 11, 2012

University of Alabama team readies for 3rd NASA Lunabotics competition at KSC, May 21-27

Early strength testing "using last year's wheels on a new base."
Alabama Lunabotics, a team of students from The University of Alabama and Shelton State Community College, will compete in the 3rd annual NASA Lunabotics Mining Competition, May 21-27, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Competing against 66 teams from all over the world, the University of Alabama team builds on past solid showings, placing fourth last year. 

Their remote-operated robot is designed to collect at least 10 kilograms of a lunar regolith simulant in 10 minutes. As Apollo astronauts learned, talcum-grained, but highly abrasive lunar dust (and NASA's proxies) presents an immediate engineering test

Contest judging will be based on their vehicle's weight, the rate and weight of material excavated, moved and redeposited, and bandwidth used in teleoperation. Teams will be judged on its engineering write-ups and less tangible qualities such as "community outreach, team spirit and the multidisciplinary level of the team."

"We decided to do a complete re-design of our robot because of the change in dimensions after last year's competition," writes the team on their website. "Our competition robot from last year is used as an educational tool. We carried several of the concepts over from last year, one of them being a sweeping wheel design."

One of the problems with driving on an extremely powdery and soft surface like the moon is gaining traction. 

Conventional steering styles dig into the driving surface while turning. Skid-steering, like a tank, is "exceptionally bad with this, especially when your vehicle has a large mass." 

Because the NASA Lunabotics competition revolves around mining and transporting, teams are guaranteed "high mass scenarios." The Alabama Lunabotics teams has chosen to operate each wheel independently, and to sweep them to turn in one spot, or move sideways, while maintaining a "positive driving style."

Alabama Lunabotics sneak-preview video spotlighting "The Base"

Thursday, February 23, 2012

UNH 'LunaCats' prowl space, children's museum

UNH student Jaron Peters (right) helps Eko Cronin-
Deausealt, 5, drive a lunar robot at the Children's
Museum of New Hampshire in Dover, Monday, Feb. 20

[EJ Hersom/Fosters Daily Democrat].
Andrea Bulfinch
Fosters Daily Democrat

Dover, New Hampshire: Children were treated to an out-of-this-world engineering experience by members of the University of New Hampshire lunar robotics team, LunaCats, who demonstrated one of their creations at the Dover Childrens Museum.

The LunaCats design and build robotic excavators intended to mine lunar soil for a NASA competition. This year's team is comprised of seniors in the mechanical engineering, computer sciences, and computer engineering majors. As part of the competition, NASA mandates each team create an outreach program, benefiting the local community and the demonstration at the children's museum was part of that.

"I think the best part is that it's hands-on," Camille Poulin, student, said as she stood Monday afternoon surrounded by parents, children and her peers all watching as youngsters took turns operating the machine, the end result of a yearlong project.

The first half of the school year consists of designing and analyzing the excavator. The second half is dedicated to building and testing the machine.

Students brought last year's model to the museum on Monday and said they are completely redesigning the bot for 2012.

The seven students fund raise to both create the excavator and enter the competition, coordinating everything from funding, to the initial design, to travel to compete. They'll also complete a systems engineering paper and a presentation before NASA officials. The winning team will be awarded a $5,000 scholarship.

Sixty teams from around the world compete on May 21 through 26 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Last year, the 2010-2011 UNH LunaCats team was the first team from UNH to compete in the NASA Lunabotics Mining Competition. The team was unable to finish the competition due to an unforeseen mechanical failure involving the drive train, which caused limited mobility.

The LunaCats design and build robotic excavators intended to mine lunar soil for a NASA competition. This year's team is comprised of seniors in the mechanical engineering, computer sciences, and computer engineering majors. As part of the competition, NASA mandates each team create an outreach program, benefiting the local community and the demonstration at the children's museum was part of that.

Read the full article HERE.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Desert RATS pack for Arizona

Mike Miller demonstrates one of the backpacks his team designed and built for the Desert Research and Technology Studies (Desert Rats) project's upcoming field test in Arizona. Miller led the team that developed the backpacks. The backpacks are equipped with GPS antennas, communications components and cameras. They are meant to show researchers what an astronaut might need to explore an alien world and give designers a look at the hardships the equipment could encounter [NASA/Frank Michaux].

Steven Siceloff
NASA Kennedy Space Center

"A team of astronauts, scientists and engineers from several NASA centers head to Arizona's desert each year to simulate the unique environment of space explorers. The effort is meant to test equipment and people to find out the best way to explore another world.

"Kennedy's engineers develop the communications, navigation and data transmission networks needed, a task that includes a semitrailer set up as a mission operations center, a command vehicle, a specialized RV, a pair of Humvees plus enough communications gear to set up a wireless network for a small crew of explorers to talk back to "Earth" like they will from other planets.

"Equipment from other centers, such as a pair of large rovers, has to work on the same communications network. The rovers, for example, relay the signals from the backpacks to the mission operations center.

"Although the area they test in is not a perfect stand-in for the moon or Mars in terms of having breathable air and normal gravity, the site does a pretty good job of isolating the participants, said Mike Miller, communications research engineer at Kennedy.

"We have to take everything to the site, just like we will to other planet surfaces," Miller said."

Read the full story, HERE.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Habitat Demonstration Unit: An Overview

Figure 1 from "The Habitat Demonstration Unit Project Overview," Illustration of the latest Constellation Lunar Scenario 12.1 "Excursion Configuration." The Pressurized Excursion Module (PEM) depicted at the center will be represented by the "HDU" and tested this summer as part of the 2010 Desert Research and Technologies Simulations ("Desert Rats") test objectives [NASA].

A technique being utilized in NASA's lunar architecture analysis is analog testing of the lunar environment in desert locales. Running through potential "day in the life" scenarios at a lunar outpost with prototype equipment allows designers insight into the utilization of the proposed systems and refines architecture and operations concepts. A series of Desert Research and Technology Studies (Desert-RATS) have been held in locations such as Moses Lake, Washington and Black Point Lava Flow, Arizona, where the most recent test in September 2009 was performed with a Lunar Electric Rover, and a fourteen day excursion was practiced. The 2010 session of Desert-RaTS is planned for Black Point Lava Flow where two LERs will operate together and add a full scale lunar habitat prototype, the Habitat Demonstration Unit to the two LERs to allow for a 14-28 day mission.

(Earth and Space Conference 2010, Honolulu, March 15-17)

Read the full Overview (Adobe .pdf) HERE.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

House Members decry disassembly of Constellation, violates of 2010 budget language

Robert Block
The Write Stuff
Orlando Sentinel

A group of 27 members of Congress, mainly Republican representatives from Alabama and Texas, two states with major NASA centers, wrote a letter Friday to NASA chief Charlie Bolden, demanding that he agree to cease any activity that could be construed as damaging to the Constellation moon program.

Among the signatures were those of Reps. Bill Posey (R-Rockledge) and Suzanne Kosmas (D-New Smyrna Beach) who both represent Kennedy Space Center workers.

In the four page letter, made available to the Orlando Sentinel, the members said they were disturbed by reports that NASA was working behind the scenes to turn off contracts for Constellation’s Ares I rocket and Orion capsule in violation of Congressional wishes.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama released his 2011 budget which would scrap the troubled space program to return astronauts to the moon. The new budget supports a new technology development program and would help private companies develop the capability to fly astronauts to the International Space Station which would operate until at least 2020.

“We have become aware of the formation by NASA Headquarters of at least five “tiger teams,” the job of which is to shut down Constellation and to transition to the new program,” the letter said.

It also said that it understands NASA has given “verbal” instructions to directors of the agency space centers to close down the program, as well as put a contract on hold and planned to “set aside” money supposed to be spent on Ares and Orion.

Last year, lawmakers prohibited NASA from canceling any Constellation programs this year and starting new ones in their place unless the cuts were approved by Congress. The language inserted in the Consolidated Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2010 expressly prohibits the “termination or elimination of any program, project or activity of the architecture for the Constellation program."

Read the Post HERE.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Bolden: No Heavy-Lift until 2020-2030

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden spoke with reporters Saturday at Kennedy Space Center on the eve of the launch of the STS-130 mission, answering questions that focused mainly on the new 2011 NASA budget and the cancellation of the Constellation program.

Nancy Atkinson of Universe Today has the story HERE.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Briefing on Ares I-X results, Thursday

NASA will host a media teleconference with Bob Ess, Ares I-X mission manager, at 1900 UT (2 p.m. EST), Thursday, December 3. Ess will update reporters on data gathered during the test flight Ares I-X from Kennedy Space Center, October 28.

The test flight lasted approximately six minutes, from launch until splashdown of the booster stage 240 km (150 miles) away.

The Ares I-X was wired with more than 700 sensors gathering data during flight, giving NASA the opportunity to prove hardware, facilities and ground operations of the test vehicle configuration and providing engineers with critical data for the future.

(Reporters who want to participate in the teleconference should contact Lynnette Madison at 281-483-5111 ( by 2230 UT (5:30 p.m. EST), December 2 for dial-in information.

For more information about the Ares I-X rocket, visit:

For more information about the Constellation Program, visit:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Teamwork credited with Ares I-X launch

NASA's Constellation program's Ares I-X test rocket roars off Launch Complex 39B at Kennedy Space Center [NASA/Jim Grossmann].

Outstanding teamwork was the theme of the Ares I-X postlaunch news conference as the successful flight test was discussed.

"I can't say enough about this team," said Doug Cooke, associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "They've been together probably a little over three years now, and they went from a concept to flying this vehicle in that period of time, which is the first time this has been done by a human spaceflight team in a long time."

Referring to the weather, which was the only issue of the day, Constellation Program Manager Jeff Hanley said, "We were ready when Mother Nature was ready, and we took our opportunity and what a great outcome. We're very proud of the result."

"It was a spectacular day," said Bob Ess, Ares I-X mission manager. "The vehicle flew even better than we expected."

"It is just a fantastic day," said Launch Director Ed Mango. "The team really excelled. I can't say enough about the folks who worked together to go make this thing happen. It was a great team, and as you can tell, it was a great vehicle."

NASA's Ares I-X test rocket lifted off at 11:30 a.m. EDT Wednesday from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a two-minute powered flight. The flight test lasted about six minutes from its launch from the newly modified Launch Pad 39B until splashdown of the rocket's booster stage nearly 150 miles downrange.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Vision briefly becomes reality

It's been the subject of artist's impressions so often the actual sight of an Ares I-X towering over Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center might seem an anticlimax.

Nevertheless, as Robert Block of the Orlando Sentinel's The Wright Stuff rightly points this morning to a treatment of the real thing by "storied and award-winning photojournalist Red Huber," who "has taken a fantastic series of pictures of Aries I-X" at KSC.

"The rocket is due to lift off on its 28-mile, two minute suborbital journey on Tuesday at 8 a.m. though the weather may not cooperate. NASA managers can wait until Noon Tuesday before having to stand down to try again on Wednesday."

Although the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, chaired by Norm Augustine, is not being celebrated for its few very specific recommendations, among their actual recommendation released last week is to scrap the Ares I as America's next humans-only rocket.

The Augustine committee also sees no way to avoid at least a seven-year gap in NASA's manned spaceflight capability after the Space Shuttle is grounded a year from now.

