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Robots in Space

Ren Fradet President/CEO March 31, 2006

"Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech."
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Abstract
Several factors are shaping space robotics: the evolution of space exploration, the manned space program, and military space. Planetary exploration has evolved to the point where in-situ exploration is required and robotic systems are needed. The manned space program will need an ensemble of robotic systems to support the construction of habitats and to exploit lunar and Mars assets. Space assets have also evolved into a critical component of the armed forces. The military brings a philosophy of on-orbit servicing and rapid deployment of space assets. Other factors that are cross cutting are the continuous need for larger aperture systems and the limit of launch vehicle capabilities which drive the need for on-orbit assembly. All of these factors point toward an expansion of the use of robots in space. However, all this is tempered by the fact that the government is the only customer. The forecast and plans are limited by the vision of the government leaders and their ability to fund the various programs. Until a commercial driven space market is established, space robotics will provide a limited and hazardous business opportunity.

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Factors Shaping US Space Robotics


NASA
Space Exploration Remote Sensing Deep Space Observatories Fly By Missions Orbiting Missions In-Situ Exploration Manned Space Program

Military Space
Military Logistic
"Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech."

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Surveyor
Lunar Mission Launch 1968 First space robotic arm
The scoop was mounted on a pantograph arm that could be extended about 1.5 m

Precursor mission to the manned lunar program

"Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech."

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Viking Lander
Mars lander
One of two landers Soft propulsive landing

Launch 1975 Robotic Arm sample acquisition:


Sampler arm with collector head and sensors

"Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech."

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Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (SRMS)


Joint venture between the governments of the United States and Canada Launch 1981 Robotic Arm
6 DOF Support astronaut and payload transport

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Mobile Servicing System (MSS)


Under government contract to the Canadian Space Agency, MD Robotics developed the robotic systems that represent Canada's contribution to the International Space Station (ISS). Purpose:
Provides the ISS with sophisticated space-based robotics to assemble, transport, and maintain payloads in orbit, as well as help build and maintain the space station itself.

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Mars Pathfinder
Mars Lander
Air Bag Lander

Launch 1997 The mission was primarily an engineering demonstration of key technologies and concepts Free ranging rover

"Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech."

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Mars Polar Lander


Mars Mission Launch 1998
Mission failed during Mars entry

Robotic arm for sample acquisition


4 DOF Imager Scoop Thermal probe
"Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech."

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Mars Exploration Rover (MER)


Mars Lander
Air bag lander One of two landers

Launch 2003 Robotic Arm for Instrument positioning


5 DOF 2 kg instrument payload

"Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech." MER Robotic Arm Alliance Spacesystems Inc

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Future of NASA
2006 NASA Strategic Plan Two years ago, President George W. Bush gave NASA a defining challenge for the 21st century with compelling new objectives outlined in the Vision for Space Exploration. The Vision commits our Nation to a new journey of exploration of the solar system, beginning with the return of humans to the Moon by the end of the next decade, and leading to subsequent landings on Mars and other destinations, such as near-Earth asteroids. Strategic Goal 1: Fly the Shuttle as safely as possible until its retirement, not later than 2010. Strategic Goal 2: Complete the International Space Station in a manner consistent with NASAs International Partner commitments and the needs of human exploration. Strategic Goal 3: Develop a balanced overall program of science, exploration, and aeronautics consistent with the redirection of the human spaceflight program to focus on exploration. Strategic Goal 4: Bring a new Crew Exploration Vehicle into service as soon as possible after Shuttle retirement. Strategic Goal 5: Encourage the pursuit of appropriate partnerships with the emerging commercial space sector. Strategic Goal 6: Establish a lunar return program having the maximum possible utility for later missions to Mars and other destinations.

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NASAs Exploration Roadmap

Extract from M. Borkowski RLEP presentation to STAIF-2006 March 29, 2006

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Strategic Goal 3:
Develop a balanced overall program of science, exploration, and aeronautics consistent with the redirection of the human spaceflight program to focus on exploration.
NASA will begin development of the next generation of robotic planetary explorers via the New Frontiers, Mars Scout, and Discovery programs. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Phoenix Mars Lander Mars Science Laboratory Intelligent robotics will assist the crew in exploring, setting up, operating, and maintaining the outpost.

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Phoenix Mars Lander


Mars Lander
Soft lander

Launch 2007 Robotic Arm for sample acquisition


4 DOF Scoop, imager, thermal probe

"Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech."

Mars Surveyor & Phoenix Mars Lander RA Alliance Spacesystems Inc

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Mars Science Laboratory


Mars Rover Launch 2009 Robotic Arm
5 DOF Sample acquisition Instrument positioning

"Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech."

