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The ISRU Pilot Excavator is tested in a blacked out facility with minimal lighting that mimics the harsh, feature-less terrain of the Moon.NASA The ISRU Pilot Excavator is tested in a blacked out facility with minimal lighting that mimics the harsh, feature-less terrain of the Moon.NASA Harsh, low-angle sunlight, long and dark shadows, and a featureless terrain will make navigation difficult when NASA’s ISRU Pilot Excavator (IPEx) is sent to the Moon. Because of this, the IPEx team has begun testing various approaches to autonomously drive the excavator in a specially constructed rock yard that mimics these environmental conditions. The team plans to publish the data sets from these unique tests later this year.
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FAIRMONT – Competitive Robotics in West Virginia has reached an all-time high with more teams across the state than ever before.
The West Virginia Robotics Alliance, managed by the Education Resource Center (ERC) team at the NASA Katherine Johnson IV&V Facility, released new data for the 2023-24 Robotics Season that shows a peak in the number of teams and steady growth over the last several years.
Number of Robotics Teams in WV “The ERC assumed management of the FIRST LEGO League tournament in 2011 when we had barely 50 teams in West Virginia,” ERC Program Manager Dr. Todd Ensign said. “Today, there are over 550 teams that engage approximately 3,000 students almost daily!”
According to the data, the overall number of robotics teams in the state has risen every year since 2011 – with one exception during the 2020-21 season when the COVID-19 pandemic impacted participation.
The ERC now runs qualifying events every weekend, numerous state championships, invitational tournaments, and international competitions. Ensign and many other figures within the ERC and Robotics Alliance have championed robotics events and opportunities for students across the state, including in some of its most rural communities, to help reach this point.
“This is indeed an achievement on behalf of the students, coaches, parents, schools and districts who are supporting competitive robotics,” Ensign said.
With such exponential growth, Ensign says more volunteers are needed to support current and future events. Positions are available for people of all ages and levels of prior experience. To learn more about how to volunteer, visit https://www.wvrobot.org/volunteer.
A major development in West Virginia’s robotics landscape came in 2021 when the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission (WVSSAC) recognized robotics as a co-curricular activity. This update made it possible for students to receive a varsity letter in robotics, gaining recognition similar to those earned in marching band or other sports.
When the WVSSAC recognition was announced, many at the ERC had high hopes for what it would mean to further STEM and robotics in West Virginia.
“We hope recognition from the WVSSAC will increase the number of schools throughout West Virginia participating in competitive robotics,” John Holbrook, of the ERC, said at the time. “Ultimately, our goal is to see robotics teams from every county of West Virginia.”
And with the new milestone reached in participation, those goals are closer than ever before. Many events are upcoming as the 2023-24 robotics season continues, including what is set to be the largest VEX State Championship in West Virginia history, March 10-16, at the Fairmont State University Falcon Center and the WVSSAC Robotics State Championship, April 6, at Herbert Hoover High School, in Elkview, West Virginia.
For a full list of upcoming events: WV Robotics Alliance – Upcoming Events
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Teams at NASA’s Stennis Space Center install a new RS-25 engine nozzle in early February in preparation for continued testing on the Fred Haise Test Stand. NASA is conducting a series of tests to certify production of new RS-25 engines for future (Space Launch System) missions, beginning with Artemis V.NASA/Danny Nowlin NASA will conduct an RS-25 hot fire Friday, Feb. 23, moving one step closer to production of new engines that will help power the agency’s SLS (Space Launch System) rocket on future Artemis missions to the Moon and beyond.
Teams at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, are set to begin the second half of a 12-test RS-25 certification series on the Fred Haise Test Stand, following installation of a second production nozzle on the engine.
Teams at NASA’s Stennis Space Center install a new RS-25 engine nozzle in early February in preparation for continued testing on the Fred Haise Test Stand. NASA is conducting a series of tests to certify production of new RS-25 engines for future (Space Launch System) missions, beginning with Artemis V.NASA/Danny Nowlin Teams at NASA’s Stennis Space Center install a new RS-25 engine nozzle in early February in preparation for continued testing on the Fred Haise Test Stand. NASA is conducting a series of tests to certify production of new RS-25 engines for future (Space Launch System) missions, beginning with Artemis V.NASA/Danny Nowlin The six remaining hot fires are part of the second, and final, test series collecting data to certify an updated engine production process, using innovative manufacturing techniques, for lead engines contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne, an L3Harris Technologies company.
As NASA aims to establish a long-term presence on the Moon for scientific discovery and exploration, and prepare for future missions to Mars, new engines will incorporate dozens of improvements to make production more efficient and affordable while maintaining high performance and reliability.
Four RS-25 engines, along with a pair of solid rocket boosters, launch NASA’s powerful SLS rocket, producing more than 8.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff for Artemis missions.
