Monday, January 23, 2012

NASA + MIT + DARPA + Students + ISS

NASA Joins MIT and DARPA for Out-of-This-World Student Robotic Challenge

WHO: NASA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and high school student teams from the U.S. and abroad
WHAT: the third annual Zero Robotics SPHERES Challenge
WHEN: Monday, Jan. 23, 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. EST
WHERE: MIT campus in Cambridge, Mass., broadcast live on NASA Television

For the competition, NASA will upload software developed by high school students onto Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES), which are bowling ball-sized spherical satellites aboard the International Space Station.

The top 27 teams from previous competitions will have their code sent Monday to the space station, where an astronaut will command the satellites to execute the teams’ flight program. During a simulated mission, the teams will complete a special challenge inspired by future satellite technologies, such as formation flight and close proximity operations.

Student finalists will be able to see their flight program live in the televised finals. The team with the highest software performance over several rounds of the competition will win the challenge. The winning team will be awarded certificates and a SPHERES flight patch that was flown to the space station.

In addition to their use in this competition, the satellites are used inside the space station to conduct formation flight maneuvers for spacecraft guidance navigation, control and docking. The three separate satellites that make up SPHERES fly in formation inside the space station's cabin. The satellites provide opportunities to test a wide range of hardware and software at an affordable cost.

The SPHERES National Laboratory Facility on the station is operated and maintained by NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

MEDIA ADVISORY: M12-010, Jan. 18, 2012

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