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Hubble Space Telescope (HST)


Three HST servicing missions have been completed so far 4th servicing mission in planning process
Robotic servicing of Hubble was replaced with an STS servicing of HST Investigated removal of 111 fasteners using robotic device

STIS Cover Removal Tool Alliance Spacesystems Inc

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Strategic Goal 6:
Establish a lunar return program having the maximum possible utility for later missions to Mars and other destinations.
Prior to the first human mission back to the Moon, NASA will conduct studies to determine requirements for future missions through the Robotic Lunar Exploration Program (RLEP). NASA will develop and test technologies for in situ resource utilization so astronauts can live off the land. In the long term, this capability will reduce the amount of supplies and consumables launched from Earth to the Moon, and eventually to Mars, making space exploration more affordable and sustainable. Technology development will include excavation systems, volatile material extraction systems, and other technologies to reduce logistics requirements for lunar habitats. In the future, in situ resource utilization systems also may be used to produce propellants and oxygen from lunar resources (regolith and potentially ice) to meet the needs of lunar outpost crews.

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Robotic Lunar Exploration Program (RLEP) Timeline

Extract from M. Borkowski RLEP presentation to STAIF-2006


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RLEP First Two Missions

March 29, 2006

Extract from M. Borkowski RLEP presentation to STAIF-2006

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Lunar Outpost

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Intelligent/Autonomous Robotic Systems


Purpose
Assist the crew in exploring, setting up, operating, and maintaining the outpost. Reduce mission risk by alerting the crew to impending failures, automatically reconfiguring in response to changing conditions and performing hazardous and complex operations.

Robonaut NASA Johnson Space Center

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In-Situ Support - Excavation


Regolith excavation and management will be a key technology development for the support of human habitat on the moon Excavation equipment that rivals earth large excavators will be needed to process the natural resources required to generate useful products
Lunar and Mars extraction machinery being investigated by Colorado School of Mines. Image Credit: NASA

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The ATHLETE Rover Lunar mobility


ATHLETE (All-Terrain Hex-Legged Extra-Terrestrial Explorer) robotic vehicle. Capabilities:
Rolling over Apollo-like undulating terrain and "walking" over extremely rough or steep terrain Each of leg has 7 DOF

Purpose
load, transport, manipulate, and deposit payloads to essentially any desired sites of interest on the Moon or Mars

Brian Wilcox "Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech."

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Space Crane
NASA Langley Research Center has developed a space crane concept to support on-orbit assembly and lunar payload logistics. The space crane concept will be used in the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) lunar testbed. The testbed is intended to address system integration issues between humans, robots, and mobile vehicles in the context of a lunar base.

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Reconfigurable Robots
Modular and multifunctional robots:
Reconfigure into different shape, size and function Retask dynamically for mission-relevant tasks Reuse of components for different tasks and terrain Recover from unexpected failures Reduce cost by providing high ratio of function/payload Dr. Wei-Min Shen University of Southern California Information Sciences Institute

Modular Joints Alliance Spacesystems Inc

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Future Military Space


AIR FORCE SPACE COMMAND
Strategic Master Plan FY06 and Beyond Our space systems and capabilities have become key to our nations military effectiveness. Without them, our military forces would not enjoy many of the advantages we currently have over our adversaries. SPACE FORCE ENHANCEMENT (SFE) We will ensure vital SFE capabilities are available to the warfighter by pursuing transformational capabilities such as: payloads ready to launch on demand, the capability for them to be transferred to necessary orbits, and the capability to be serviced on-orbit servicing spacecraft for life extension.

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Orbital Express Space Operations Architecture


Sponsor: Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Goal:
Validate the technical feasibility of robotic, autonomous on-orbit refueling and reconfiguration of satellites to support a broad range of future U.S. national security and commercial space programs. Enable maneuverable and upgradable satellites supporting critical national security missions Enhanced capabilities for civil and commercial space activities.

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Spacecraft for the Universal Modification of Orbits (SUMO)


Sponsor: Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Executed by: Naval Center for Space Technology at the Naval Research Laboratory Goal:
Technology risk reduction program Demonstrate the integration of machine vision, robotics, mechanisms, and autonomous control algorithms to accomplish autonomous rendezvous and grapple of a variety of interfaces traceable to future spacecraft servicing operations. Enable extended utilization of existing space assets

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On-Orbit Assembly
Large Aperture Systems (LAS)
Observing platforms Power Sources Telecommunication

LAS is pushing launch vehicle capabilities On-orbit assembly of large space structures may enable LAS

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Autonomous Assembly of Planar Structure


The Automated Structures Assembly Laboratory at NASA Langley Research Center Advantage of on-orbit assembly of space structures
Inherent serviceability, inherent expandability, launch packing efficiency, ability to launch small units independently, incremental system upgrades, structural efficiency, essentially no increase in complexity with size, and the ability to build very large structures (i.e. > 100m).

This is the first step in an ambitious program to develop approaches for large space systems that are not limited by launch constraints.
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Robotic Assembly of Truss Structures for Space Systems and Future Research Plans1 William Doggett NASA Langley Research Center

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Summary
We have seen a recent increase in demand for space robotics Future plans from NASA and the Military calls for use of space robotics
However near term funding priority will delay significant work in space robotics

Space robotics is still a relatively small market with the potential to grow, however the government is currently the only customer
Government priority could easily change pending election process or staffing assignments

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