April 24th, 2002

KSC tests smart umbilical mating system for NASA ‘s space launch initiative Aerospace Online

Engineers at Kennedy Space Center are testing the newest in umbilical technology in support of NASA’s Space Launch Initiative (SLI)-a technology development effort to establish reliable, affordable space access. “Umbilicals are the lifeline for any Space Launch Vehicle,” said Warren Wiley, KSC’s SLI program manager. “Fluids including propellants, pressurization gasses, and cooling systems, power, communications, and instrumentation readings all flow through the umbilical. They are large devices that are manpower intensive to mate, test, and maintain.” The Smart Umbilical Mating System, three years in development by Rohwetter Systems, Oviedo, Florida, and NASA will serve as a modern, next-generation umbilical system. “The concept is to replace a T-0 umbilical with an automated umbilical which has a mate, demate and remate capability,” said Tom Lippitt, KSC’s spaceport engineering and technology lead engineer. “In addition to ground-based applications, planetary systems and rovers will require umbilical mating for propellant loading and electrical and data connection,” said Lippitt. “The technology developed as part of this project may be applied to develop simple, reliable, self-sufficient mating. Some of this work will be required to make certain missions and systems feasible such as the Mars methane fueled rovers.”

January 10th, 2002

Insect-like robots could explore Mars Aerospace Online

Scientists at the University of Missouri are helping NASA evaluate the feasibility of using tiny flying robots as part of future Mars probes to gather information about the planet. K.M. Isaac, a professor of aerospace engineering at the university’s Rolla campus, said Wednesday he is supervising an aerodynamic study of computer simulations for a robot named “Entomopter,” a combination of the words entomology or insect study and helicopter. The Ohio Aerospace Institute and the Georgia Institute of Technology also are helping NASA with initial evaluations of the robot. “What they’re interested in is mapping the terrain of Mars,” Issac told United Press International. “The current thinking is the (next-generation) Mars Rover will land, and from there these Entomopters will fly in a circle about a mile from the rover, very close to the surface.” The swarm of robots would transmit different types of data back to the rover, depending on what sort of sensor — i.e. cameras or radiation detectors — they carried, Isaac said. The robots also could conceivably land and take soil samples, he said. Successful designs will be as lightweight and small as possible.