Space Technology Archive

Robert Gregg & Toby Elery — Robotic Prosthesis Built with ISS Motors

September 23, 2020 @ 8:17 am

In this episode:

We meet Drs. Robert Gregg and Toby Elery, who are part of a team that has designed an improved robotic prosthesis, produced using a motor originally designed for use on the International Space Station (ISS).

Dr. Gregg is an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Robotics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He earned a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering and computer sciences from the University of California, Berkeley, and then subsequent masters and doctoral degrees in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He joined the University of Michigan as an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and the Robotics Institute, in fall 2019.

Dr. Elery is a mechanical engineer and researcher based in Dallas, Texas, who earned his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas at Dallas in the spring of 2020. Up until April of this year, and for nearly six years prior, he was a PhD Graduate Research Assistant at the university. He's worked on a host of robotics projects, has served as a mentor for undergraduate projects, and has also disseminated his research in the field via several publications and presentations.

In this conversation, our guests discuss how the idea came about to produce a better robotic prosthesis, why a motor produced for the ISS was chosen for their design, how their prosthesis lessens the burden on wearers, which wearers will benefit from it the most, the testing that has been performed so far, and also explain how the force from the residual limb actually charges the battery while the prosthesis is in use.

Describing how an ISS motor was chosen for their design, Elery explains that it was among those with “the highest torque density, which means it can produce a lot of force in a very small package, which was really useful for our application. So, we were able to get a whole lot of torque — a whole lot of force out of it, in a really small volume.”

To learn more about the prosthesis designed by Drs. Gregg and Elery, visit

Introductory and closing music: Paint the Sky by Hans Atom © copyright 2015 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Miss Judged

Filed under Space Foundation, Space4U, STEM Education, Space Technology, robotics · Comments

Aaron Shepard – NASA Robotics Intern & Founder of Cogito

September 2, 2020 @ 8:34 am

In this episode:

We meet Aaron Shepard, an In Space Assembly Robotics Intern at NASA Langley, and a Robotics Research Assistant at Clemson University College of Engineering and Science. Aaron also works at R&D Engineering Co-Op, Itron, Inc., and is the Founder/CEO of Cogito, a company dedicated to inspiring young people through STEM outreach.

He is affiliated with the Mars Generation, an international nonprofit organization that works to excite people of all ages about science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and human space exploration, and is currently a member of the organization's Student Space Ambassador Leadership Board, where he serves as chair of the outreach committee. He works as a tutor and mentor for the PEER & WISE program at Clemson, which helps to give underrepresented students studying STEM subjects the resources and tools they need to follow their dreams of STEM and space, and he has also given a TEDx talk entitled Make America Space Again.

In this conversation Aaron talks about what inspired him to switch from his initial career path of medicine to robotics, gives details on how he got into his internship at NASA, shares his thoughts on the future of robots in space exploration, touches on his company Cogito, describes his favorite robot project that he’s currently working on, and explains how he thinks international cooperation will help achieve our goals in space.

In describing how robots will eventually build human habitats on other planets, Aaron says, “I’d say we’re within a 20-year range of having fully autonomous robot construction crew in space ... I think that’s possible.”

To learn more about Aaron’s new company Cogito, visit

Note: This episode refers to the successful July 30, 2020 launch of the Perseverance Mars Rover and Ingenuity helicopter in future tense because the podcast was recorded on July 23, 2020.

Introductory and closing music: Paint the Sky by Hans Atom (c) copyright 2015 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Miss Judged

Filed under Space, Space Foundation, Space4U, STEM Education, NASA, Space Technology, robotics · Comments

Giorgio Coraluppi and Michael Hockenberry — Compunetix

August 26, 2020 @ 10:24 am

In this episode:

We meet Dr. Giorgio Coraluppi, President of Compunetix, Inc. and subsidiaries, and Michael Hockenberry, Vice President and Federal Systems Division Manager of Compunetix, Inc.

In 1987, Compunetix won a contract to deliver a digital voice switching system for NASA Goddard that would accommodate the agency’s range of communication needs. At the time, the agency was using an analog system requiring the manual switching of cables. Compunetix integrated their patented algorithm into the NASA infrastructure, developing two new digital systems for voice switching and voice distribution — allowing software-enabled switching, and eliminating the need for manual switching.

By 1992, the new 4,000-port system had been installed, and eventually entirely replaced NASA’s previous system. Following that, Compunetix developed a commercial version of the technology, and today, the Compunetix bridge hardware is used by nearly every major conference call provider. The technology was inducted into the Space Technology Hall of Fame in 2020.

