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NASA, TopCoder Announce $30,000 Contest to Maximize Power Output to ISS

Jan 18, 2013 04:55 AM EST
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NASA has launched a software contest to make the solar arrays of the International Space Station (ISS) more efficient by minimizing the shadows of longerons at certain parts of its orbit, reports Space.com.

The space agency is sponsoring a $30,000 competition through the TopCoder Community-built and powered NASA Tournament Lab (NTL), an online virtual facility that allows members of the TopCoder Community to create solutions for real-world challenges faced by NASA researchers.

Participants need to develop a software algorithm that will reduce shadowing on the space station's longerons and maximize the power output. The increase in power generation will help astronauts carry out more scientific experiments on the orbiting laboratory.

The competition is held for three weeks till Feb. 6. Registration is free and open to all TopCoder members. "These are the types of complex low risk/high reward problems that get our Community of creators excited," Rob Hughes, president and COO of TopCoder, Inc., said in a statement. "The solutions brought forth for this problem can move the needle for NASA and provide a roadmap for other agencies to tackle stubborn challenges."

The $100 billion space station is located some 250 miles above Earth. The space station is powered by eight solar arrays that convert sunlight to electricity. Each of the eight solar arrays is 112 feet long by 39 feet wide. When combined with the Russian solar arrays, the complete power system generates 110 kilowatts (kW) of total power.

The space station, with its large solar arrays, weighs about 861,804 pounds and spans an area of a U.S. football field, including the end zones.

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