NASA will participate in the fifth annual Zero Robotics SPHERES Challenge Friday, Jan. 17, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus in Cambridge, Mass.
The event will be broadcast live on NASA Television beginning at 7:30 a.m. EST.
The agency will join in the event with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, MIT, the European Space Agency, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, IT consulting firm Appirio, and high school student teams from the United States and abroad.
For the competition, NASA will upload software developed by high school students onto bowling ball-sized spherical satellites called Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES, which are currently aboard the International Space Station. From there, space station Expedition 38 Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineer Richard Mastracchio will command the satellites to execute the teams' flight program.
During a simulated mission, the teams will complete a special challenge called CosmoSPHERES, a competition in which students must program their satellites to alter a fictional comet's earthbound trajectory.
Student finalists will be able to see their flight program live on the televised finals, where NASA's Associate Administrator for Science, John Grunsfeld, and retired NASA astronauts Gregory Chamitoff, Gregory Johnson and Barbara Morgan will make a special appearance. The team with the best software performance over several rounds of the competition will win the challenge. The winning team will receive certificates and a SPHERES flight patch flown aboard the space station.
Media wishing to cover this event must contact Sarah McDonnell at MIT at 617-253-8923 or [email protected].
In addition to their use in this competition, SPHERES satellites are used on the space station to conduct formation flight maneuvers for spacecraft guidance navigation, control and docking. The three satellites that make up SPHERES fly in formation inside the space station's cabin. The satellites provide opportunities to affordably test a wide range of hardware and software.
NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., operates and maintains the SPHERES National Laboratory Facility aboard the space station.