Space exploration – Jenam 2011 Wed, 22 Sep 2021 20:05:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Space exploration – Jenam 2011 32 32 An experimental loop to simulate nuclear reactors in space – sciencedaily Wed, 22 Sep 2021 17:52:14 +0000 Thermal nuclear propulsion, which uses the heat of nuclear reactions as fuel, could one day be used in human spaceflight, possibly even for missions to Mars. Its development, however, poses a challenge. The materials used must be able to withstand high temperatures and regular bombardment of high energy particles.

Will Searight, a PhD student in nuclear engineering at Penn State, is contributing research that could make these advances more feasible. He published the results of a preliminary design simulation in Fusion of science and technology, a publication of the American Nuclear Society.

To further study nuclear thermal propulsion, Searight simulated a small-scale laboratory experiment known as the hydrogen test loop. The setup mimics how a reactor works in space, where circulating hydrogen passes through the core and propels the rocket – at temperatures up to nearly 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit. Searight developed the simulation using the dimensions of the detailed drawings of the link tubes, the components that make up a large part of the test loop through which hydrogen flows. Industrial partner Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) provided the drawings.

“Understanding how the components of the USNC behave in a hot hydrogen environment is crucial to getting our rockets into space,” Searight said. “We are delighted to be working with one of the major reactor contractors for the NASA Space Nuclear Propulsion Project, which seeks to produce a demonstration nuclear thermal propulsion engine within a decade.”

Advised by Leigh Winfrey, associate professor and director of the undergraduate program in nuclear engineering, Searight used Ansys Fluent, modeling software, to design a simulation loop from a stainless steel pipe with an outside diameter of d ‘about two inches. In the model, the loop connects to a hydrogen pump and circulates hot hydrogen through a test section adjacent to a heating element.

Searight discovered that while constant heating of the hydrogen to 2200 degrees Fahrenheit was possible, it was necessary to include a heating element directly above the test section to avoid a reduction in heating. Data collected from the modeling software showed that the flow of hydrogen through the test section was smooth and uniform, reducing the uneven distribution of heat across the loop which could compromise safety and service life. of the installation. Analysis of the results also verified that stainless steel would allow a more practical and cost effective construction of the loop.

“We are excited to take the first steps in developing a unique capability to simulate extreme environments at Penn State,” said Winfrey. “This preliminary work will allow us to continue research that could have a major impact on the future of space exploration.”

With further research, Searight’s preliminary work could expand the testing of materials that could one day be implemented to create faster and more efficient space travel using jet rockets.

Recently, Searight was awarded the George P. Shultz and James W. Behrens Graduate Scholarship from the ANS. Searight will use the award to support his future work on the test loop. The $ 3,000 scholarship honors Shultz, an advocate for nuclear non-proliferation and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom who died in February, and Behrens, a former ANS board member who has served many positions in the national security sector.

A NASA Small Business Innovation Research contract supported this work.

Source of the story:

Material provided by State of pennsylvania. Original written by Gabrielle Stewart. Note: Content can be changed for style and length.

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NASA Robots Participate in DARPA Underground Challenge Final Wed, 22 Sep 2021 01:35:47 +0000

Led by NASA JPL, Team CoSTAR will participate this week in the SubT final to demonstrate the autonomy of several robots in a series of tests in extreme environments.

Eight teams comprising dozens of robots from more than 30 institutions, including NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, will converge in a former Kentucky limestone mine from September 21 to 24 to participate in a series of complex underground scenarios. The goal: to demonstrate cutting-edge robotic autonomy and compete for a chance to win $ 2 million.

Sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the event marks the last competition of the Subterranean, or SubT, Challenge, which began three years ago, attracting engineers from around the world. The challenge aims to develop autonomous robotic solutions for first responders in underground environments where GPS and direct communications are not available.

But the technologies developed for the SubT Challenge and the exploration of extreme environments on Earth also have direct applications for space exploration. The JPL-led CoSTAR (Collaborative SubTerranean Autonomous Robots) team will showcase their collection of driving, walking and flying robots that could one day be used to explore extreme terrain on the surface as well as indoors caves and lava tubes on other worlds without human help.

The 60-member team includes engineers from Caltech, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), Swedish University of Technology Lulea and several industry partners.

