NASA Supports Small Business Research to Power Future Exploration

WASHINGTON—NASA has selected hundreds of small businesses and dozens of research institutions to develop technology to help drive the future of space exploration, ranging from novel sensors and electronics to new types of software and cutting-edge materials. The newly awarded projects under the agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program also include a high-power electric rocket and a coating to make solar panels more efficient that could be used both in space and here on Earth.

The awards total nearly $50 million, with investments spread out over 39 states and Washington, D.C. Under the selection, 333 proposals from 257 small businesses and 41 research institutions – including 10 Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) – will be awarded first-round funding for technology development. View the full lists of SBIR awardees and STTR awardees online.

NASA investments in American small businesses and research institutions help provide the innovations needed for the exciting and ambitious missions on the agency’s horizon and foster robust commercial space and technology sectors.

bdpatoday | ICYMI 04.30.22“NASA is working on ambitious, groundbreaking missions that require innovative solutions from a variety of sources – especially our small businesses,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy. “Small businesses have the creative edge and expertise needed to help our agency solve our common and complex challenges, and they are crucial to maintaining NASA’s leadership in space. The SBIR program is one of the key ways we do that as well as creating jobs in a growing, sustainable space economy.”

Each proposal team will receive $150,000 – a 20% increase over previous years’ funding – to establish the merit and feasibility of their innovations. Phase I SBIR contracts are awarded to small businesses and last for six months, while Phase I STTR contracts are awarded to small businesses in partnership with a research institution and last for 13 months.

“The selections span a breadth of areas to empower the agency’s work in human exploration, space technology, science, and aeronautics,” said Jenn Gustetic, director of early-stage innovation and partnerships for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. “We’re excited about the uses for these technologies for Artemis and other missions, as well as their potential use in the commercial space industry and people’s everyday lives.”

About 30% of the awards will go to first-time NASA SBIR/STTR recipients. This includes Ad Astra Rocket Company based in Webster, Texas. With its Phase I award, the company will develop a new way of manufacturing part of its Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, or VASIMR, engine – a high-power electric rocket engine the company has been working on with NASA for 25 years. In the engine, powerful radiofrequency waves are launched by special antennas, called couplers. The waves ionize gas into plasma, which is then accelerated to provide rocket thrust. The Phase I funding will be used to manufacture couplers in a way that increases the engine’s power limit. This innovation will help move the entire engine closer to commercialization, where it could be used for high-maneuverability satellites, lunar settlement cargo delivery, and more.

Nearly 25% of the selected companies are women-owned, veteran-owned, disadvantaged, and/or HUBzone small businesses. For example, D2K Technologies, a women- and minority-owned small business based in Oceanside, California, will create a monitoring and advisory system for health management of solenoid operated valves (SOV) used in industrial applications with its Phase I award. This technology could find use in many of NASA’s research centers, testing centers, and launch sites, since SOVs are basic components of most fluid systems. And, with the widespread use of SOVs in industrial applications, the system could be useful to oil and gas, nuclear, manufacturing, power generation, chemical, food, and pharmaceutical companies. This eight-person company is also a first-time NASA SBIR awardee.

“Finding and building a diverse community of entrepreneurs is a central part of our program’s outreach, and the efforts to reach them can start even before Phase I,” said Gynelle Steele, deputy program executive for NASA’s SBIR/STTR program at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “For example, working in partnership with NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project, we started offering M-STTR planning grants last year, which incentivized partnerships between MSIs and small businesses and prepared them to submit a STTR Phase I proposal in 2022.”

National BDPA’s “Space City” Chapter in Huntsville, Alabama is a Meta Data Center  Community Action Grant winner for FY22 . Funding for nonprofits and schools support long-term vitality of Huntsville.

M-STTR awardee Oakwood University, a historically Black university (HBCU) based in Huntsville, Alabama, will continue working alongside SSS Optical Technologies, a small business also based in Huntsville, using their Phase I award to develop a new type of coating for photovoltaic (PV) cells embedded in solar sails. The coating could generate extra electricity and improve the overall PV conversion efficiency, which could advance solar sailing and other power and energy conversion needs for space exploration. This technology could improve the efficiency of commercial solar panels.

