In Their Own Words

5Q4: Wade May
5Q4: Wade May
Wade May, Chief STORRM Engineer, answers five questions about the Sensor Test for Orion Rel/Nav Risk Mitigation experiment scheduled to fly on STS-134 in Feb. 2011.
For the past two years, NASA engineers and contractors have been brewing a STORRM. The project entailed developing new sensor technology that would improve the ability of spacecrafts to dock with the International Space Station.

A prototype system using these new technologies, consisting of the Vision Navigation System, or VNS, a flash lidar sensor system, and a high-resolution, color docking camera, will advance the capability of rendezvous and docking.

Developed by the Orion Project Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center, the system will be tested on STS-134 scheduled for February 2011 as part of the Sensor Test for Orion Relative Navigation Risk Mitigation (STORRM) Development Test Objective (DTO). On July 20, STORRM hardware will make a stop at Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colo., for a demonstration and crew training before heading to NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida to be integrated into the Shuttle.

  1. What is STORRM?
    STORRM stands for Sensor Test for Orion Rel/Nav Risk Mitigation, and it is a Shuttle Detailed Test Objective, or DTO, that will be testing the new relative navigation system that is being developed for the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle. It is comprised of a Vision Navigation Sensor, a VNS, a docking camera, reflective elements, avionics and software. The VNS, vision navigation sensor, is a next generation lidar to replace the existing lidar that they use on the shuttle and the docking camera is an upgraded camera with higher resolution from what they currently use.
  2. How will it improve upon the current docking system?
    So the docking camera is a higher resolution camera than what's currently being used on Shuttle. And the VNS is really the next generation of lidar, which is light, detection, and ranging instrument. It allows you to measure range at long distances, which is about five kilometers, or greater than three miles. It's a 256 by 256 pixel focal plain array, which is about four times the resolution of what they're currently using. And using the special reflective elements we've built for this project, the VNS will provide the data so that you can actually calculate up to six degrees of freedom, which currently the trajectory control sensor on Shuttle can only calculate up to three degrees of freedom.
  3. What is Langley's role in STORRM?
    The STORRM project is the brainchild of the Guidance, Navigation and Control group at the Orion Project Office at Johnson Space Center. They put out a request for proposal to all the NASA centers requesting help managing the project and also to develop the avionics and software to control the project. And Langley, with its reputation for laser instruments and remote sensor instruments, as well as being able to build spaceflight hardware, was awarded the project. In addition to managing the overall project, Langley built the avionics as well as developed and coded the software, which allows you to command, control and monitor all the subsystems of the STORRM projects.
  4. What are the testing phases?
    We've done a lot of environmental testing here at Langley, which we also did a lot of environmental testing out at Ball Aerospace, who is developing the VNS and docking camera. The environmental testing allows you to ensure the ruggedness of the hardware for the space environment as well as making sure it will survive the launch loads of the space Shuttle. The, once we reach, once the shuttle reaches LEO, the system will be activated, and as the Shuttle approaches the ISS, we will collect data from the sensors and store it in the avionics from about three miles out. Once the Shuttle undocks, we will store the same data as the Shuttle undocks and flies around. And then the project has actually requested that the Shuttle flies a new trajectory on this mission. The Shuttle will actually fly the same trajectory that's been developed for the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle and that will be our primary data collection period.
  5. What happens post-flight?
    So post-flight after the Shuttle lands, we will pull the data off of the data recorder, which can store up to a half of a terabyte of data for each sensor. That data is provided to the Guidance, Navigation and Control group at Johnson and they will post process the data to help develop the sensors to the next stage of their development.

    Amy Johnson
    NASA Langley Research Center