Volume 06 | July 2019
NAMS Highlights - July 2019
The Latest News from the NASA Academic Mission Services Program
Aeronautics: Urban Air Mobility (UAM) X2 Engineering Evaluation 
NASA is currently collaborating with Uber to determine and define the rules for the operations of Air Taxis in commercial airspace. This concept is more colloquially known as ‘flying cars’. While these ‘flying cars’ aren’t quite the Jetsons, they will allow for the daily traffic to be alleviated by short hops in small aircraft. These aircraft will be different in that they will take off and land vertically like a helicopter,  but fly like a normal aircraft for efficiency. A commuter would be picked up by an car and delivered to a Vertiport (a small helicopter like pad) where they would then fly over highways and waterways to another vertiport and then reach their final destination via another car. The UAM team is currently evaluating the Unmanned Aerial System Traffic Management (UTM) system for management of these aircraft for this commercial Air Taxi market. The UTM was system was initially designed for the FAA for the management of small drones being used for package delivery, utility inspections, video coverage, etc. 

The team has successfully demonstrated the connectivity of the system with our external partner Uber, by allocating airspace operations in near proximity to Uber airspace operations. NASA is employing it’s UTM system with other advanced researched systems to collect and analyze data in simulated operations in order to determine new requirements for this futuristic system.

The USRA-Crown team is in charge of software development for the development of the new UAM functionality. Kudos go to the software team leads for getting the system up and working in a short period of time with a limited set of requirements across multiple teams while integrating the UTM system with Uber: Alexis Clymer (Crown), Leonard Bagasol (USRA), Ari Stassart (Crown).
Pictured above: UAM connectivity test between NASA and Uber showing UAM simulated aircraft flying through independent volumes in the same airspace.
Aeronautics: ATD-2 Phase 3 Microphase B Released into the DFW Towers
ATD-2 had a major software release at the end of May which was deployed in the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) airport tower in the beginning of June. The purpose of the newest version of ATD-2 is to help air traffic controllers manage the traffic in the air space during the summer thunderstorm season. When planes fly, they don’t fly wherever they want to; they fly through specific positions in space called a “fix”. There are 12 departure fixes surrounding the Dallas-Fort Worth space airspace. If there is a thunderstorm in the area of one or more of those fixes, then those fixes are considered “closed” and the traffic has to be rerouted to other fixes. ATD-2's tools are helping the controllers visualize the amount of traffic that will be impacted by these fix closures. In July, ATD-2 had a second release. Rerouting a flight to another fix impacts the amount of fuel the flight is required to carry on board, as well as impacting connecting flights, crew flight time, and other considerations. Therefore a modified version of ATD-2's displays was given to the American Airlines Operations Center at the DFW airport and the Southwest Airlines Operation Center at the Dallas-Love (DAL) airport (which shares the airspace with DFW). If the airlines see that a flight will be rerouted, the ATD-2 displays will allow them to send a route request for a flight to the air traffic controllers. If the air traffic controllers accept the route request, a notification is sent back to the airline which can notify the pilot and make all of the needed adjustments. This feature will be used operationally for the first time in late July.
Intelligent Systems: Robotics Papers Published on the International Journal of Robotics Research (IJRR)
Two journal publications have been published to the International Journal of Robotics Research (IJRR). These publications are part of the robotics team (USRA staff - Dr. Massimo Vespignani and Dr. Jonathan Bruce) ongoing collaboration with Rutgers University (Prof. Kostas Bekris, NASA ECF award) to develop new machine learned controllers for our SUPERball v2 tensegrity rover.

These publications are the highlight of a very fruitful collaboration with Dr. Kostas Bekris, who was the recipient of a NASA Early Career Faculty award. The collaboration with Dr. Kostas Bekris’ PRACSYS lab at Rutgers University has been primarily focused on developing planners and trajectory following controllers for NASA’s SUPERball v2 rover, a tensegrity based robotic platform. Through the development of kinodynamic planning, or kinematically constrained planning, the team has achieved locomotion of their SUPERball rover over, around, and through extremely complex terrain. The collaboration has also developed trajectory controllers by adapting a new machine learning technique called Guided Policy Search and sped up the learning time by exploiting the structures symmetry. This research has pushed the boundaries of how tensegrity robots can navigate complex terrains.


Pictured above:  Snapshot of SUPERball v2 walking up a 15-degree slope
Intelligent Systems: Tensegrity Workshop at 2019 International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA)
The Robotics team co-organized a Tensegrity Workshop at the 2019 International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), which featured talks and poster presentations from top researchers in the field of tensegrity robotics. The team gave a highlight presentation of their work at the conference via Skype. Bringing together researchers working in the field, the conference included talks from top researchers such as Robert Skelton (UC San Diego), Dario Floreano (EPFL, Switzerland), Valter Bohm (OTH Regensburg, Germany), Andrew P. Sabelhaus (UC Berkeley, NSTRF student), and Vikas Vishesh (University of Alabama).  