NASA selected Phase I proposals to receive funding by judging their technical merit and commercial potential. Based on their progress during Phase I, companies may submit proposals for $850,000 in Phase II funding to develop a prototype, as well as subsequent SBIR/STTR Post Phase II opportunities. The NASA SBIR/STTR program is part of the Space Technology Mission Directorate and is managed by NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

To learn more about NASA’s SBIR/STTR program and apply to future opportunities, visit: https://sbir.nasa.gov/.

— Source and photos: NASA


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Top 25 Tech Stories from 2020

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WASHINGTON ―The wait is finally over for the very end of 2020. The latest lists from Industry of top stories in tech, cyber, and STEM likely will loom much larger in the fog of 2021. Topping the charts for 2020 during National BDPA’s 45th Anniversary year were stories directly and indirectly related to COVID-19Big TechCybersecurity, and Social Unrest amidst a wider and much deeper ‘Digital Chasm‘ connecting underserved communities with their respective populations during a pandemic.

The Top 25

Most of the top 25 stories highlighted below for 2020 previously were shared with Industry, communities of color, traditionally marginalized communities, and underserved communities inside or on the covers of weekly and monthly publications. 

25. Earth Day Tech Summit: BDPA and UDC Earth Day Summits go virtual due to COVID-19. [April 2020 edition of bdpatoday]

24. Digital Divide: 51,000 laptops with Internet services were provided to students in Detroit, MI. [bdpatoday.com]

23U.S. Naval Academy: Midshipman First Class Sydney Barber becomes the first Black female to lead Brigade of Midshipmen. Upon graduation in May of 2021, MIDN Barber will receive her commission as an officer in the United States Marine Corps. [bdpatoday 11.14.20 ICYMI edition]

22. Zoom: In order to meet exponential growth and unprecedented demand, Oracle is selected as a cloud infrastructure provider for Zoom meetings. [bdpatoday 05.02.20 ICYMI edition]

21. U.S. Navy: LTJG Madeline G. Swegle becomes the U.S. Navy’s first Black female Tactical Air (TACAIR) jet pilot. [July 2020 edition of bdpatoday]

20. NIST: The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Privacy Framework Version 1.0 was released to help organizations identify and manage privacy risk for building innovative products and services while protecting individuals’ privacy. [ bdpatoday 01.18.20 ICYMI edition]

19. Digital Divide: T-Mobile launches Project 10-Million. [bdpatoday 10.03.20 ICYMI edition]

18. COVID-19: Apple and Google partner on contact-tracing technology. [bdpatoday.com]

17. Tesla: Headquarters and Gigafactory moves are heading to Austin, TX. [bdpatoday.com]

16. HPC: Lewis Hamilton wins 7th FIA Formula One championship powered by edge-to-core analytics with high-performance computing (HPC) from HPE. [bdpatoday 11.28.20 ICYMI edition]

15. COBOL: Federal, State, and Local governments call for more COBOL programmers to assist staff with stimulus, relief, and unemployment checks. [bdpatoday 04.04.20 ICYMI edition]

14. Exascale Day!: October 18th is Exascale Day. HPE, JEF, and BDPA welcomed “10 to the 18th power” or “10^18” during Exascale Day Weekend launching a series of supercomputer, HPC, and artificial intelligence (Ai) webinars. [October 2020 edition of bdpatoday]

13. Digital Divide: Best Buy Foundation awards a community grant to BDPA’s Tablets For Teensprogram and regional initiatives. [bdpatoday.com]

12. BDPA2020: National BDPA’s 45th Anniversary, Annual Technology Conference, Diversity Career Fair, I.T. Showcase, Mobile App Showcase, and the annual National High School Computer Competition (HSCC) collectively go 100-percent virtual for the first time in the Association’s history. #BDPA2020 was successfully delivered across all mobile platforms. [August 2020 Special Edition of bdpatoday

11. USASMDC: The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) and BDPA Huntsville launch a new Cyber Workforce initiative with the U.S. Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command (USASMDC.) [bdpatoday 10.31.20 ICYMI edition]

10. Digital Divide: Microsoft awards $15 million in Community Skills Grants, an investment over three years to fifty (50) Black- and African American-led nonprofits that are working to increase skill development and economic opportunities. The H.O.P.E. Project DMV in partnership with National BDPA’s Greater Washington, D.C. Chapter (bdpadc.org) are one of Microsoft’s grant recipients for 2020. [bdpatoday.com]