“Our goal in SubT is not competition. Rather, it is an incredible opportunity to accelerate technological development and develop new autonomy and AI. [artificial intelligence] capabilities for NASA and for the good of humanity, ”said Ali Agha, JPL roboticist and CoSTAR team principal investigator. “In particular, with regard to NASA’s quest in the search for life beyond Earth, the autonomy of NeBula and the technologies developed by participating in this competition may be used in the future by robots. who can explore extreme and difficult places on other worlds where signs of extinct and existing life can be found. “

The CoSTAR team’s Rollocopter uses a quadrotor system to fly or ride on two passive wheels. When it encounters an obstacle while driving, it can simply fly over it. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Underground without help

The SubT Challenge started in 2018 and consists of two tracks: the Systems track and the Virtual track, both divided into three sub-areas, or events – the Tunnel, Urban and Cave circuits. While the virtual competition focuses on developing software that can participate in simulation-based events, the Systems competition focuses on physical robots that operate in real field environments. This is why the CoSTAR team is committed: to develop AI and autonomy software solutions for physical robots capable of navigating in difficult and new environments.

The Tunnel Circuit took place in August 2019 in mining tunnels beneath Pittsburgh, with the CoSTAR team placing second; they took first place in the street circuit, which was held in February 2020 at an unfinished power station in Elma, Washington. The Systems Competition Cave Circuit was canceled in fall 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

This week’s final event, held in the 4 million square foot (370,000 square meters) Louisville Mega Cavern, features a combination of the three subdomains designed by DARPA – from cave systems with irregular passages and large caverns to underground structures. with complex layouts that reach multiple floors.

The CoSTAR team relies on a wide range of robots to achieve mission objectives. They first send out robot scouts to explore the environment, then select a subset of robots best able to collectively meet the overall mission objectives based on their mode of locomotion.

The SubT Challenge’s range of environments require different modes of locomotion and a wide range of robots to accomplish complex tasks. The CoSTAR team can use wheeled and tracked robots to cover the ground faster when obstacles are few or the terrain is rough. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

“The final competition will be particularly difficult, as we have to use wheeled, legged and flying robots to access all of the complex spaces that DARPA will bring into the competition. I am delighted to see how our very diverse robot team will perform. “said Joel Burdick, professor at Caltech and researcher at JPL who heads the Caltech campus section of the CoSTAR team.

The robots will also produce a live 3D map when they locate objects that represent a disaster response and search and rescue scenario, such as dummies (to simulate human survivors), cell phones and bags. backpack spread in a vast environment.

“Our participation in this exciting effort helps promote one of the main goals of Caltech’s Center for Autonomous Systems & Technologies (CAST): to develop robots that can help find and rescue humans in future disasters,” said Burdick.

Watch the CoSTAR team and their team of robots prepare for the February 2020 DARPA Subterranean Challenge street circuit during a practice at Elma High School in Elma, Washington. The team finally placed first. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Environmentally specific artifacts will also be present, such as a carbon dioxide emitting source that mimics an urban gas leak, or a helmet in a cave that would indicate a human presence nearby. The robot team must operate autonomously, for the most part, without radio contact or limited contact with a single human supervisor, and the mission must be completed within an hour. The more accurately they can cross objects, reach, identify and locate, the more points they earn.

“It’s a complex challenge for the hardware and software design, but also for the diverse team that has persevered through the challenges we face in competition and the real world over the past three years,” said Benjamin Morrell, robotics technologist at JPL and responsible for perception. on the CoSTAR team. “It’s amazing to see what the team has produced, and I’m delighted to see our system put to the test against some of the best robotics engineers in the world. I’m also excited to see how SubT will launch new advances in improving autonomous robots. “

To watch system and virtual competition highlights from September 21-24, visit:

For more information about the CoSTAR team, visit:

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NASA unveils moon landing site for VIPER ice-hunting rover Mon, 20 Sep 2021 22:45:40 +0000

We now know where NASA’s very first robotic lunar rover will land.

The ice-hunting Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) will land just west of the Nobile Crater, which is near the moon’s south pole, NASA officials said today (September 20). At the end of 2023, VIPER will fly to the moon aboard Griffin, a lander built by the Pittsburgh-based company Astrobotic and which will be launched atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.