Parts made by our RoboDawgs made the trip to space this morning aboard a NASA RockSatX launch. For the NASA launch announcement, see: http://www.nasa.gov/content/rocket-launched-from-wallops/
Today’s launch is the culmination of a sixty day effort to assist a Johns Hopkins / University of Maryland research team. That team was preparing multiple scientific experiments for launch aboard today’s RockSatX mission. As it happens, the research leader for this team was a RoboDawg graduate. The researchers needed custom enclosures and components for their payload, and they asked the RoboDawgs to help out.
Over the last year, the RoboDawgs have built up some experience making custom parts. Last September, with the help of team sponsors and public donors, the team purchased their first CNC machine from Tormach (http://www.tormach.com/). This company gave the RoboDawgs a big discount on their machine and worked closely with the team, providing training at their corporate site and significant phone support as the team learned to use the machine. Last spring, the team’s FIRST Robotics Competition (http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/frc) robots included multiple custom parts designed and manufactured by the RoboDawgs.
The RockSatX payload was the team’s first introduction to making parts to withstand the rigors of space travel. Made of high strength steel and aerospace grade aluminum, the RoboDawgs’ parts had to withstand the force of launch, air pressure changes, the heat of re-enty, and a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean. The primary enclosure had to remain air and watertight throughout the launch, flight, and splashdown. Another enclosure had remain sealed as it traveled to space, open during flight, and then reseal to survive re-entry and splashdown.
The RoboDawgs designed the mission parts in Solidworks (http://www.solidworks.com/), and applied their manufacturing instructions in CAM software from SprutCAM (http://www.sprutcam.com/). All parts were manufactured on a Tormach PCNC 1100 mill (http://www.tormach.com/product_pcnc_1100.html).
RoboDawgs involved with the design and manufacture of these parts worked under the direction of captains Mike Hepfer and Clark Fischer. Alex Courtade, Jackie Burch, Grason Cheydleur, Joshua Leaver, and Alex Mize all assisted with the manufacturing of parts for this space payload.
To say that the RoboDawgs learned a lot is a gross understatement. Our team accomplished things with the help of the researchers from Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland that we never imagined when the team made the move to purchase a CNC machine and began to train team members to manufacture their own parts. A special thanks goes out to all those who supported our CNC machine on Crowdrise and “Helped the RoboDawgs make shiny metal parts” (http://www.crowdrise.com/robodawgcnc/fundraiser/grandvilleboosters)