Dr. Giorgio Coraluppi received his doctorate in electrical engineering from the Politecnico di Milano in 1958. He served in the Italian Armed Forces, worked for the Electronic Research Laboratory of Olivetti, American Optical Company, and Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Since founding Compunetix, Inc. in 1968, he has been president of the company and its subsidiaries.

Michael Hockenberry has been an integral part of Compunetix for over 32 years. He was hired in 1988 as a design engineer on the NASA Goddard Voice Switching System (VSS). He also developed the conferencing module for the company’s first commercial conferencing systems, the CONTEX 240 and 480. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering Technology from Pennsylvania State University.

In this conversation, Dr. Coraluppi and Hockenberry discuss the company’s guiding philosophy, their experiences at NASA working on the VSS, the role that Compunetix played in Command Center communications following the 9/11 tragedies, and the hardware they developed for IBM’s “Deep Blue,” the computer that challenged world chess champion Garry Kasparov. In recalling his experiences working on the VSS at NASA as a young engineer, Hockenberry says, “I got to see images coming down from Hubble that nobody else in the world got to see yet, just by being there at that time. It was a very interesting environment.”

To learn more about Compunetix, visit

Introductory and closing music: Paint the Sky by Hans Atom (c) copyright 2015 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Miss Judged

Filed under Space Foundation, Space4U, Space Technology · Comments

Jason Held – Saber Astronautics

August 5, 2020 @ 8:10 am

In this episode:

We meet Jason Held, CEO of Saber Astronautics, a mission control operations software and services company, with locations in Sydney, Australia, and Boulder, Colorado, USA. Prior to founding Saber, Jason was a Major in the U.S. Army's USSTRATCOM (Space Command) during which time he served as an active-duty engineer at Army Space and Missile Command Battle Lab. Later, as a civilian, he wrote flight software for the Hubble Space Telescope and testing for the International Space Station. He has lectured for the IRS Space Station Design Workshop, the University of New South Wales, and the International Space University. He also led a research expedition in the high Canadian Arctic, and he has served on the Australian government's Expert Reference Group designing their space agency.

In this conversation Jason explains how his passion for space began in childhood, yet he felt space jobs were inaccessible due to his academic struggles. He details how he believes that the perceived hurdles to space jobs can be overcome to achieve the democratization of space. He also discusses the capabilities of Saber's PIGI satellite tracking software, and how Saber partnered with an Australian craft brewery to create a recipe and drinking vessel that allows beer to be consumed in space.

In describing his feelings about the democratization of space, Jason says, “Space is something that anybody can do. You know, if someone like myself, with the history I had on the academic side can pull into it, I think anybody can... So, the more exposure that you have to it at a young age, the more you’re going to be ready for the markets that are going to come up, and the space jobs that are going to come up in 10 to 20 years’ time.”

To learn more about Saber Astronautics, visit

Introductory and closing music: Paint the Sky by Hans Atom (c) copyright 2015 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Miss Judged

Filed under Space, aerospace, Space Foundation, Space4U, Space Technology · Comments

Jill Johnson and Allen Platek — Tempur-Pedic

July 8, 2020 @ 3:47 pm

In this episode:

We meet Jill Johnson, Vice President of Brand Management for Tempur-Pedic and Allen Platek, who leads the New Product Development team at Tempur Sealy — companies that apply a NASA-developed technology to their sleep products, and that are Space-Certified through the Space Foundation.

Jill serves as a senior leader on the company’s marketing team, drawing on her tech and business backgrounds to oversee brand and product strategy across Tempur-Pedic’s premium range of mattresses, adjustable bases, pillows, and toppers. Jill began her tenure at Tempur Sealy as a New Products Program Manager, and over the past decade has served in a range of brand and marketing management positions, helping to bring new sleep solutions to life across the company’s portfolio of brands.  

Allen leads the New Product Development team at Tempur Sealy with a focus on bringing innovation to each product development cycle across all brands for the company. In his current role, Allen not only runs the New Product Development group, but also the Innovation Office, Analytical Labs, Prototype Labs, and Product Test Labs, overseeing all major product development efforts from product concept phase through commercialization.

In this conversation, Jill and Allen discuss the backstory on the space technology that the company adapted to improve sleep, some of the science behind how Tempur-Pedic foam works, how the technology has evolved over the years, the broad range of products they now produce using the technology, and the award the company recently received from Popular Science.

In discussing Tempur Sealy’s approach to their sleep technology Allen says, “Climate research — in much the same way that space exploration is approached — we do it through scientific method and through experimentation. We don’t leave it to chance. And, I believe we’re the only people in the industry that are approaching sleep science this way.”

To learn more about Tempur-Pedic, visit

Introductory and closing music: Paint the Sky by Hans Atom (c) copyright 2015 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Miss Judged

Filed under Space Foundation, Space4U, Space Technology · Comments

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