NASA Podcasts

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- Rick Walker
- Heather Hinkel
- Catherine Boone
- Jim Masciarelli
- Tim Straub
- Howard Hu
- Mark Kelly
- Gary Horlacher
- Drew Feustel

Let the record show that when NASA asked for better navigation and risk mitigation in terms of docking with the ISS, the NASA EDGE Co-Host offered his incredible piloting skills free of charge. Oddly, NASA decided in favor of STORRM (Sensor Test for Orion RelNAv Risk Mitigation.) It turns out that NASA made a very wise choice. NASA and its partners (Lockheed Martin and Ball Aerospace) have developed this exciting new test in a relatively short period of time. And the bonus is that they are testing STORRM on STS-134 which will give the system real, in-flight test data! You can't ask for more than that! In fact, NASA EDGE learned from the STORRM Team and decided to create NETLDRM (NASA EDGE Tag Line Delivery Risk Mitigation.) Hopefully, NETLDRM will be as successful as STORRM.

BLAIR: Welcome to NASA EDGE.

FRANKLIN: An inside and outside look at all things NASA.

BLAIR: We’re at Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado.

FRANKLIN: To learn about STORRM.

BLAIR: The genetically gifted member of the X-men?

FRANKLIN: No, not the role played by Halle Berry but something a little more interesting. Let’s take a look.

BLAIR: So, a sequel.

[Franklin laughing]

BLAIR: She’s not in the sequel or an actual X-men but Amanda has joined us as a NASA EDGE co-ho--, I mean, field reporter.

AMANDA: So, what exactly is STORRM and what does it stand for? What’s the big picture that’s going on?

RICK: STORRM is an Orion sponsored activity. It’s the Sensor Test for the Orion Relative Navigation Risk Mitigation. It’s an experiment that has been set up to help mitigate some of the risks the Orion project level are carrying. Historically, relative navigation sensors have experience failures on their first use in space flight. With this concern, the Orion program has invested in this experiment to see if we can try to alleviate some of those issues.

HEATHER: We’re going to be flying some relative navigation sensors that are cutting edge technology; never been flown into space before and we wanted to take the opportunity to get these on the shuttle before the shuttle stopped flying. So we accelerated the development of these sensors and we’re going to fly them on the shuttle on STS-134, and get this good data so we can be ready to fly them on Orion.

RICK: STORRM has four key components. They consist of the Sensor Suite, which is the vision navigation sensor and the docking camera. Those are built at Ball Aerospace Technology.

CATHERINE: There’s a lot of different things the astronauts want to be sure they understand as they’re coming into dock.

BLAIR: They’re very needy that way.

CATHERINE: Yeah, I know. They want to see where they’re going. It’s such a hassle.

BLAIR: Pilots.

CATHERINE: I know. Geez. What the docking camera does is it is actually located on the docking hatch at the centerline. It provides the astronauts with a real time view of the docking target and the docking mechanism, as they’re moving in. Since they’re sitting on Orion up and to the side, they don’t have a real, true line of site to the docking mechanism itself, so the camera provides their eyes.

RICK: We also have an Avionics Assembly that was designed and developed here at Langley. That consists of the power distribution unit, the data recorder, and the data storage capability. One of the major challenges we had on the STORRM project was how were we going to handle the high data rates, and the significant amount of data the sensors put out. We’re talking in upwards of a terabyte of data for this project. The shuttle infrastructure does not support this kind of data collection. So, Langley Research Center had to develop a memory solution to support the project. And they came up with a design that could handle a terabyte and it’s also space flight quality.

AMANDA: Why couldn’t you use a terabyte drive from some place like Best Buy?

RICK: The challenge we have is that most commercial, off-the-shelf products don’t function in the space environment. We did some independent testing on these devices and found they did not work for our application. The Langley engineers had to design a radiation tolerant memory device for this particular project. We also designed and developed, here at Langley, the reflective elements, which are the tracking features that the VNS will use during the experiment.

JIM: What got installed on the space station is some special targets that were added to the space station. They basically work like bicycle reflectors. Their response on the docking target and when the flash LIDAR illuminates those, the reflectors light up more brightly. The software that processes the data can identify those spots and by seeing those spots can figure out which way you’re rotated with respect to the space station and what all the angles are. So, you figure out exactly how you’re sitting compared to where the space station is.

FRANKLIN: Tell me the difference between the VNS and the current system used for docking at the space station.

JIM: The space shuttle uses a scanning LIDAR system, which has a little, pencil-beam light laser and it scans around the whole field of view and builds up an image over a short period of time. The VNS is a flash LIDAR. The laser light comes out, goes through special optics and illuminates a whole field of view, just like a digital camera. You push a button; your flashbulb goes off and you capture the whole scene in one single flash.

RICK: Langley also developed a STORRM software application. That provides the experiment command control and monitoring while we’re on orbit.

