Space systems laboratory
The Space Systems Laboratory (SSL) is part of the Aerospace
Aerospace comprises the atmosphere of Earth and surrounding space. Typically the term is used to refer to the industry that researches, designs, manufactures, operates, and maintains vehicles moving through air and space...

 Engineering Department and A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland
University of Maryland, College Park
The University of Maryland, College Park is a top-ranked public research university located in the city of College Park in Prince George's County, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C...

 in College Park, Maryland
College Park, Maryland
College Park is a city in Prince George's County, Maryland, USA. The population was 30,413 at the 2010 census. It is best known as the home of the University of Maryland, College Park, and since 1994 the city has also been home to the "Archives II" facility of the U.S...

. The Space Systems Laboratory is centered around the Neutral Buoyancy Research Facility, a 50 feet (15.2 m), 25 feet (7.6 m) water tank
Water tank
A Water tank is a container for storing water. The need for a water tank is as old as civilized man, providing storage of water for drinking water, irrigation agriculture, fire suppression, agricultural farming, both for plants and livestock, chemical manufacturing, food preparation as well as many...

 that is used to simulate the microgravity environment of space. The only such facility housed at a university, Maryland's neutral buoyancy
Neutral buoyancy
Neutral buoyancy is a condition in which a physical body's mass equals the mass it displaces in a surrounding medium. This offsets the force of gravity that would otherwise cause the object to sink...

 tank is used for undergraduate and graduate research at the Space Systems Lab. Research in Space Systems emphasizes space robotics, human factors, applications of artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence is the intelligence of machines and the branch of computer science that aims to create it. AI textbooks define the field as "the study and design of intelligent agents" where an intelligent agent is a system that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its...

 and the underlying fundamentals of space simulation. There are currently five robots being tested, including Ranger, a four-armed satellite repair robot, and SCAMP, a six-degree of freedom
Degrees of freedom (engineering)
In mechanics, degrees of freedom are the set of independent displacements and/or rotations that specify completely the displaced or deformed position and orientation of the body or system...

 free-flying underwater camera platform. Ranger was funded by NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 starting in 1992, and was to be a technological demonstration of orbital satellite servicing. NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 was never able to manifest it for launch and the program was defunded circa 2006. For example, Ranger development work at the SSL continues, albeit at a slower pace; Ranger was used to demonstrate robotic servicing techniques for NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

's proposed robotic Hubble Servicing Mission.


The Space Systems Lab was founded at MIT
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. MIT has five schools and one college, containing a total of 32 academic departments, with a strong emphasis on scientific and technological education and research.Founded in 1861 in...

 in 1976, by faculty members Renee Miller and J.W. Mar. Its early studies in space construction techniques led to the EASE (Experimental Assembly of Structures in EVA) flight experiment which flew on Space Shuttle mission STS-61-B
STS-61-B was NASA's 23rd Space Shuttle mission, and its second using Space Shuttle Atlantis. The shuttle was launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on 26 November 1985. During STS-61-B, the shuttle crew deployed three communications satellites, and tested techniques of constructing...

 in 1985.

In 1990, lab director Dr. Dave Akin moved the lab to the University of Maryland. The Neutral Buoyancy Research Facility, or NBRF, was completed in 1992. Current projects include the MX-2 suit, a simplified neutral buoyancy spacesuit
Space suit
A space suit is a garment worn to keep an astronaut alive in the harsh environment of outer space. Space suits are often worn inside spacecraft as a safety precaution in case of loss of cabin pressure, and are necessary for extra-vehicular activity , work done outside spacecraft...

 for use in EVA research; Power Glove, a prototype motorized spacesuit glove which will help reduce astronaut hand fatigue; and TSUNAMI, an apparatus to test human neuromuscular adaptation in different gravitational fields and different simulations of weightlessness.


The SSL is a member of NASA's Small Satellite Technology Initiative (SSTI), New Millennium Program
New Millennium program
New Millennium Program is a NASA project with focus on engineering validation of new technologies for space applications. Funding for the program was eliminated from the FY2009 budget by the 110th United States Congress, effectively leading to its cancellation.The spacecraft in the New Millennium...

, and International Space Station Technology Testbed Program.

Along with labs at Carnegie Mellon
Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University is a private research university in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States....

 and Stanford
Stanford University
The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...

, the SSL is part of the Institute for Dexterous Space Robotics.

The Laboratory also has ties with the M.I.T. Lincoln Laboratory
Lincoln Laboratory
MIT Lincoln Laboratory, located in Lexington, Massachusetts, is a United States Department of Defense research and development center chartered to apply advanced technology to problems of national security. Research and development activities focus on long-term technology development as well as...

, NASA Langley
Langley Research Center
Langley Research Center is the oldest of NASA's field centers, located in Hampton, Virginia, United States. It directly borders Poquoson, Virginia and Langley Air Force Base...

, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Jet Propulsion Laboratory is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. The facility is headquartered in the city of Pasadena on the border of La Cañada Flintridge and Pasadena...

 and the Air Force Research Laboratory
Air Force Research Laboratory
The Air Force Research Laboratory is a scientific research organization operated by the United States Air Force Materiel Command dedicated to leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable aerospace warfighting technologies; planning and executing the Air Force science and...

, as well as the Departments of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering at M.I.T., and aerospace companies such as Draper
Draper is the now largely obsolete term for a wholesaler, or especially retailer, of cloth, mainly for clothing, or one who works in a draper's shop. A draper may additionally operate as a cloth merchant or a haberdasher. The drapers were an important trade guild...

TRW Inc. was an American corporation involved in a variety of businesses, mainly aerospace, automotive, and credit reporting. It was a pioneer in multiple fields including electronic components, integrated circuits, computers, software and systems engineering. TRW built many spacecraft,...

, Lockheed-Martin, MDA
Missile Defense Agency
The Missile Defense Agency is the section of the United States government's Department of Defense responsible for developing a layered defense against ballistic missiles. The agency has its origins in the Strategic Defense Initiative, which was established in 1983 and was headed by Lt...

 and Hughes.
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