During the seventh test of the 12-test series, operators plan to fire the certification engine for 550 seconds and up to a 113% power level.
“NASA’s commitment to safety and ‘testing like you fly’ is on display as we plan to fire the engine beyond 500 seconds, which is the same amount of time the engines must fire to help launch the SLS rocket to space with astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft,” said Chip Ellis, project manager for RS-25 testing at Stennis.
The Feb. 23 test features a second certification engine nozzle to allow engineers to gather additional performance data on the upgraded unit. The new nozzle was installed on the engine earlier this month while it remained at the test stand. Using specially adapted procedures and tools, the teams were able to swap out the nozzles with the engine in place.
Teams at NASA’s Stennis Space Center install a new RS-25 engine nozzle in early February in preparation for continued testing on the Fred Haise Test Stand. NASA is conducting a series of tests to certify production of new RS-25 engines for future (Space Launch System) missions, beginning with Artemis V.NASA/Danny Nowlin In early February 2024, teams at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, completed an RS-25 nozzle remove-and-replace procedure as part of an ongoing hot fire series on the Fred Haise Test Stand. The new nozzle will allow engineers to collect and compare performance data on a second production unit. The RS-25 nozzle, which directs engine thrust, is the most labor-intensive component on the engine and the hardest to manufacture, said Shawn Buckley, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RS-25 nozzle integrated product team lead.
Aerojet Rocketdyne has focused on streamlining the nozzle production process. Between manufacture of the first and second production units, the company reduced hands-on labor by 17%.
“The nozzle is a work of machinery and work of art at the same time,” Buckley said. “Our team sees this nozzle as more than a piece of hardware. We see the role we play in the big picture as we return humans to the Moon.”
With completion of the certification test series, all systems will be “go” to produce the first new RS-25 engines since the space shuttle era. NASA has contracted with Aerojet Rocketdyne to produce 24 new RS-25 engines using the updated design for missions beginning with Artemis V. NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne modified 16 former space shuttle missions for use on Artemis missions I through IV.
Through Artemis, NASA will establish the foundation for long-term scientific exploration at the Moon, land the first woman, first person of color, and first international partner astronaut on the lunar surface, and prepare for human expeditions to Mars for the benefit of all.
Last Updated Feb 22, 2024 EditorNASA Stennis CommunicationsContactC. Lacy Thompsoncalvin.firstname.lastname@example.org / (228) 688-3333LocationStennis Space Center Related Terms
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The CHAPEA mission 1 crew (from left: Nathan Jones, Ross Brockwell, Kelly Haston, Anca Selariu) exit a prototype of a pressurized rover and make their way to the CHAPEA facility ahead of their entry into the habitat on June 25, 2023. Credit: NASA/Josh Valcarcel NASA is seeking applicants to participate in its next simulated one-year Mars surface mission to help inform the agency’s plans for human exploration of the Red Planet. The second of three planned ground-based missions called CHAPEA (Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog) is scheduled to kick off in spring 2025.
Each CHAPEA mission involves a four-person volunteer crew living and working inside a 1,700-square-foot, 3D-printed habitat based at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The habitat, called the Mars Dune Alpha, simulates the challenges of a mission on Mars, including resource limitations, equipment failures, communication delays, and other environmental stressors. Crew tasks include simulated spacewalks, robotic operations, habitat maintenance, exercise, and crop growth.
NASA is looking for healthy, motivated U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are non-smokers, 30-55 years old, and proficient in English for effective communication between crewmates and mission control. Applicants should have a strong desire for unique, rewarding adventures and interest in contributing to NASA’s work to prepare for the first human journey to Mars.
The deadline for applicants is Tuesday, April 2.
Crew selection will follow additional standard NASA criteria for astronaut candidate applicants. A master’s degree in a STEM field such as engineering, mathematics, or biological, physical or computer science from an accredited institution with at least two years of professional STEM experience or a minimum of one thousand hours piloting an aircraft is required. Candidates who have completed two years of work toward a doctoral program in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, completed a medical degree, or a test pilot program will also be considered. With four years of professional experience, applicants who have completed military officer training or a bachelor of science degree in a STEM field may be considered.
Compensation for participating in the mission is available. More information will be provided during the candidate screening process.
As NASA works to establish a long-term presence for scientific discovery and exploration on the Moon through the Artemis campaign, CHAPEA missions provide important scientific data to validate systems and develop solutions for future missions to the Red Planet. With the first CHAPEA crew more than halfway through their yearlong mission, NASA is using research gained through the simulated missions to help inform crew health and performance support during Mars expeditions.
Under NASA’s Artemis campaign, the agency will establish the foundation for long-term scientific exploration at the Moon, land the first woman, first person of color, and its first international partner astronaut on the lunar surface, and prepare for human expeditions to Mars for the benefit of all.
For more about CHAPEA, visit:
Anna Schneider/Laura Sorto
Johnson Space Center, Houston
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