KSC Awards Grants Supporting Future Spaceport Technology

by KSC Space Center

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Kennedy Space Center's Education Programs and University Research Division recently awarded several grants to support future spaceport technology work.

Two years ago KSC's education office, led by Pam Biegert, KSC's Education Programs and University Research Division chief, sought additional funding for new university partnerships. The funding request was approved, and KSC issued grant announcements relating to student intern activity and technical activity.

The technical activity supports two areas: cryogenics and life sciences. In the cryogenics area, University of Central Florida and Southern University (Baton Rouge, LA) will work independently to investigate cryogenic switch technology.

"This will be good work that will relate to other activity in one of our key areas -- the cryogenics test bed," said KSC Chief Technologist Dr. Dave Bartine. "We are happy to have two strong universities working with us in this area."

In the life sciences area, Ohio State University will be teaming up with Dr. John Sager, autonomous harvester for plants in space, and others to look at technology for harvesting food on longer duration Space Shuttle missions.

"This is an excellent opportunity for NASA to leverage the current automation research in the university community that is applicable to our life support project goals," said Dr. Sager. "This work will advance NASA's objectives, will keep basic work in this area active, and will increase our collaborative efforts with academia."

This project may also have technology transfer potential for production agriculture such as citrus producers interested in automating some of their harvesting activity.

In the student programs, three grants were awarded. The first brings interns to KSC from Penn State's Minority Engineering Program. The second recruits engineering students from Florida International University.

"Both these programs will bring a diverse group of engineering students to KSC to get a taste of engineering in the nation's space program," said Gregg Buckingham, KSC's university programs lead. "It will also give us a chance to get to know some talented students who may become future employees."

The third program is a grant to Alabama A & M University to work with their statistics department in drafting interns and supporting curriculum changes at their institution.

Each of the grants is approximately $100,000 and lasts for one year. KSC received twelve other grant proposals, which will be held pending any future funding availability.