Anyway you look at it, it may be while before any notion of America's future manned spaceflight capability actually presents itself as a sight "to steal your breath away."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Starfighters gain access to KSC runway

A Starfighters CF-104 operating at McDill AFB air show, April 2005. After a "long, long fight," the Tarpon Springs company will no longer need to rehearse a Single-Stage to Orbit space plane notion within the confines of Martin Schweiger's Orbiter Simulator. They will, instead, fly from the main runway originally built for the Space Shuttle at Kennedy Space Center. [Full-Size Image]

Curtis Krueger
St. Petersburg Times

"The Tarpon Springs company, Starfighters, owns four F-104 Starfighter jets, a type of fighter jet once used by the U.S. Air Force and others. NASA said the business will fly jets from the runway as part of its effort to boost the development of private space flights."

Read the story HERE.

"A landmark was achieved in commercial space today when Starfighters, Inc. signed a Cooperative Space Act Agreement with NASA Kennedy Space Center to operate its fleet of Lockheed F-104 Starfighters from the Space Shuttle Landing Facility..."

From the Starfighters, Inc. website.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ares I-X rollout overnight, Tuesday AM

Ares I-X (Artist Conception) [NASA]

NASA has rescheduled to Tuesday, Oct. 20, the rollout of the Ares I-X rocket to Launch Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The first motion of the Ares I-X out of Kennedy's Vehicle Assembly Building is targeted for 12:01 a.m. EDT. The 4.2-mile journey is expected to last about seven hours. Media activities include a first motion photo opportunity and interviews with Ares I-X managers. In addition, a sunrise photo opportunity will be available at 7 a.m.

Live NASA Television coverage with commentary will start at 11:45 p.m., Oct. 19, and 7 a.m., Oct. 20. Video highlights of the move will air on NASA Television's Video File.

Follow updates, HERE.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Surprise Augustine Committee hearing set

Robert Block
The Write Stuff
Orlando Sentinel

The Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee will hold a public teleconference on Thursday, Oct. 8, from approximately 1 to 2 p.m. EDT.

The only topic for discussion will be finalization of scoring of options the committee presented in their summary report on Sept. 8. This meeting will be held by teleconference only. The teleconference will be open to the public. The service limit is approximately 300 dial-in callers. Public participants will be in a listen-only mode.

Read the post, HERE.

Space Coast sees first big round of KSC layoffs

Cape Canaveral — The first round of what are expected to be thousands of layoffs of space-program workers starts today, Friday, with 258 shuttle contractors losing their jobs in anticipation of the space shuttle's retirement next year.

In addition, nine employees of rocket-maker United Launch Alliance also received pink slips Thursday, along with about 70 security workers at Cape Canaveral Air Force station.

The 337 layoffs are the first of what local officials estimate will be 7,000 space-program job losses by the end of 2010.

The 258 shuttle workers were employed by United Space Alliance, which services the shuttle for NASA, and most volunteered to leave. About 20 more will be leaving next week.

Read the post, HERE.

Augustine Committee report two weeks away

According to a report by Shelby Spires at the Huntsville Times, the long-awaited final report by a presidential space panel about the future of NASA and human space flight is unlikely to be sent to President Barack Obama until the middle of October.

Read the post HERE.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Lunabotics Mining Competition @ KSC

The purpose of the Lunabotics Mining Competition is to engage and retain students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, in a competitive environment that may result in innovative ideas and solutions, which could be applied to actual lunar excavation for NASA.

Undergraduate and graduate student teams enrolled in a U.S. college or university are eligible to enter the inaugural Lunabotics Mining Competition.

Design teams must include:

  • One faculty or industry advisor with a college or university affiliation
  • Two or more undergraduate or graduate students
A group of universities also may work in collaboration on an excavator project entry. Multidisciplinary teams are encouraged. Collaborations between majority institutions and minority serving institutions are encouraged. Corporate sponsorship is allowed. Get information on available excavator project funding by NASA

NASA Exploration Systems Mission Directorate
Higher Education Project
in partnership with the
National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program
is proud to announce the inaugural
Lunabotics Mining Competition
May 25-28, 2010
Astronaut Hall of Fame
Kennedy Space Center, Florida