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Astrobotic and University of Pittsburgh’s SHREC partnering for space technologies research

(9 November 2020 - Astrobotic) Astrobotic and the National Science Foundation (NSF) Center for Space, High-performance, and Resilient Computing (SHREC) have announced a partnership to develop new software and hardware technologies for future space applications.

The SHREC consortium, led by the University of Pittsburgh, is an NSF Industry-University Cooperative Research Center (IUCRC) and will work together with Astrobotic by pairing first-class academic researchers with engineering teams to translate concepts into tangible innovations that will support lunar landings, rover missions, satellite servicing, and more. A diverse cohort of researchers, scientists, and engineers at Astrobotic and SHREC will share intellectual property, domain expertise, and practical know-how to develop space computing platforms, among other technologies.

The teams have already kicked off collaboration on Astrobotic’s Phase II NASA SBIR contract to develop UltraNav, a compact smart camera for next-generation space missions. This low size, weight, and power system includes an integrated suite of hardware-accelerated computer vision algorithms that enable a wide range of in-space applications, including satellite servicing, autonomous rover navigation, and precision planetary landing.

“The University of Pittsburgh’s space-focused engineering program is developing incredible technologies through a mixture of universities and companies supporting foundational and applied research,” says Chris Owens, Astrobotic Research Engineer and Principal Investigator for the UltraNav project. “In addition to research collaboration, Astrobotic is taking advantage of the partnership with SHREC to revamp our internship program. We are supporting not just SHREC students, but students in Pittsburgh and beyond who might want to give space a try.”

“On behalf of all students and faculty in SHREC, we are most honored to be partnering with the leading space company in our region,” said Alan George, SHREC Center Director and R&H Mickle Endowed Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “We look forward to many collaborations on space research, technologies, experiments, and workforce development.”

SHREC has a proven track record of developing computing solutions and advanced algorithms to handle the challenging radiation and thermal environment of space. Astrobotic has most recently worked with Bosch Research to develop hardware for the SoundSee Mission to the International Space Station (ISS). SHREC also boasts hardware currently in orbit on the ISS through multiple missions with the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program. SHREC and Astrobotic will use these platforms to test technologies in space before launching.

Astrobotic and SHREC, both founded in 2007, are examples of the Pittsburgh region’s renewed invigoration in the space industry – Astrobotic with its recent $199.5 million VIPER contract win from NASA and SHREC curating its dozens of partnerships with leading space companies and agencies across the nation. Both Astrobotic and SHREC are participants in the PGH Space Collaborative, a group seeking to coalesce a broader network of existing regional assets to revitalize Pittsburgh as a space robotics hub. The Astrobotic-SHREC partnership begins with a two-year-long agreement and will culminate in an enhanced UltraNav system in 2022.

About Astrobotic

Astrobotic Technology, Inc. is a space robotics company making space accessible to the world. They develop advanced navigation, operation, and computing systems for spacecraft, and their fleet of lunar landers and rovers deliver payloads to the Moon for companies, governments, universities, non-profits, and individuals. The company has more than 50 prior and ongoing NASA and commercial technology contracts and a corporate sponsorship with DHL. Astrobotic was founded in 2007 and is headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA.