Tag Archives: NASA

Alion Wins $1.2M NASA Contract to Predict Effects of Astronaut Fatigue on Performance in Automation Failure Scenarios

During human space missions, the crew and ground personnel must function under high stress and workload, often with disrupted sleep patterns. Astronauts sometimes suffer from sleep deprivation during long spaceflight missions, which could potentially have an adverse effect on performance. Alion Science and Technology, an employee-owned, engineering, R&D, IT and operational solutions company, was awarded a $1.2 million contract from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to develop a model-based software tool to predict the effects of astronaut fatigue on performance, particularly during workload transitions.

Under the three-year Space Performance Research Integration Tool (S-PRINT) project, Alion will develop human performance models to predict astronaut performance in various automation failure situations. Although long-duration spaceflights include highly automated systems, astronauts need to remain alert, particularly during a potential automation failure situation. In such a worst-case scenario, fatigue, complacency due to over-reliance on automation, and sudden workload transitions could create a challenging spaceflight mission.

Alion’s work consists of three phases: a literature review and meta-analyses phase for gathering data and quantifying long-duration mission effects on performance; model and tool development; and human-in-the-loop studies to evaluate and refine model predictions and address gaps identified in the meta-analyses. The human-in-the-loop studies will be conducted at Colorado State University.

“Alion’s human performance models will help NASA enhance astronaut performance by predicting the effects of fatigue on performance during automation mode transitions,” said Terri Spoonhour, Alion Senior Vice President and Manager of the Distributed Simulation Group. “S-PRINT will provide NASA with a method to evaluate and compare the effects of potential countermeasures to maintain optimal astronaut performance in long-duration space missions.”

NASA Scales with Processor Cores

SGI announced that with over 60 miles of InfiniBand cabling in place at the NASA Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) Division at NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., a scientist was able to utilize 25,000 SGI® ICE™ Intel® Xeon® processor cores on Pleiades to run a space weather simulation. One particular area of study is magnetic reconnection, a physical process in highly conducting plasmas such as those that occur in the Earth’s magnetosphere, in which the magnetic topology is rearranged and magnetic energy converted to kinetic or thermal energy. This field of research is critical, as these disturbances can disable wide scale power grids, affect satellite transmissions and disrupt airline communications.

“We study the efficiency of reconnection under different conditions in the magnetosphere,” said Dr. Homa Karimabadi, space physics group leader at the University of California, San Diego. “This includes such things as the amount of mixing of the plasma from the solar wind and from the magnetosphere. The team then uses the local-scale details to improve models of magnetic reconnection in ‘global’ simulations encompassing a region starting at about three earth radii and extending to 30 to 200 earth radii, with the Earth’s radius being about 6400 kilometers.”

As detailed in the article, “Cracking the Mysteries of Space Weather,” by Jarrett Cohen of NASA, Earth is mostly protected from solar flares, coronal mass ejections, and other space weather events by the magnetosphere, a magnetic field cocoon that surrounds it. But sometimes Earth’s magnetosphere ‘cracks’ and lets space weather inside, where it can cause damage. Getting space weather details right means capturing everything from the 1.28 million kilometer-sized magnetosphere down to subatomic-scale electrons. Doing that in one simulation would require supercomputers more than 1,000 times faster than those available today, so the research team breaks the problem into two parts. They start with ‘local’ simulations that include full electron physics of regions in the magnetosphere where reconnection is known to occur, followed by ‘global’ simulations.

Accessing up to 25,000 processor cores on Pleiades, Dr. Karimabadi said that his group can run ‘kinetic’ simulations that treat each electron with its full properties and understand how electrons allow reconnection to occur. In the local simulations, electrons are treated as individual particles. In the global simulations, electrons are treated as fluids and ions (electrically charged atoms) as particles. With Pleiades, simulations can run for five days straight, enabling many parameter studies. Among recent findings is that magnetic reconnection by itself is quite turbulent, producing vortices in the plasma that create many interacting flux ropes—twisted bundles of magnetic field. As observed by spacecraft, flux ropes can extend several times the radius of Earth.

Space weather is just one application running in the petascale range today that will benefit from the move to Exascale computing. SGI is committed to bringing Exascale solutions to the marketplace in an open computing paradigm in which InfiniBand will have an integral role by providing the key interconnect elements. Having demonstrated that InfiniBand can enable petaflop-sized systems at NASA, SGI will also be partnering with Total to bring InfiniBand into the multi-petaflop commercial space. Coupled with software tools such as SGI Management Center and SGI Performance Suite, as well as big data InfiniteStorage solutions, SGI is positioned to offer an optimal user experience for multi-petaflop deployments moving to the exascale range.

