In a private ceremony, the West Virginia Robotic Technology Center, operated by the West Virginia University Research Corporation, and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center celebrated ten year of partnership and innovation.
In attendance from the WVRTC was principal investigator, Gene Cilento, program manager, Giacomo Marani and their fellow engineers joined by NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine, and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Director, Christopher Scolese along with WVU faculty and staff.
Building the foundation between the two entities started in 2010 with the dedication of the facility, located at the West Virginia High Tech Foundation in Fairmont. Ten exciting years later, the productive partnership has created progress in the fields of robotics and space exploration.
“This collaboration produces research to support Goddard’s long term missions, to serve as a sandbox to test innovative ideas and to develop a workforce for NASA with key focus on robotics,” Cilento said.
One such collaboration includes developing new technology for real-world applications such as RESTORE-L — the first mission designed to launch a robotic spacecraft to autonomously capture an orbiting satellite and, through ground-based teleoperations, refuel and repair the asset to extend its operational life.
At the WVRTC, the full-time WVU research team working with Marani uses multiple robotic platforms for technology development and testing in the field of space robotics. The robotic platforms are used to test autonomous manipulation, machine vision algorithms, compliance operations, haptic sensors and teleoperation procedures for satellite servicing operations. This team also interfaces with faculty and students in the Statler College to develop innovative ideas that can further enhance these technologies.
During the ceremony, Bridenstine spoke of future technical advances for space inhabitation, commercialization and sustainability.
“Robotics is the key to our future and we’re going to need technologists, engineers and scientists,” Bridenstine said, “WVRTC is chief among those in my mind.”
“We want to evolve this partnership further in supporting multifaceted Goddard needs for deep space exploration through research that prepares engineering undergraduate and graduate students for NASA careers,” Cilento said. “We also want center activities to support enhanced economic development in north central W.Va. that can attract additional industry partners.”