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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Draper Receives Top Aerospace Honor with Space Station Team

Draper Laboratory received the Collier Trophy – the nation’s top aerospace award – on May 13 as part of NASA’s International Space Station (ISS) team.

The ISS allows researchers to harness microgravity conditions for experiments in areas including life sciences, biology, physiology, physical and material sciences, and Earth and space science.

Draper has been a “key member” of the diverse, international team of industry and government employees working on the ISS effort, according to Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for space operations.

Draper has played a crucial role on the ISS team since the beginning of the program through providing technology and expertise in guidance, navigation and control (GN&C) systems, fault tolerant avionics, and software. Draper has also been instrumental in enabling assembly of the station through shuttle through developments including flight software and GN&C capabilities for maneuvering.\Draper innovations enabled the shuttle to control the station during assembly operations, stabilizing the largest structure in space, and providing the only means of stability when Russian control capabilities were lost during STS-117 in 2007.

Other Draper innovations in the development of the ISS GN&C and software have provided critical safety and operational benefits such as:

  • The “Mighty Mouse” software that “saved the day” when primary ISS flight computers were lost during STS 100 in 2001.
  • The Timeliner software, which reduces crew workload through automatic payload operations, experiments, and limited station control.
  • The Zero Propellant Maneuver software, which uses information regarding environmental disturbances to design trajectories that steer the space station to the proper orientation without using thrusters. This maneuver saves propellant and avoids solar array plume impingement and contamination issues associated with thruster firings.

“Some of this work was done in a time critical manner to support anomalies,” Gerstenmaier said. “The Draper team has been critical to the success of ISS.”

Draper has been involved with U.S. human space work since designing the GN&C system for the Apollo mission. The laboratory will help enable future human space missions through work on efforts like the avionics, fault-tolerant flight computer, and GN&C system for the Ares I Crew Launch Vehicle; reentry algorithms for the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle; and autonomous precision landing system technologies for the Lunar Landing Vehicle.

The Collier Trophy is named for Robert Collier, publisher of Collier’s Weekly, who commissioned it in 1910 to foster innovation in the U.S. aviation community. The award is presented by the National Aeronautic Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing aviation and spaceflight.

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