NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, will launch a variety of experiments into space aboard NASA's second commercial cargo resupply flight of the Orbital Sciences Corporation Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station. These experiments include free-flying robots equipped with a smartphone and a small satellite with a de-orbiting device, called an "exo-brake."
Orbital, of Dulles, Virginia, will launch its Antares rocket with the Cygnus spacecraft at 10:40 a.m. PDT Friday, July 11, from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport's Pad 0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. NASA TV will air a comprehensive video feed of launch preparations and other footage related to the mission beginning at 9:30 a.m. Launch coverage on NASA TV will begin at 10 a.m. With a launch on July 11, the Cygnus cargo spacecraft will arrive at the space station on Tuesday, July 15.
This will be the second of eight planned cargo missions by Orbital Sciences for NASA under the agency's $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract with the company. Cargo resupply from U.S. companies ensures a national capability to deliver critical science research to the space station, significantly increasing NASA's ability to conduct new science investigations to the only laboratory in microgravity.
Smart SPHERES is a prototype free-flying space robot based on NASA’s Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient Experimental Satellites (SPHERES). NASA has been testing the Smart SPHERES on the space station since 2011. During this summer, astronauts will upgrade these existing space robots to use Google’s "Project Tango" smartphone, which features a custom 3-D sensor and multiple cameras. NASA will then use the Smart SPHERES to test free-flying 3-D mapping and navigation inside the space station. NASA is developing the Smart SPHERES to perform work on the space station that requires mobile sensing, such as environmental surveys to monitor levels of radiation, lighting and air quality. They also will be used to monitor inventory and conduct experiments. The development and testing of Smart SPHERES is funded by the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
TechEdSat-4 is an autonomous, free-flying spacecraft that will demonstrate two new technologies including a system to provide satellite-to-satellite communications and information about the spacecraft's health, as well as an upgraded exo-brake device to demonstrate a passive deorbiting system capable of accurately re-entering Earth's atmosphere. The exo-brake is an exo-atmospheric passive braking device, like a specially designed parachute that operates at extremely low pressures, which will eventually enable small samples to be returned from the space station or other orbital platforms. In addition, this technology is intended to help enable future small or nanosatellite missions to the surface of Mars and other planetary bodies in the solar system. TechEdSat-4 will be the first NASA satellite to jettison into orbit from the Nanoracks CubeSat Deployer, and is a three unit (3U) CubeSat satellite measuring 30x10x10 centimeters (approximately 12x4x4 inches) and weighing approximately five pounds. TechEdSat-4 was developed, integrated and tested at Ames by student interns from San Jose State University in California and the University of Idaho. TechEdSat-4 is funded by Ames and the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. The total cost was less than $50k in parts because the team primarily used commercial off-the-shelf hardware and simplified the design and mission objectives.
For more information about the International Space Station and Commercial Resupply Services, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/station