9. AFRL: In fiscal year 2021 (FY21), the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program seeks to ink new and innovative deals with emerging small businesses and HBCU mission partners to meet or exceed the Department of the Air Force’s (DAF) priorities. [bdpatoday May 2020 edition] 

8. Cryptocurrency: Bitcoin’s latest rise in 2020. For the first time in its history, Bitcoin reached $20,000. According to CNBC, the world’s most-valuable virtual currency traded 5.6% higher on Wednesday, December 16, 2020, to a new price of around $20,600, taking its year-to-date gains north of 180%! [bdpatoday.com]

7. SpaceX: The launch of two NASA astronauts aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) marked the first private spaceflight company to send a crewed spacecraft into space. [bdpatoday June 2020 edition] 

6. SolarWinds: Government agencies ‘hacked’ again ― stories from Federal, State, and Local agencies are still unfolding as we venture deeper into 2021. [bdpatoday.com]

5. Wall Street: Nasdaq advances “diversity” as stocks in 2020 across most major indices reached record highs. Nasdaq soon may adopt new listing rules related to board diversity and disclosures. [bdpatoday.com]

4. White House: As the daughter of two immigrants from Jamaica and India, Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris’ historic election breaks several barriers. “All eyes are on Georgia” as the next President of the Senate awaits Georgia’s runoff election results to determine control of the U.S. Senate. [bdpatoday November 2020 edition] 

3. Big Tech vs. Uncle Sam: On October 6, 2020, bdpatoday.com featured a story about the House Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee’s release of findings of its more than 16-month long investigation into the state of competition in the digital economy, especially the challenges presented by the dominance of Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook and their business practices. On October 20, 2020, bdpatoday.com shared a story from the Department of Justice (DOJ.) DOJ — along with eleven state Attorneys General — filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to stop Google from unlawfully maintaining monopolies through anticompetitive and exclusionary practices in the search and search advertising markets and to remedy the competitive harms. In 2021 and the foreseeable future, “Big Tech” will have its day in Congress and the Courts from at least two branches of government. In the pipeline will be renewed battles over Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934 (at 47 U.S.C. § 230). “Section 230” provides immunity for content providers and website publishers from third-party content. [bdpatoday.com]

2. COVID-19: “All Hands On Deck” for scientists, engineers, physicians, logisticians, STEM technicians, and I.T. professionals. “Digital divides” and “heath desert” challenges across the globe in underserved communities are hampering vaccine distributions as 2020 fades away. [bdpatoday December 2020 edition]

Number 1. Digital Divide and Social Unrest: Black Data Matters, Black Tech Matters, Black Consumers Matter, all lives matter, every student ― #BDPAfuture ― really matters. Founded by Earl A. Pace, Jr. in Philadelphia, PA as Black Data Processing Associates, BDPA was established in 1975 to promote and share awareness across traditionally underserved or marginalized communities of new “Data Processing” careers with related technical job openings in “Computer Science” fields. Today, BDPA’s mission has not waivered.

The pandemic of 2020 coupled with civil unrest across several U.S. cities revealed widening ‘digital chasms’ with news deserts, health deserts, and food deserts in every corner of America leading up to our top stories for 2020. Systemic racism, cultural biases, social discord, oppression from deep within our society’s soul, and gerrymandered redlining transgressions still are shrewdly perpetuated today through outdated laws, discriminatory policies, algorithmic bias, obsolete technology, and dilapidated infrastructures. To this end, our lead success stories feature BDPA, its ICT Industry partners, major corporations, and local BDPA Chapter mission-partners making impact investments to help eliminate “deserts” within digitally divided communities as millions of students, teachers, and parents where forced home; many with little or no access to high speed Internet services. [bdpatoday.com]

In Memoriam

Last October, National BDPA celebrated the life of Vivian C. Wilson, the first women elected to the Association’s chief executive role of National BDPA President.

BDPA Nation also said goodbyes in 2020 to iconic Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman; Dr. George Robert Carruthers, an inventor, physicist, engineer and space scientist; Roderick “Rod” Wesley Flakes, former President, BDPA (Boston) Mass MetroWest Chapter and engineer at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC); U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; one of NASA’s “Hidden Figures” Katherine Johnson; U.S. Representative John LewisNorman Shakespeare, former Vice President of Strategic Planning, BDPA (Boston) Mass MetroWest Chapter; model and restaurateur Barbara “B” Smith; and Charles “Chuck” Yeager, World War II ace fighter pilot and U.S. Air Force quintessential test pilot.