Pictured above: 2019 ICRA Workshop
Intelligent Systems: Robotics Research Highlights – SUPERball V2 Testing 
The Robotics team performed extensive testing of the SUPERball v2 in a controlled outdoor environment (NASA ARC's Roverscape), as part of their ongoing effort to demonstrate the ability of the system to be a deployable, lightweight, impact-resistant rover for science missions on extreme terrains. Part of these abilities, such as the ability to pack down into a flat (stowage) configuration and then autonomously re-deploy or the ability to survive high-speed landing, had already been demonstrated in the past years, as described in the following two publications, and attached videos, presented at the 2018 International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS):

In the last few months, the team highly improved the algorithms that are used to coordinate ground locomotion. These new algorithms allow tensegrity robots like SUPERball v2 to move smoothly through complex terrains, following arbitrarily defined waypoints. This capability enables efficient terrain navigation to quickly and successfully reach target locations of scientific interest. Details about these algorithms can be found in the two recent IJRR publications cited above and in a conference paper presented at the 2018 International Symposium on Experimental Robotics (ISER 2018).

The team also completed the integration of a payload bay that is suspended in the middle of the robot in order to protect its science instruments from impacts with the ground. The current version of the payload bay can house a standard 1U CubeSat form-factor payload package. The team tested this complete system in the NASA ARC's Roverscape and showed resilience during drops and high-speed landing scenarios, to demonstrate the protection of science payloads from external impacts. 
Pictured above: The team completed the integration of a payload bay that is suspended in the middle of the robot in order to protect its science instruments from impacts with the ground. 
Synthetic Biology Collaborator Presents at Astrobiology Science Conference 
Dr. Tomasz Zajkowski, University of Warsaw Collaborator, presented his USRA affiliated work at the Astrobiology Science Conference (June 24 - 28, 2019) in Bellevue, Washington. He is studying the origin of prions, and the role they may have had in early evolutionary events. Over last year, Dr. Zajkowski and his collaborators from Poland and the US discovered many archaeal proteins capable of forming amyloid fibrils, a key structural feature of prions. His talk and poster titled "The Hunt For Ancient Prions" received a great deal of concrete attention. 
Pictured above:  Dr. George Fox who classified Archaea as a separate domain of life, and Dr. Steven Benner, a prominent evolutionary biologist, discussing Dr. Tomasz Zajkowski 's results
Pictured above: Dr. Tomasz Zajkowski working on his research at the Ames Synthetic Biology
University Engagement and Student Highlights
BioScience – iGEM Team (Brown-Stanford-Princeton) working in Synthetic Biology Lab

USRA’s Safety and Security Coordinator, Susan DeKom, conducted a safety walk through of the lab on behalf of the NAMS R&D Student Program. As part of the safety and security program, students received Ames lab and office environment safety training as well as other courses (e.g. harassment prevention training). Safety and security is of utmost importance to both NASA and USRA.
Pictured above:  USRA NAMS interns and Susan Dekom, Safety and Security Coordinator, conducting lab safety walk through
iGEM Team at Mountain View’s Technology Showcase

On July 16th, the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM)Team presented their project at the 5th Annual Technology Showcase that was held at Civic Center Plaza. The technology showcase is a one-day outdoor event where local organizations, tech companies and start-ups showcase their latest products/technologies. The event is presented by the City of Mountain View and the Chamber of Commerce with the purpose of promoting Mountain View’s innovative community and connect businesses with the Mountain View community.
Pictured above: iGEM booth at Mountain View City's Technology Showcase
I-Squared Program: International Cultural Night
I-Squared Program hosted the International Culture Night on July 16 at 5:30 PM at the Ames Research Park. The event was attended by students from I-Squared, NAMS R&D Student Program and NASA Internships and Fellowships (NIFS). Students gave presentations, learned about interns from other countries, shared food from various cultures and networked with other students. Thanks to Porsche Parker and Kristina Wilmoth for involving students from various programs to make this event a success!
Pictured above:   I-Squared program students at International Cultural Night
I-Squared Program: Ames Summer Series Seminar by Krisstina Wilmoth 
On July 18, Interns attended a talk presented by Krisstina Wilmoth, NASA Ames Dean of Students and NAMS I-Squared Program Manager.