NASA Kennedy Space Center’s IT Network Reaches New Frontier

Ciena announced a new partnership with Abacus Technology Corporation to upgrade the expansive campus IT network at NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC). The enhanced network, which supports activities that range from managing NASA’s space launch program to hosting millions of visitors from around the world, will leverage Optical Transport Network (OTN) technology from Ciena to consolidate the Center’s Ethernet, video and legacy ATM and TDM traffic.

Key Facts:

  • NASA’s KSC, large enough to have its own zip code, is comprised of more than 200 facilities spread across a 144,000 acre complex.
  • With an aging and fragmented campus network bearing the weight of growing bandwidth demands, the Center is turning to Ciena and Abacus Technology to create a robust, converged telecommunications infrastructure.
  • Abacus Technology, which is contracted to provide support for all information management and communications services related to launch operations at KSC, is leading the design and installation of the new campus network, with completion of the campus upgrade expected in March.
  • The new intelligent network is connecting major campus facilities via a fiber optic infrastructure using Ciena’s 4200 Advanced Services Platform. The OTN-enabled network will support the transport of Ethernet, SONET and video traffic and will facilitate the consolidation of the campus’s aging technology backbones – such as ATM and SONET – onto a common infrastructure.
  • KSC is also leveraging Ciena’s leading-edge network management solution for efficient service deployment and proactive network management of its next-generation architecture.

“Here at KSC we are upgrading our communications infrastructure as part of our center transformation from the Shuttle Program to provide launch capability for NASA’s next generation Heavy Lift Vehicle and commercial launch vehicles. Ciena’s OTN solution will enable telemetry, data, voice and video convergence onto a common transport and allow us to seamlessly migrate off multiple independent and obsolete legacy transport systems. The OTN implementation will simplify our network and streamline operations, and enables KSC to provision reliable, high speed/high bandwidth communication services to commercial launch operations in a more cost effective manner.” – Kerry Stinson, director communication services, Abacus Technology Corp.

CSC Wins $41 Million Contract Modification in Support of the NASA Shared Services Center at Stennis Space Center

CSC announced that it has received a $41 million modification that exercises the second option period for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Shared Services Center (NSSC) contract. The contract modification applies to the contract NASA awarded CSC in 2005. CSC will continue to provide financial management, human resources, procurement and information technology support services to NASA. The NSSC is a cooperative partnership between NASA, CSC and the States of Mississippi and Louisiana. The NSSC performs selected business activities for all 10 NASA centers.

“By standardizing and consolidating support services in financial management, human resources, IT and procurement, CSC is supporting the efforts of the NASA Shared Services Center that allow NASA to focus more of its time and resources on critical mission objectives,” said Mike Gaffney, president of CSC’s North American Public Sector Civil Group.

SpaceX Completes Key Milestone to Fly Astronauts to International Space Station

SpaceX announced it has successfully completed the preliminary design review of its revolutionary launch abort system, a system designed for manned missions using its Dragon spacecraft. This represents a major step toward creating an American-made successor to the Space Shuttle. NASA’s approval of the latest design review marks the fourth successfully completed milestone under the agency’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program and demonstrates the innovation that’s possible when NASA partners with the private sector.

“Each milestone we complete brings the United States one step closer to once again having domestic human spaceflight capability,” said former astronaut Garrett Reisman, one of the two program leads of SpaceX’s DragonRider, which is adding capabilities to the Dragon spacecraft for astronaut carriage.

Now that the Space Shuttle program has ended, the United States relies on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft for astronaut transport, costing American taxpayers as much as $62 million a seat. By comparison, Dragon is designed to carry seven astronauts at a time for an unparalleled $20 million per seat.

As with all SpaceX designs, increased safety and reliability are paramount. “Dragon’s integrated launch abort system provides astronauts with the ability to safely escape from the beginning of the launch until the rocket reaches orbit,” explained David Giger, co-lead of the DragonRider program. “This level of protection is unprecedented in manned spaceflight history.”

With the latest design review approved by NASA, SpaceX can now start building the hardware at the heart of its innovative launch abort system. The SpaceX design incorporates the escape engines into the side walls of Dragon, eliminating a failure mode of more traditional rocket escape towers, which must be successfully jettisoned during every launch. The integrated abort system also returns with the spacecraft, allowing for easy reuse and radical reductions in the cost of space transport. Over time, the same escape thrusters will also provide Dragon with the ability to land with pinpoint accuracy on Earth or another planet.

In its first flights, on June 4 and December 8, 2010, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle achieved consecutive mission successes. The December mission, which was the first demonstration flight under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, marked Dragon’s historic debut and established SpaceX as the first private company to launch and recover a spacecraft from orbit. As a result, many Falcon 9 and Dragon components required for transporting humans to Earth orbit have already been demonstrated in flight.

NASA Awards $2.5 Billion Services Contract to HP

HP Enterprise Services has been selected for a single-award firm-fixed-price, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract worth up to $2.5 billion over a four-year base period with two three-year option periods by NASA.  HP will provide end-user desktop services and devices that will increase NASA’s efficiency and allow its employees to more easily collaborate in a secure computing environment.

As a part of NASA’s Agency Consolidated End-User Service (ACES) Program, HP will modernize NASA’s entire end-user infrastructure by delivering a full range of personal computing services and devices to more than 60,000 users. The modernization is expected to deliver significant productivity gains and cost savings to NASA.

“NASA personnel use IT to support NASA’s core business, scientific, research and computational activities,” said Michael Sweigart, procurement officer, Shared Services Center, NASA. “HP will provide, manage, secure and maintain these essential IT services for the agency.”

Under the ACES contract, HP will provide a variety of Computing SeatTier 2/3 Service Desk Support and Collaboration Services to more cost-effectively manage NASA’s end-user infrastructure at all NASA sites across the United States. Computing seat and cellular seat services are designed with security and collaboration capabilities to help the NASA team safely share information.

“The ACES contract will help evolve NASA’s IT environment to a centralized, adaptable IT infrastructure to enable economies of scale, agency-wide visibility and improved management and security,” said Dennis Stolkey, senior vice president and general manager, U.S. Public Sector, HP Enterprise Services. “HP will build on our deep industry, infrastructure and end-user services expertise to support this significant work for the agency that is pioneering the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.”

HP will be teaming with numerous small businesses to meet NASA’s small business participation guidelines and diverse mission needs. The contract will be managed at the NASA Shared Services Center in Stennis, Miss., and will serve all NASA centers and facilities.

SpaceX Wins NASA Contract to Complete Development of Successor to the Space Shuttle

NASA has awarded SpaceX $75 million to develop a revolutionary launch escape system that will enable the company’s Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts. The Congressionally mandated award is part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) initiative that started in 2009 to help private companies mature concepts and technologies for human spaceflight.

“This award will accelerate our efforts to develop the next-generation rockets and spacecraft for human transportation,” said Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer. “With NASA’s support, SpaceX will be ready to fly its first manned mission in 2014.”

Musk said the flight-proven Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft represent the safest and fastest path to American crew transportation capability. With their historic successful flight on December 8th, 2010, many Falcon 9 and Dragon components that are needed to transport humans to low-Earth orbit have already been demonstrated in flight. Both vehicles were designed from the outset to fly people.

The announcement comes at a time when the United States has a critical need for American commercial human spaceflight. After the Space Shuttle retires in a few months, NASA will be totally dependent on the Russian Soyuz to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) at a cost of more than $753 million a year — about $63 million per seat.

Musk said Dragon – designed to carry seven astronauts at a time to the space station at a cost of $20 million a seat – offers a far better deal for the U.S. taxpayer. While considerable flight testing remains, the critical-path technology Dragon needs for carrying humans to orbit is the launch escape system.

New Launch Abort System

SpaceX’s integrated escape system will be superior to traditional solid rocket tractor escape towers used by other vehicles in the past. Due to their extreme weight, tractor systems must be jettisoned within minutes of liftoff, but the SpaceX innovative design builds the escape engines into the side walls of Dragon, eliminating the danger of releasing a heavy solid rocket escape tower after launch.

The SpaceX design also provides crew with emergency escape capability throughout the entire flight, whereas the Space Shuttle has no escape system and even the Apollo moon program allowed escape only during the first few minutes of flight. The result is that astronauts flying on Dragon will be considerably safer.

Furthermore, the integrated escape system returns with the spacecraft, allowing for easy reuse and radical reductions in the cost of space transport. Over time, the same escape thrusters will also provide the capability for Dragon to land almost anywhere on Earth or another planet with pinpoint accuracy, overcoming the limitation of a winged architecture that works only in Earth’s atmosphere.

Under the award, SpaceX will modify Dragon to accommodate crew, with specific hardware milestones that will provide NASA with regular, demonstrated progress including:

  • Static fire testing of the launch escape system engines
  • Initial design of abort engine and crew accommodations
  • Prototype evaluations by NASA crew for seats, control panels and cabin

The December 8th, 2010, demonstration flight of Falcon 9 and Dragon was the first flight under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, which was initiated to develop commercial cargo services to the International Space Station. After the Space Shuttle retires, SpaceX will fly at least 12 missions to carry cargo to and from the International Space Station as part of the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract for NASA.

