UpFront

Research Group to Develop Flight Navigation Technology

NASA has tapped a team of aerospace, military, and academic researchers for a three-year project that could dramatically improve in-flight navigation capabilities for space vehicles, military air and sea assets, and commercial vehicles. The project includes researchers from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center; the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Develop ment, and Engineering Center (AMRDEC); and Northwestern University.

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Smartphone Nanosatellites

NASA’s PhoneSat project will demonstrate the ability to launch the lowest-cost and easiest-to-build satellites ever flown in space — capabilities enabled by using off-theshelf consumer smartphones to build spacecraft. The smartphones already offer a wealth of capabilities needed for satellite systems, including fast processors, versatile operating systems, multiple miniature sensors, high-resolution cameras, GPS receivers, and several radios.

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Curiosity Update

Instruments aboard the Curiosity rover have ingested and analyzed samples of the Martian atmosphere collected near the “Rocknest” site in Gale Crater where the rover is stopped for research. Findings from the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instruments suggest that loss of a fraction of the atmosphere has been a significant factor in the evolution of the planet.

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App of the Month: NetworKing

NASA has released a new mobile application that challenges gamers to take on the role of a space communications network manager, and puts them in charge of building a communications network to support scientific missions. NetworKing provides an interactive, 3D experience with an insider’s perspective into how mission controllers and scientists communicate with spacecraft and satellites. NetworKing is available free on the NASA 3D Resources Web site at http://go.nasa.gov/OFkcot.

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Creating the Future

The Sensordrone Tricorder Platform for Consumers and Mobile Device Developers has the potential to dramatically extend the sensing capability of smartphones and tablets. The keyfob- sized device has been awarded the Grand Prize of $20,000 in the 2012 Create the Future Design Contest, sponsored by COMSOL, Nordson EFD, and Tech Briefs Media Group.

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The Sky’s the Limit

To set your sights on visionary changes that could transform space exploration, look no further than NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC). In early August, NASA’s NIAC announced 18 new NIAC Phase I awards, and 10 new Phase II awards based on earlier Phase I studies. The objective is to help transform the space agency’s future space missions, enable new capabilities, or significantly alter current approaches to launching, building, and operating space systems.

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Curiosity Update

NASA’s rover Curiosity touched a Martian rock with its robotic arm for the first time on September 22, assessing what chemical elements are in the rock called “Jake Matijevic.” Curiosity put its Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) instrument in contact with the rock during the rover’s 46th Martian day. Watch Tech Briefs TV for the latest videos of the mission at www.techbriefs.com/tv/mars. Keep up with Curiosity at http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl.

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