"Essential Elements of a Successful Center: Fully Included Learners, Respected Experts, and True Belonging" 

One measure of success is longevity, especially in the fields related to space exploration which often require a multi-generational effort. Here we are 50 years after the Apollo landings still working on our understanding of the moon, of our solar system and of our universe. To be successful in these endeavors, we must take advantage of our current experts- of which Ames has many- of our growing technology, which is perhaps best adopted by the young, and of the hearts of everyone here who can contribute or delay our overall efforts simply by whether they feel included and engaged or not. 

So, what makes for a successful organization? It comes down to respecting, trusting and investing in our scientists, technologists, and engineers as well as those in mission support roles, giving them the freedom to creatively pursue their ideas and approaches. It comes down to seeking out young people to engage in our work, to learn our technologies and then enhance them, and to bring their enthusiasm and their energy. And finally, it comes down to creating an environment where individuals want to contribute because they know they belong at Ames Research Center. This is not rocket science, but it is the core of a successful organization and an amazing place to work.  
Pictured above: Krisstina Wilmoth presenting at Ames Summer Series Seminar
Quantum Academy Interns Working on Research Projects
A summer in the USRA-NASA-Google Quantum Artificial Intelligence (AI) Laboratory at NASA Ames Research Center’s Advanced Supercomputing Facility introduces graduate students to scientific opportunities in quantum information sciences and trains them to do research on applied quantum computing. This year our Quantum Academy students come from various universities across the world: Carnegie Mellon - Pittsburg, Princeton, University of Southern California, UC Berkeley. The students are diligently working on their summer research projects and aiming to publish their research and incorporate it into their graduate thesis. 
Pictured above: Quantum Academy interns visiting Wind Tunnel at NASA Ames Research Center
NAMS R&D Student Interns Tour the World’s Largest Wind Tunnel (80x120)
On July 18 th,  NAMS group of interns joined the other interns at Ames to tour the world’s largest Wind Tunnel (80x120), housed at NASA Ames Research Center.  This subsonic tunnel, which can test planes with wing spans of up to 100 feet, is over 1,400 feet long and 180 feet high. It has two test sections: one 80 feet high and 120 feet wide, the other 40 feet high and 80 feet wide. Air is driven through these test sections by six 15-bladed fans. Each fan has a diameter equal to the height of a four-story building. The fans are powered by six 22,500-horsepower motors. During the tour, students were able to learn about the wind tunnel’s history, functionality and receive an in-depth view of the Ames facility. 
Pictured above: Summer interns touring Wind Tunnel at NASA Ames Research Center
 Innovation Lab Student Engagement 
On July 19, 2019, NASA-USRA Innovation Lab hosted 50 high school students at NASA Ames Research Center (ARC) as part of its student engagement program. The students are part of the  California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science (COSMOS) Program at University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). UCSC Faculty members include Dr. Michael Oye and Dr. Shaowei Chen; and Dr. Roger Terrill from SJSU. Local teachers also take part in the COSMOS program as Teacher Fellows, which included science teacher Zachary Epperson (Aptos High School, Aptos, CA) Dr. Wenonah Vercoutre, Director of Innovation Lab at ARC gave an overview of the Innovation Lab Program. Students were also given an overview of technical and education programs at Ames; presenters included Jennifer Blank (NASA-Blue Marble Space), Zeal Pachal (UCSC), Saba Hussain (USRA). To give the group a complete overview of Ames and the work being done through NAMS, they also participated in tours of the Innovation Lab, Mars Roverscape and Wind Tunnel (80 x 120). The Mars Roverscape tour was led by Massimo Vespignani (USRA), 80x120 tour by Bill Warmbrodt (NASA), and an Innovation Lab tour was provided by Dr. Jin-Woo Han (USRA). The students were enthusiastic, learned about technical areas at Ames and appreciated the opportunity to engage with Ames scientists and engineers. The faculty members thanked Ames and USRA for providing this opportunity that will have an impact on the students’ lives.  

Pictured above: High School students visit SUPERball v2 and Innovation Labs. Tours given by Dr. Massimo Vespignani., Robotics, USRA Associate Scientist and Dr. Jin-Woo Han, USRA Senior Scientist
Pictured above: High School students visit Wind Tunnel. Tour given by Dr. William Warmbrodt, NASA
Welcome New Hires and Interns!
New Hires for July 2019
Harry Jackson, NAMS Airborne Science
Yoichi Shiga, NAMS Earth Science
Submit NAMS Updates:

Website:  NAMS News Submission

Submittal Date : News submission form for NASA Academic Mission Services (NAMS) Newsletter. Please submit submission form by the 15th of the month to be featured in the monthly newsletter. 

For more information on requesting interns through the NAMS Student R&D Program , please email  NAMS-studentRD@usra.edu