Up Next

2021 has arrived! In May 2021, bdpatoday (ISSN 1946-1429) launches its 15th year to proudly serve more I.T. technicians and cybersecurity professionals, new HBCU Chapters, new student members, and new consumers in every industry. To add your team’s success stories in tech, cyber, and STEM along with new campaigns or press releases, contact our team directly at: info@bdpatoday.org – or – press@bdpadc.org.

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Key words: #5G #Ai #AirForce #AFRL #Army #BDPA #bdpatoday #BigTech #Bitcoin #COBOL #cryptocurrency #cyber #DigitalDivide #diversity #DOD #DOJ #Gigafactory #hackers #HBCU #HPC #HSCC #Huntsville #ICT #innovation #MarineCorps #Navy #Nasdaq #SBIR #SEC #Section230 #SMDC #SpaceForce #STEM #STTR #supercomputer #tech #technology #USASMDC #WallStreet

NASA Names Headquarters After ‘Hidden Figure’ Mary W. Jackson

WASHINGTON ― NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced Wednesday the agency’s headquarters building in Washington, D.C., will be named after Mary W. Jackson, the first African American female engineer at NASA.

Jackson started her NASA career in the segregated West Area Computing Unit of the agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Jackson, a mathematician and aerospace engineer, went on to lead programs influencing the hiring and promotion of women in NASA’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers. In 2019, she was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

“Mary W. Jackson was part of a group of very important women who helped NASA succeed in getting American astronauts into space. Mary never accepted the status quo, she helped break barriers and open opportunities for African Americans and women in the field of engineering and technology,” said Bridenstine. “Today, we proudly announce the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters building. It appropriately sits on ‘Hidden Figures Way,’ a reminder that Mary is one of many incredible and talented professionals in NASA’s history who contributed to this agency’s success. Hidden no more, we will continue to recognize the contributions of women, African Americans, and people of all backgrounds who have made NASA’s successful history of exploration possible.”

The work of the West Area Computing Unit caught widespread national attention in the 2016 Margot Lee Shetterly book “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race.” The book was made into a popular movie that same year and Jackson’s character was played by award-winning actress Janelle Monáe.

In 2019, after a bipartisan bill by Sens. Ted Cruz, Ed Markey, John Thune, and Bill Nelson made its way through Congress, the portion of E Street SW in front of NASA Headquarters was renamed Hidden Figures Way.

“We are honored that NASA continues to celebrate the legacy of our mother and grandmother Mary W. Jackson,” said, Carolyn Lewis, Mary’s daughter. “She was a scientist, humanitarian, wife, mother, and trailblazer who paved the way for thousands of others to succeed, not only at NASA, but throughout this nation.”

Jackson was born and raised in Hampton, Virginia. After graduating high school, she graduated from Hampton Institute in 1942 with a dual degree in math and physical sciences, and initially accepted a job as a math teacher in Calvert County, Maryland. She would work as a bookkeeper, marry Levi Jackson and start a family, and work a job as a U.S. Army secretary before her aerospace career would take off.

In 1951, Jackson was recruited by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which in 1958 was succeeded by NASA. She started as a research mathematician who became known as one of the human computers at Langley. She worked under fellow “Hidden Figure” Dorothy Vaughan in the segregated West Area Computing Unit.

After two years in the computing pool, Jackson received an offer to work in the 4-foot by 4-foot Supersonic Pressure Tunnel, a 60,000 horsepower wind tunnel capable of blasting models with winds approaching twice the speed of sound. There, she received hands-on experience conducting experiments. Her supervisor eventually suggested she enter a training program that would allow Jackson to earn a promotion from mathematician to engineer. Because the classes were held at then-segregated Hampton High School, Jackson needed special permission to join her white peers in the classroom.

Jackson completed the courses, earned the promotion, and in 1958 became NASA’s first Black female engineer. For nearly two decades during her engineering career, she authored or co-authored research numerous reports, most focused on the behavior of the boundary layer of air around airplanes. In 1979, she joined Langley’s Federal Women’s Program, where she worked hard to address the hiring and promotion of the next generation of female mathematicians, engineers and scientists. Mary retired from Langley in 1985.

