UB among Top 25 NASA iTech semifinalists

by Jane Stoyle Welch

Published May 10, 2017

A UB project to improve the navigation capabilities of a formation of spacecraft is among 25 of the most promising ideas selected as semifinalists in NASA’s iTech initiative. 

“John is one of the top innovators and leading pioneers in aerospace engineering and we are excited that his project is recognized by NASA as being among the 25 best in the U.S.”
Kemper Lewis, professor and chair
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

The iTech initiative is a yearlong effort to find ideas that address challenges that will fill gaps in critical areas identified by NASA as having a potential impact on future space exploration.

Led by John Crassidis, CUBRC Professor in Space Situational Awareness in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and Director, Center for Multisource Information Fusion, the project involves advancing an existing technology, based on lasers to communicate information between spacecraft, to determine both their relative position and orientation. The new approach requires no modifications to existing laser communication devices; instead is it a by-product that enables vehicles to navigate without any other sensors. The approach provides significant cost-savings and has been proven using both ground-based and air-based platforms. 

Over the next few weeks, the 25 semifinalist entries will be evaluated by a panel of subject matter experts representing NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist. The field will be narrowed to ten finalists based on their relevance, likelihood of achievement and potential positive impact to space exploration and life on Earth.

“John is one of the top innovators and leading pioneers in aerospace engineering and we are excited that his project is recognized by NASA as being among the 25 best in the U.S.,” said Kemper Lewis, professor and chair of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

The top 10 finalists will be invited to present their ideas to NASA’s chief technologists, space industry leaders and potential investors at the 2017 NASA iTech Forum during NASA Langley Research Center’s Centennial celebrations in July.

NASA iTech is an initiative by NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist, and is managed by the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) in Hampton, Virginia. The Office of the Chief Technologist (OCT) provides the strategy and leadership that integrates NASA’s technology development and innovation activities.