Space Industry Team Secures Spot to Test Asteroid Anchor at NASA

Temoc Space

Members of Temoc Space Industries are (clockwise from bottom left): UT Dallas students Seth Abramczyk, Kaitlan Angel, Andrew Nguyenba, Israel Rowland, Craig Hartnell, Jordan Collins and Miguel Santillan. Not pictured: Alessandra Sealander.

Members of an undergraduate aerospace design team at The University of Texas at Dallas are among the college students selected by NASA this year to develop testable prototypes for aerospace engineering challenges.

The eight-member team, dubbed Temoc Space Industries, has developed an anchoring system for an asteroid and will test it at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston the week of May 23.

The Temoc Space Industries team is made up of mechanical engineering students Craig Hartnell, Seth Abramczyk, Israel Rowland, Jordan Collins and Miguel Santillan; geosciences students Kaitlan Angel and Alessandra Sealander; and biomedical engineering student  Andrew Nguyenba. The team’s name refers to the University mascot Temoc.

Led by Hartnell, the team was selected through NASA's Micro-g NExT design competition, a pilot project that “challenges undergraduate students to design, build and test a tool or device that addresses an authentic, current space exploration problem,” according to the program’s website.

It’s the second year in a row that Hartnell has been part of a UT Dallas team in the competition, an educational outreach effort by NASA to encourage interest in STEM careers, and inspire a new generation of scientists, engineers and astronauts.


The SCooping AsteRoid Anchor Borer (SCARAB) Anchoring Device for Regolith, developed in the UTDesign Studio, will be tested next month at the Johnson Space Center.

“I’ve been fascinated with space since I was a kid,” Hartnell said. “Ideally, I would love to work in the aerospace field one day — anything to do with human flight.”

Students worked in teams for months to design and build prototypes of tools that will be used by astronauts for spacewalk training in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) at  Johnson Space Center. 

UT Dallas students will test their prototype for an anchoring device in the simulated microgravity environment of the NBL — a 6.2 million-gallon indoor pool where NASA astronauts perform complex training activities in advance of their assigned space missions.

The team came up with a SCooping AsteRoid Anchor Borer (SCARAB) Anchoring Device for Regolith, a sort of transforming shovel, which it developed in the UTDesign Studio.

“It’s a modified trash can is what it is,” Hartnell said of the initial design to test the concept. “We tested it here filled with sand. For the test in Houston, the prototype will be a shovel-like device.”

In Houston, professional divers will test the anchoring system as the UT Dallas students guide the test from a mini mission control system, Hartnell said.

When SCARAB is deployed, the diver positions the tool on the surface of the simulate and pushes down using the handles. When SCARAB is submerged to the desired depth, the diver pulls a cable to reorientate the scoop into a 90-degree position to serve as an anchor. A force gauge is then attached to the cable to measure the pulling resistance of SCARAB.

The team presented a paper on its design at a student conference of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics at UT Arlington in early April. 

Dr. James Hilkert, senior lecturer in mechanical engineering, served as a faculty advisor for the team and said he was impressed with the students’ initiative.

“This was not part of a class project or anything. They are seeing how a fairly simple task becomes a good challenge in a space environment.” he said. “They also get some real good interaction with NASA engineers. I think it’s really good for the University.”

Other schools testing their prototypes at NASA this year include Purdue University, the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, Columbia University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida.

There’s no financial award for the design, but it looks great on a resume, Hartnell said.

“Getting to go to NASA is the prize,” he said.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].