In 2019, President Donald J. Trump signed the Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act that posthumously awarded the honor to Jackson, who passed away in 2005, and her “Hidden Figures” colleagues Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Christine Darden.

hidden-NASA2

In 2017, then 99-year-old Katherine Johnson was there to personally dedicate a new state-of-the-art computer research facility the bears her name at Langley (bdpatoday 09.24.17). Johnson, another original member of the West Area Computing Unit, also was honored as a trailblazer and given the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. In addition, Johnson was part of the group honored with the Congressional Gold Medal, and NASA’s Independent Verification and Validation facility in Fairmont, West Virginia, also bears Johnson’s name.

“NASA facilities across the country are named after people who dedicated their lives to push the frontiers of the aerospace industry. The nation is beginning to awaken to the greater need to honor the full diversity of people who helped pioneer our great nation. Over the years NASA has worked to honor the work of these Hidden Figures in various ways, including naming facilities, renaming streets and celebrating their legacy,” added Bridenstine. “We know there are many other people of color and diverse backgrounds who have contributed to our success, which is why we’re continuing the conversations started about a year ago with the agency’s Unity Campaign. NASA is dedicated to advancing diversity, and we will continue to take steps to do so.”

For additional information on Mary W. Jackson, the “Hidden Figures,” and today’s Modern Figures, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/modernfigures.

―  Source and photos: NASA

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SpaceX crew docks after historic commercial transportation launch with NASA

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HAWTHORNE, CA — Space Exploration Technologies Corp., trading as SpaceX, is a private American aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company founded in 2002 by Elon Musk.  Musk, also the CEO of Tesla, set a goal of reducing space transportation costs enabling the colonization of Mars.

nasa-spacex-crew_2020-demo2Today’s successful docking of SpaceX’s Dragon Endeavour spacecraft with the International Space Station (ISS), crewed by NASA astronauts (L-R) Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, is another major milestone for Demo-2’s historic mission.

The spacecraft launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center Saturday, May 30. The mission is the first time astronauts have launched from American soil since the final Space Shuttle flight in 2011.

Discover more in the June 2020 edition of bdpatodayThe mission is also the first time a private company, rather than a national government, has sent NASA astronauts into orbit. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry as companies develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems capable of carrying crews to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station. Commercial transportation to and from the station will provide expanded utility, additional research time and broader opportunities for discovery on the orbiting laboratory.

The station is a critical testbed for NASA to understand and overcome the challenges of long-duration spaceflight. As commercial companies focus on providing human transportation services to and from low-Earth orbit, NASA is freed up to focus on building spacecraft and rockets for deep space missions.

NASA-commcrew

The Commercial Crew Program represents a revolutionary approach to government and commercial collaborations for the advancement of space exploration.

— Sources and photos: NASA and SpaceX

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NASA Mourns the Passing of ‘Hidden Figure’ Katherine Johnson

katherine_johnson_john_glenn

HAMPTON, VA (BDPA Hampton Roads) — NASA announced today one of America’s beloved “Human Computers,” Katherine Johnson, has died at the age of 101. Ms. Johnson was a pioneering Hampton Roads and American icon featured in the movie “Hidden Figures.”

johnson-katherine_OBAMA01“NASA is deeply saddened by the loss of a leader from our pioneering days, and we send our deepest condolences to the family of Katherine Johnson. Ms. Johnson helped our nation enlarge the frontiers of space even as she made huge strides that also opened doors for women and people of color in the universal human quest to explore space,” said NASA Administrator Bridenstine.

Ms. Johnson is a distinguished recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and recently had NASA facilities renamed in her honor. 

Source and photos: NASA

 


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STEM ‘Cheerleader’ finalists selected for NASA’s OPSPARC Challenge

WASHINGTON—Three students from Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, D.C. have been selected as one of eight national high school Glog selection finalists in the NASA Goddard OPSARC Challenge making them the only team on the East Coast to place.

Students were asked to use their imagination and creativity to identify NASA spin-off technologies and increase awareness of the benefits NASA technologies contribute to our everyday lives by participating in NASA’s OPTIMUS PRIME Spinoff Promotion and Research Challenge (OPSPARC).  Items such as memory foam, invisible braces, firefighting equipment, artificial limbs, scratch-resistant lenses, aircraft anti-icing systems, shoe insoles, water filters/purification, cochlear implants, satellite television, and long-distance telecommunications were first developed for a NASA mission and then, re-worked to make everyday life easier.

