skip to main content

Student project gets real-world testing

6/10/2019

Debra Levey Larson

Katie Carroll, BS '19,  with diver at the NASA Neutral Buoyancy Lab pool
Katie Carroll, BS '19, with diver at the NASA Neutral Buoyancy Lab pool
A team of students in Illinois Space Society, a registered student organization in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Illinois, participated in the NASA Micro-g NeXt competition. The team was presented with the challenge to develop an extra-vehicular activity tool to protect astronauts from sharp edges produced by micrometeoroid impacts to hand holds on the International Space Station.

Their device, called the Micrometeoroid Impact Detection And Suppression, or MIDAS, was tested by divers in the NASA Neutral Buoyancy Lab pool at the Johnson Space Center in Houston last week. Seven schools--Illinois, Boise State, Grand Valley State, Alabama, Embry Riddle, Lone Star, and Virginia Tech—demonstrated various other tools in NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory as well.

“Our team had a very successful test in the NBL Tuesday morning,” said Associate Professor Michael Lembeck. “Their device detected sharp edges on hand rails with 100 percent success. The hand-held tool was then used to successfully cover the edges with Kapton tape, making the hand holds safe again for astronauts to grab onto.  The divers really liked the feel of the tool and offered positive feedback to the team.”

Left to right: Katie Carroll, David Gable, Noah Henricks, Astronaut Mike Hopkins, George Petrov , Zana Essmeyer, and Harriet Hunt
Left to right: Katie Carroll, David Gable, Noah Henricks, Astronaut Mike Hopkins, George Petrov , Zana Essmeyer, and Harriet Hunt
The team also got to meet with several Illinois alumni including astronaut Mike Hopkins, BS ‘91, Orion Crew Module Manager Blaine Brown, BS ‘81, and NASA flight director Adi Boulos, BS ‘08. After their time at the NBL, the team met with legendary former JSC Center Director George Abbey who answered questions about the history of the space program.

On their last day in Houston, the team toured the facilities at KBR, Oceaneering, and Alpha Space.

“Former astronaut and Oceaneering VP, Michael Bloomfield, tried MIDAS and offered a positive review, ending a very successful week of challenging tests in Space City,” Lembeck said.