BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – Part of the Shuttle mission for the crew of Endeavor will be testing new technology co-developed by Ball Aerospace in Boulder aimed at making spacecraft dockings easier and safer.
“Even though we were able to do some of the longest testing on the ground, it’s not the same as testing in the vacuum of space,” Ball’s Jeanette Domber said.
The new system goes by the tongue twisting name of Sensor Test Orion Relative Navigation Risk Mitigation. No wonder everybody calls it STORRM.
Ball built the sensors for STORRM while Lockheed Martin and NASA partnered in other aspects of the system.
Last July 20, the shuttle crew visited Ball’s Boulder facility to see a demonstration of the technology. What STORM does essentially is detect shapes and distances like never before. Perhaps a good analogy is the “hands free” parking system on some news cars.
“Yes, that’s exactly what it’s supposed to be,” Ball’s Jim Baer added.
Baer says proving STORRM’s capability is important to upcoming space missions.
“So a future device would help the Orion spacecraft dock itself,” he explained.
Last summer, Shuttle Commander Mark Kelly had no idea his wife, U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, would be nearly killed 6 months later by a gun wielding assassin. The devotion shown by Kelly during her miraculous recovery has been an inspiration to those at Ball who remember his visit.
“It’s pretty courageous of Mark to take off and do his job,” Baer said.
Baer was gratified to see the congresswoman is now well enough to have attended Monday’s launch.
“It’s something special about their relationship that lets him do these somewhat large and dangerous things while his wife is recovering,” he added.