These student finalists, Bria Snell, India Skinner, and Mikayla Sharrieff, also known as “S3“, are 11th grade scholars and varsity cheerleaders from the District’s Benjamin Banneker Academic High School who volunteer at the Inclusive Innovation Incubator (In3) in Washington, D.C. bannekr-cheer2Their participation with In3 is an integral part of their high school’s program and mission to help cultivate globally aware students through active community service. In3 is a new technology incubator corporation located in the Shaw Community near Howard University and supported by Mayor Muriel Bowser’s technology inclusion initiative.

Aaron Saunders, CEO of In3 and In3’s Community Manager, Marissa Jennings founder of Socialgrlz‘ Teen Mobile App, and Travis Bolden of Hales Government Solutions, provided facilities, equipment, materials, and weekly coaching to assist the young innovators with implementation of their “H2NO” to “H2O” Glog entry project.

Public voting begins Monday, April 23, 2018 through April 30, 2018.

NASA Finalists and Voting → https://opsparc.gsfc.nasa.gov/finalists-grades-9-12/

Voting is open to anyone in the 50 U.S. states and territories. Winning teams are invited to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center for two days of in-depth, behind the scene, hands-on workshops with scientists and astronauts.  Additionally, each winning team receives an award stipend of $4,000, generously provided by the Foundation for Technology and Privacy Outreach to help offset expenses.

Sources and photos: In3 and NASA

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NOAA retires storms named Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate

WASHINGTON — Due to the extensive damage caused in the United States and Caribbean last year, the World Meteorological Organization’s Region IV Hurricane Committee has officially retired these names. Storm names are retired if they were so deadly or destructive that the future use of the name would be insensitive – otherwise names are reused by NOAA’s National Hurricane Center on a six-year cycle.

The committee also selected the replacement names for Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate with Harold, Idalia, Margot and Nigel respectively that will first appear in the 2023 list of storm names.

Including these four additions, there have been 86 names retired from the Atlantic basin list since 1953, when storms began to be named. The 2005 hurricane season has the most retired names (five) for one season.

noaa17a

During #CYBEREARTH17, Dr. Dana Carlis (above) of NOAA shared new weather satellite capabilities with BDPA Members and Students during 2017’s Earth Day Tech Summit presentation. Photo © 2017 bdpatoday.
fema-cio-in3
Adrian Gardner (above), Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) shares his agency’s mission, disaster recovery/continuity of operations (DR/COOP) initiatives, the role of “low-tech” during emergencies, and Agency success stories with small business executives and BDPA mission partners during last spring’s 2017 CYBEREARTH17 tech summit. Photo © 2017 bdpatoday

Summary of the newly retired storms

Hurricane Harvey became a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale before making landfall along the middle Texas coast on Aug. 25. The storm then stalled, with its center remaining over or near the Texas coast for four days, dropping historic rainfall amounts, of up to five feet, causing catastrophic flooding in parts of southeastern Texas. Harvey is the second costliest hurricane in U.S. history (after inflation), behind only Katrina in 2005. At least 68 people died from the direct effects of the storm in Texas, the largest number in that state since 1919.

GOES-16 captured this geocolor image of Hurricane Harvey making landfall on the Texas coast at approximately 10:00 pm CDT on August 25, 2017. Harvey's maximum sustained winds were near 130 mph, making it a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
GOES-16 captured this geocolor image of Hurricane Harvey making landfall on the Texas coast at approximately 10:00 pm CDT on August 25, 2017. Harvey’s maximum sustained winds were near 130 mph, making it a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. (NOAA)

Hurricane Irma was a long-lived hurricane that reached category 5 intensity on Sept. 5. The catastrophic hurricane made seven landfalls, four of which occurred as a category 5 hurricane across the northern Caribbean Islands. Irma made landfall as a category 4 hurricane in the Florida Keys on Sept. 10 and struck southwestern Florida as a category 3 the same day. Irma caused 44 direct deaths as a result of its strong winds, heavy rain and high surf. In the U.S., seven direct deaths were reported, and an additional 85 indirect deaths occurred, 80 of which were in Florida. Hundreds more were injured preparing for the storm, during it or in its aftermath.

