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NASA, MIT, DARPA Host Fourth Annual Student Robotic Challenge Jan. 11

WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- NASA will join the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ( MIT) and high school student teams from the United States and abroad for the fourth annual Zero Robotics SPHERES Challenge Friday, Jan. 11. The event will take place on the MIT campus in Cambridge, Mass., and be broadcast live on NASA Television beginning at 8:30 a.m. EST.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO)

For the competition, NASA will upload software developed by high school students onto Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES), which are bowling ball-sized spherical satellites aboard the International Space Station. The top 45 teams from previous competitions had their code sent last week to the space station, where an astronaut will command the satellites to execute the teams' flight program. During a simulated mission, the teams will complete a special challenge inspired by future satellite technologies, such as formation flight and close proximity operations.

Student finalists will be able to see their flight program live in the televised finals. The team with the highest software performance over several rounds of the competition will win the challenge. The winning team will receive certificates and a SPHERES flight patch that was flown aboard the space station.

News media wishing to cover this event must contact Sarah McDonnell at MIT at 617-253-8923 or s_mcd@mit.edu. NASA officials will be available to speak with news media after the competition.

In addition to their use in this competition, the SPHERES satellites are used inside the space station to conduct formation flight maneuvers for spacecraft guidance navigation, control and docking. The three separate satellites that make up SPHERES fly in formation inside the space station's cabin. The satellites provide opportunities to test a wide range of hardware and software at an affordable cost.

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