TIM: Basically, navigation data is one of the key components that go into those computers to tell the vehicle exactly where it is at and this is relative navigation. This tells the vehicle where it’s at with respect to whatever target it’s flying to. In the case for STORRM, its relationship between the orbiter and the space station is very different than on the ground where you’re trying to approach something standing still. Of course the space station is flying at 18,000 mph, and we’re coming in at the same speed. We have to try to meet it up exactly with no room for error.

BLAIR: Howard, we’ve talked about the camera, the VNS, and the guidance and navigation but there are some other important elements to NASA STORRM too. Could you talk about those?

HOWARD: In addition the shuttle program is really helping us out by flying unique rendezvous profile after they undock. Normally they’ll do a trajectory in terms of approaching the space station, like they normally do. We’ll get data on that.

BLAIR: Right, and you’ll be testing this for the first time during that part.

HOWARD: Right. We’ll dock with the space station. They’ll do the normal halo transfer and things like that.

BLAIR: Mission stuff.

HOWARD: Mission stuff. We’ll have an opportunity to undock and fly an Orion-like trajectory.

MARK: Different than a shuttle approach.

BLAIR: Yeah.

MARK: But the procedures, obviously, we want commonality in the procedures, so a lot of these things are done very similar to what we’ve always done before. They are just done at different times, different size burns, and the sensors we use at different times might be different.

BLAIR: So, you can’t get comfortable.

MARK: No, you get comfortable. You just have to be aware of what you’re doing and how risky it is. With all the training we go through to get ready for these things, you should be at a point where you’re pretty comfortable.

BLAIR: I’m just thinking I’m probably… with the way you’ve explained it, I probably still have no shot at ever becoming an astronaut.

MARK: Sure you do. Send in the application.

BLAIR: You heard it here first.

AMANDA: Can you talk about what it means to be able to fly this on a shuttle mission and get a test like this?

RICK: This is a very exciting opportunity for a program to get an opportunity to fly an experiment, especially on the space shuttle at this point in the program. The benefits of doing that is it allows us to get real space flight experience and knowledge on how the sensors are going to perform in their true environment.

GARY: The more exposure we get to the actual hardware and software, especially for STORRM, because there’s going to be some interaction between the ground team and the crew on board. The more we know and understand the system, the much more successful we’ll be especially if there’s any anomalies or issues that arise that we have to work through to resolve them and still meet our objectives.

DREW: My job is to watch the performance of the hardware with the laptop computer interface and report to mission control what I’m seeing to allow them to acquire the data they need ultimately calibrate that system and make it useful for Orion.

BLAIR: So you’re like the human component. You’ll give them real feedback from an astronaut perspective and they’ll compare it with the science.

DREW: Right. Unfortunately, I’m the human in the loop, which isn’t always a positive thing.

BLAIR: Well.

DREW: You never know how that’s going to end up.

BLAIR: So you’re almost like the goofy co-host of STS-134?

[extended silence]

DREW: Okay.

HEATHER: Today was Drew’s first chance with the real flight hardware; to see real images. We had no time today where we had to say this is just a function of anything. This is what you are going to see on orbit.

DREW: Simulations we’ve done previously have sort of been make believe. They’ll tell me what I’m suppose to see and then I’ll imagine I’m seeing that and report back to them what it is they told me I should be seeing. Next time we actually saw the data and I was able to work through the procedures and also give them feedback as to whether or not I understand the procedures and also whether I feel somebody else running the procedure, if it’s not me, could also perform those tasks without having the knowledge that I have.

BLAIR: Currently, do you have a backup for STS-134 if you decide you can’t handle the task?

DREW: Yeah, the backup is anybody else that is breathing and close to the system.

BLAIR: I’m out. I’m everything but close to the system.

DREW: You’re always trying to be an astronaut. Maybe I should come on your show and be a host.

BLAIR: I’d be jobless. It’s nice talking to you again, Drew. Appreciate it.

DREW: Thanks everybody.

BLAIR: This is awesome.

RICK: You’ve been watching NASA EDGE, a look at everything inside and outside of NASA. That’s not it, is it?


RICK: What is it?

OFF CAMERA: An inside and outside…

RICK: An inside and outside look… so, you are watching… you’re watching NASA, an inside and outside look at everything NASA.

OFF CAMERA: all things.

RICK: See it’s the all things.


RICK: You are watching NASA EDGE, an inside and out… an inside and [laughing]

OFF CAMERA: One more time, please.

[Amanda laughing]

RICK: No, I can’t do it.

OFF CAMERA: We just need one that works.

RICK: Good luck.


RICK: You’re watching NASA EDGE, an inside and outside look of all… an inside and outside look at all NASA.

OFF CAMERA: All things NASA.


RICK: All things NASA. I probably should have watched your show Blair.


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