Hurricane Maria ravaged the island of Dominica as a category 5 on Sept. 19, and later devastated Puerto Rico as a high-end category 4 hurricane. It also inflicted serious damage on some of the other islands of the northeastern Caribbean Sea. Maria is the third costliest hurricane in U.S. history, behind Harvey and Katrina. Maria caused 31 direct deaths with 34 missing in Dominica, and two direct deaths in Guadeloupe. In Puerto Rico, the death toll stands at 65, which includes an unknown number of indirect deaths.

Hurricane Nate crossed northeastern Nicaragua and eastern Honduras as a tropical storm, then made landfall on the northern Gulf Coast as a category 1 hurricane. It brought rainfall that caused significant impacts in Central America, where media reports indicate that these caused 44 deaths in the region. An additional fatality in Panama was due to a “shipwreck,” bringing the death toll directly associated with Nate to 45. An additional nine people were missing in the region.

NOAA’s National Hurricane Center is a member of the World Meteorological Organization’s Region IV Hurricane Committee, and is responsible for issuing tropical cyclone forecasts and warnings for both the Atlantic and eastern North Pacific basins.

Source and photos:  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency

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NASA’s New Computational Research Facility named after Hidden Figures’ “Human Computer”

HAMPTON, VA–When she heard that NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, would name its newest building after her, Katherine Johnson responded the only way she could – with surprise.

“You want my honest answer? I think they’re crazy,” the 99-year-old Johnson, of “Hidden Figures” fame, said with a laugh.

The Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility, or CRF, was dedicated Sept. 22 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by family and friends of Johnson and her fellow “human computers,” students from Black Girls Code and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, and special guests from across Virginia.

“You have been a trailblazer,” Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said during the ceremony. “When I think of Virginia and the history of what we’ve gone through … you’re at the top of that list.”

Johnson held a fascination with numbers as a girl growing up in West Virginia. Eventually, she translated that love into using her math skills to help advance the nation’s space program in the 1960s.

“I like the stars, and the stories we were telling, and it was a joy to contribute to the literature that was going to come out,” said Johnson, the central character in the book and movie “Hidden Figures.” “But little did I think it would go this far.”

“We’re here to honor the legacy of one of the most admired and inspirational people ever associated with NASA,” said Langley Director David Bowles. “I can’t imagine a better tribute to Mrs. Johnson’s character and accomplishments than this building that will bear her name.”

State of the art

The CRF is a state-of-the-art facility that will enable innovative research and development supporting NASA’s missions. It is the third building in Langley’s 20-year revitalization plan.

“I always like something new,” Johnson said of the facility. “It gives credit to everybody who helped.”

The $23-million, 37,000-square-foot (3,437 square-meter) structure is consolidating four Langley data centers. The building incorporates energy-saving features that are expected to be 33 percent more efficient than if those features had not been included.

The significance of the facility is that it advances Langley’s capabilities in modeling and simulation, big data and analysis. Powerful computers like those in the CRF are capable of ever more complex analysis and simulation, in some cases replacing but also validating and complimenting the research done in NASA’s labs and wind tunnels. The CRF also houses an office area for researchers to do their work.

“We know that these are the tools that will help shape the world of the future,” Bowles said. “We’ll do more calculations that ever, and we’ll do them faster, more efficiently and with greater reliability.”

Johnson was a “human computer” at Langley who calculated trajectories for America’s first spaceflights. She worked at Langley from 1953 until retiring in 1986. Her contributions and those of other NASA African-American human computers are chronicled in “Hidden Figures,” based on author Margot Lee Shetterly’s book of the same name. After Johnson’s story began to emerge, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by then-President Barack Obama at the White House in 2015.

The backstory

In 1962, as NASA prepared for the orbital mission of John Glenn, Johnson was called on to do the work that she would become most known for. The complexity of the orbital flight had required the construction of a worldwide communications network, linking tracking stations around the world to computers in Washington, Cape Canaveral, Florida, and Bermuda.

The computers had been programmed with orbital equations that would control the trajectory of the capsule in Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission, from blast off to splashdown, but the astronauts were wary of putting their lives in the care of the electronic calculating machines, which were prone to hiccups and blackouts.

As a part of the preflight checklist, Glenn asked engineers to “get the girl” — Johnson — to run the same numbers through the same equations that had been programmed into the computer, but by hand, on her desktop mechanical calculating machine.

