The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), NASA, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and student teams from abroad and the US have joined hands for the Zero Robotics SPHERES Challenge, which will be held on 23 January 2012. The event will be conducted on the MIT campus in Massachusetts and will be telecast live on NASA TV.
High school students have developed software, which will be uploaded by NASA onto Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES). The SPHERES are satellites, which resemble the size of a bowling ball, aboard the International Space Station. The 27 teams from prior competitions will deliver their code to the space station, wherein an astronaut will make the satellites to carry out the flight program of the teams. During a simulated operation, the teams will need to finish a unique challenge, which was inspired by upcoming satellite technologies like close proximity and formation flight operations.
Finalists of the competition can view their flight program live on the TV. The team which scores the highest software performance will be declared the winner. A SPHERES flight patch and certificates will be awarded to the winning team.
The satellites are utilized within the space station to perform formation flight maneuvers, which aid in spacecraft guidance control, navigation and docking. The three satellites that constitute SPHERES fly within the cabin of the space station. They help analyze various software and hardware cost-effectively.
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California maintains The SPHERES National Laboratory Facility.