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With New Sensors, NASA's Morpheus Preps to Land on its Own

A test flight will challenge a set of sensors to map out a 65-yard square of boulder-sized hazards and pick out a safe place to land. Mounted to an uncrewed prototype lander called Morpheus that flies autonomously several hundred feet above the ground, the sensor system will have 10 seconds to do its work. The sensor system is a 400-pound set of computers and three instruments called ALHAT (Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology).

Posted in: Sensors, Aerospace, Aviation, Machinery & Automation, News

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Robonaut 2 Gets its Space Legs

Thanks to a successful launch of the SpaceX-3 flight of the Falcon 9/Dragon capsule on Friday, April 18, the lower limbs for Robonaut 2 (R2) are aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Safely tucked inside the Dragon resupply vehicle, R2’s legs are to be attached by a station crew member to Robonaut’s torso already on the orbiting outpost.Jointly developed by NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations and Space Technology mission directorates in cooperation with General Motors, R2 showcases how a robotic assistant can work alongside humans, whether tasks are done in space or on Earth in a manufacturing facility.The R2 now consists of a head and a torso with two arms and two hands. With the addition of the newly developed climbing legs, the robot can augment its chief role: to help astronauts by taking over some of their duties on the space station.Making use of toe-like fixtures—called “end effectors” that take the place of feet—R2 can use sockets and handrails to move about. With legs, the robot can lend a hand, or two, to the crew while secured to the station by at least one leg.“We’ll go from being the first humanoid robot in space to being the first mobile humanoid robot in space,” said Ron Diftler, Robonaut Project Manager within the Robotic Systems Technology Branch at the NASA Johnson Space Center. “Being mobile significantly adds to our capability.”SourceAlso: Read a "Who's Who at NASA" Q&A with a Robonaut 2 robotics engineer.

Posted in: Aerospace, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, News

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Engineers Develop 'Simple' Robotic Swarms

University of Sheffield engineers have developed a way of making hundreds — or even thousands — of tiny robots cluster to carry out tasks. The robots do not require memory or processing power. Each robot uses just one sensor that indicates the presence of another nearby robot. Based on the sensor's findings, the robots will either rotate on the spot, or move around in a circle until one can be seen.Until now, robotic swarms have required complex programming, complicating the development of miniaturized, individual robots. With the programming created by the Sheffield team, however, nanoscale machines are possible.SourceAlso: Learn about a Kinematic Calibration Process for Flight Robotic Arms.

Posted in: Motion Control, Sensors, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, News

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Driving Simulator Helps Engineers Calculate Human Factor

Simulations are an important development tool in the automobile and utility vehicle. The properties of vehicle components, such as how they respond in an accident, their reliability, or their energy efficiency can be investigated using simulations before the first component is manufactured. Researchers developed an interactive driving simulator using RODOS (robot-based driving and operation simulator) with which realistic interaction between human and vehicle can be analyzed.

Posted in: Motion Control, Software, Simulation Software, Transportation, Automotive, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, News

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Re-entry Vehicle Shape for Enhanced Performance

A convex structure is used with a continuous slope. A vehicle entering the atmosphere of a planet will do so at hypersonic speeds and will need to decelerate and maneuver through that atmosphere while protecting its payload from excessive heating. As a consequence, the vehicle shape must be designed to provide optimal aerodynamic lift and drag properties, while minimizing convective and radiative heating to the vehicle outer surfaces.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Machinery & Automation, Briefs

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CubeSat Deployable Log Periodic Dipole Array

Any small satellite with a need for a VHF antenna might benefit from this design, in addition to communications and military applications. The antenna is composed of two main deployable structural components that help it achieve the large packing factor necessary to fit within the small volume of the CubeSat. The primary component of the antenna array is a tension stiffened truss, which is preloaded using a large tape spring. The truss bays are formed from solid discs connected by thin Kevlar thread. The Kevlar threads are set up in a hexapod configuration, and are fully tensioned and preloaded from the force of the tape spring, which runs through the center of the truss. The truss gets its overall stiffness from the properties and configuration of these Kevlar wires.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Machinery & Automation, Briefs

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Protective Sleeve for a Pyrotechnic Reefing Line

The sleeve provides improved operation of a parachute reefing system. A metallic sleeve provides protection and guidance for the actuating lanyard pull of a parachute system reefing line cutter. This device ensures that the reefing line cutter is not damaged during packing or deployment. In addition, the device ensures that the actuating lanyard that initiates the cutter is pulled within the device’s specification cone angle. Combined, these features increase the durability of the reefing line cutter used in parachute reefing systems, and significantly increases the reliability of the underlying reefing cutter. Protecting such a critical element of the controlled deployment of parachutes significantly improves the operation of the parachute reefing system.

Posted in: Mechanical Components, Machinery & Automation, Briefs

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