“If she says they’re good,” Johnson remembers Glenn saying, “then I’m ready to go.” Glenn’s flight was a success, and marked a turning point in the competition between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in space.

Breaking down barriers

“Thank goodness for the book and movie to come out so people got to understand what this woman meant to our country,” Gov. McAuliffe said. “She really broke down the barriers.”

Shetterly, the ceremony’s keynote speaker, praised Johnson and fellow human computers Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan as being revolutionary by just doing their jobs. “We are living in a present that they willed into existence with their pencils, their slide rules, their mechanical calculating machines – and, of course, their brilliant minds.”

Shetterly said the path to the future is rarely predictable, smooth or direct – and Johnson’s was no exception.

“At every fork, her talent, her hard work and her character pulled her toward her destiny,” she said. “At every turn, she made a choice to become the protagonist in her own story and then of ours.”

Shetterly said Johnson’s story is one of a thirst for knowledge and a celebration of teamwork.

“Telling your story has been an honor,” she said. “You work changed our history and your history has changed our future.”

Johnson, who received four standing ovations at the ceremony, happily recalls her time at Langley, saying that her job was to just answer questions to the best of her ability at all times, whether she got them correct or not.

“I didn’t do anything alone but to try to get to the root of the question – and succeeded there,” she said.

→ Source and credits: Eric Gillard, NASA

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More Hidden Figures Unveiled at CES


LAS VEGAS, NV—BDPA Members and BDPA Student Members attended a CES SuperSession during #CES2017 co-hosted by IBM and the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).

The Power of Hidden Figures: Diversity in STEM” SuperSession was moderated by award-winning journalist, Soledad O’Brien. The SuperSession’s panel discussion with Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer and Director Theodore Melfi from the movie “Hidden Figures” was held during #CES2017 in the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center on January 6, 2017, during the same day of their film’s release.

Octavia Spencer’s role in “Hidden Figures” is Ms. Dorothy Vaughan who selflessly helped other women gain footholds in the male-dominated space program at NASA and data processing fields.

Advocacy begins with you,
the individual…

– Octavia Spencer, Oscar-winning Actress

This special SuperSession’s distinguished panelists included: IBM Chief Diversity Officer Lindsay-Rae McIntyre; “Hidden Figures” Director Theodore Melfi; Oscar-winning Actress Octavia Spencer; Leah Gilliam, Vice President, Girls Who Code; Elizabeth Gabler, President, Fox 2000 Pictures; Rashid Ferrod Davis, Founding Principal of Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH); and Kristen Summers, IBM Watson Public Sector.

Visit IBM’s landing page to view CES’ SuperSession:
http://www.ibm.com/thought-leadership/hidden-figures/

NASA readies next-generation Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) for NOAA

Significant weather forecasting improvements
with new Technical innovations on board

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL—The new generation GOES-R satellites will carry significant improvements and technology innovation on board. GOES-R will be able to deliver a full globe scan in only 5 minutes, compared to the 25 minutes needed for the same task with the current GOES satellites. GOES-R’s lightning mapper instrument is expected to improve warning lead time for severe storms and tornadoes by 50%.

The following new capabilities without a doubt will more accurately predict severe weather in advance and help save more lives.

  • 16-Channel imager
  • Resolution four-times greater than current imagery
  • Automated mapping of solar activity
  • Improved hurricane tracking
  • Real-time mapping of lightning
  • Volcanic cloud and fog detection
NASA-GOES-c5
Above, GOES-R, the first satellite in a series of next-generation NOAA Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites, arrives at Kennedy Space Center this week aboard a U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy cargo jet. These satellites, once launched, will provide significant enhancements for weather forecasters at the National Weather Service, giving them the ability to observe the Western Hemisphere in near-real time.
—NASA photo
Cover photo:  Harris Corp—new ground segment antenna for GOES


Related video (for parents and students):
Al Roker’s exclusive behind-the-scenes GOES satellite reveal:
http://www.nbcnews.com/widget/video-embed/750319683850

Related archived articles:
See NOAA, NASA, and “Big Data and Predictive Analytics” (B.D.P.A.), on page 21 of your June 2013 edition of bdpatoday
https://bdpatoday.org/13/JUN13-Newsletter_Final.pdf 

See “Safety before the Storm” on page 18 of your June 2011 edition of bdpatoday
https://bdpatoday.org/11/JUN11-Newsletter_Final.pdf 

Discover more at NASA.gov

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