EHSI’s NASA Bioreactor to be Inducted into Space Technology Hall of Fame

Emerging Healthcare Solutions announced that the NASA-developed rotating-wall bioreactor, key to the company’s stem cell research plans, will be inducted into the Space Technology Hall of Fame next month. An astonishing biotechnology breakthrough, EHSI’s rotating-wall bioreactor was initially developed by NASA scientists following the grounding of the agency’s space shuttle fleet in the aftermath of the Challenger disaster in 1986. For decades, medical researchers had taken advantage of the unique aspects of microgravity in space to grow three-dimensional cell cultures. These 3-D cells look and function much more closely to those grown within the human body. By contrast, cell cultures grown on Earth, including stem cells are only two-dimensional because gravity causes the cells to sink within their growth medium. With their access to space cut off, NASA scientists developed the rotating-wall bioreactor to grow human cells in simulated weightlessness.

The high-tech device works by using a rotating chamber to rapidly cultivate three-dimensional tissues that closely approximate those in the human body. On Earth, this technology provides a fast, affordable source of cells for therapy and research. In 2002, Regenetech, Inc., focused on modifications to the bioreactor to produce its own Intrifuge System so it could produce expanded cell tissues for specific research.

EHSI acquired a sub-license to use the bioreactor from Regenetech last December.

“It comes as no surprise to us that the NASA bioreactor has been chosen for the Space Technology Hall of Fame because we’ve seen what it can do,” said EHSI President and CEO Cindy Morrissey. “It’s essential to our efforts to develop the Rutherford Procedure, a new stem-cell treatment for liver disease. We’re also very excited about the many inquiries we’re receiving from scientists around the globe interested in using the bioreactor for other cellular research.”

The Space Technology Hall of Fame was created in 1988 by the Space Foundation, in cooperation with NASA, to increase public awareness of the benefits resulting from space exploration programs and to encourage further innovation. The bioreactor will be inducted at the 27thannual Space Foundation National Space Symposium, an event organized to bring together all sectors of space to highlight accomplishments and address opportunities and issues facing the global space community today.

ITT Re-Awarded NASA Space Communications Network Services Contract

ITT announced that it has again been awarded the Space Communications Network Services (SCNS) contract by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center to support NASA space and near-Earth networks. These networks provide most of the communications and tracking services for a wide range of Earth-orbiting spacecraft, including the International Space Station, the space shuttle, the Hubble Space Telescope and the Earth Observing System satellites.

ITT was previously awarded the SCNS contract in October 2008 and again in April 2009 and July 2010, but commencement of the contract work was delayed due to a number of protests filed by the incumbent contractor. The contract has a base period of performance of five years and three months, with two, one-year option periods, and a maximum potential value with all options exercised of $1.26 billion.

The ITT team includes its partners ASRC, Boeing, Braxton Technologies, CSC, LJT & Associates Inc., Orbital Sciences and SaiTech.

NASA Spacecraft Snaps Closest Images of Comet Hartley 2

CitySpur.com has reported that a NASA spacecraft 23 million miles from Earth has snapped close-up pictures of Comet Hartley 2. On Thursday, the Deep Impact spacecraft passed within 435 miles of the comet, which scientists believe is an icy leftover from the formation of the solar system nearly 4.5 billion years ago. Hartley 2 is nearly 1.5 miles wide and is the smallest comet to be photographed close up. The peanut-shaped comet is small by comet standards but it spews several times more gas and dust than other comets. “Early observations of the comet show that, for the first time, we may be able to connect activity to individual features on the nucleus,” said researcher Michael A’Hearn in a statement. “We certainly have our hands full. The images are full of great cometary data, and that’s what we hoped for,” added the University of Maryland professor who is also the principal investigator of EPOXI. EPOXI is a combination of the names for the two extended mission components: the extrasolar planet observations, called Extrasolar Planet Observations and Characterization (EPOCh), and the flyby of comet Hartley 2, called the Deep Impact Extended Investigation (DIXI). Australian astrophotographer Malcolm Hartley, who discovered the comet in 1986, said he never believed a spacecraft would get so close to his namesake find. “The spacecraft has provided the most extensive observations of a comet in history,” explained Ed Weiler, the associate administrator of the NASA Science Mission Directorate. Deep Impact Iis the first spacecraft ever to visit two comets. Its primary mission was to make a crater on the surface of the comet Tempel 1 by firing a copper probe into the comet in July 2005. It provided scientists with information detailing what that cosmic dirtball was made of. The probe was redirected to meet up with Hartley 2, while at the same time conducting planetary studies. The spacecraft spent months chasing the comet and covered several million miles. EPOXI began imaging its nucleus at 5 p.m. EDT on Wednesday. The probe, travelling at 27,000 miles per hour, reached its closest proximity to the comet at 10 a.m. Thursday.