Special Coverage

Iodine-Compatible Hall Effect Thruster
Precision Assembly of Systems on Surfaces (PASS)
Development of a Novel Electrospinning System with Automated Positioning and Control Software
2016 Create The Future Design Contest Open For Entries
Clamshell Sampler
Shape Memory Alloy Rock Splitter
Deployable Extra-Vehicular Activity Platform (DEVAP) for Planetary Surfaces
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Limboid Reconfigurable Robots for In-Space Assembly

A Limboid workforce with access to a tool crib could staff robotic space factories. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California Figure 1. A laboratory prototype of a Limbi robot autonomously builds a modular structure. This process could repeat to build a large truss or spacecraft. As shown here, the modules are small, but a similar approach would work for large modules. Many future space vehicles, planetary bases, and mining operations will be too large and heavy to launch on a single rocket. Instead, component parts would need to be launched on multiple rockets and assembled in space. To enable versatile in-space assembly, a novel class of reconfigurable robots called Limboids has been conceptualized. Limboids are robotic limbs that attach and detach from each other to form a variety of useful configurations. These configurations might be as small as a single limb, which is best for dexterous manipulation of small parts, or as large as necessary for gross manipulation. As a modular system, Limboids could be supplemented with additional tools and limbs.

Posted in: Briefs, Machinery & Automation, Robotics

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Cam Hand

This robust gripper design has applicability to both robots and as a prosthetic for the physically challenged. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California A durable gripper tool was designed for use by RoboSimian robots intended for use in disaster scenarios that demand high-force, robust manipulation. The resulting Cam Hand fills a previously unaddressed niche that emphasizes grip strength and robustness over dexterity. The design uses a number of unique features to ensure high operational flexibility. While this gripper was created for use on a robot, its basic design could be refined for other applications; in particular, as a new class of prosthetic that would exist between the traditional hook and pinch models and the dexterous models currently under development.

Posted in: Briefs, Machinery & Automation, Robotics

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Autonomous Flight Termination System Reference Design Hardware

John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida The current range ground-based infrastructure is extremely costly to operate and maintain. NASA has developed an Autonomous Flight Termination System (AFTS) that is an independent, self-contained subsystem mounted onboard a launch vehicle. The AFTS reference system eliminates the need for a ground-based infrastructure by moving the flight termination function from the ground to the launch vehicle. It will allow multiple vehicles to be launched and tracked at the same time. AFTS is necessary to support vehicles that have multiple flyback boosters.

Posted in: Briefs, Machinery & Automation, Robotics

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RoboSimian: Software Algorithms for a Mobile Manipulation Quadruped Robot

This software system has been designed for semi-autonomous operation of the robot. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California RoboSimian, a statically stable quadrupedal robot capable of both dexterous manipulation and versatile mobility in difficult terrain, was built to compete in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge, a competitive effort to develop hardware and software in the area of mobile manipulation platforms to assist humans in responding to natural and manmade disasters.

Posted in: Briefs, Machinery & Automation, Robotics

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Robot Task Commander with Extensible Programming Environment

This application can be used in programming robotic systems in real-world environments such as factory floors and disaster sites. Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas As robotic systems are expected to perform complex tasks, system developers require tools for application programming that are more advanced than the current state of the art. Robot application programs need to allow the system to respond to different, and possibly unforeseen, situations either autonomously or by enabling operators to modify these programs quickly in the field.

Posted in: Briefs, Machinery & Automation, Robotics

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Multi-Spacecraft Autonomous Positioning System/Network-Based Navigation

Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama Current deep spacecraft rely heavily on ground-based navigation and tracking for state measurement. The requirement for long ground navigation passes, coupled with analysis support, produces a large latency for updating a vehicle’s state. As the current infrastructure continues to age and is increasingly utilized, the capability for these observations will also be diminished.

Posted in: Briefs, Machinery & Automation, Robotics

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Heading Versus Tilt Chart for Assessing HGA Occlusion and Flop Risk in MSL Operations

This approach is useful for rovers on Mars or other celestial bodies to point the antenna toward the Earth to transmit data without obstructions to the tracking stations. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) high-gain antenna (HGA) sits low on the deck, leaving the sky occluded in many directions by other parts of the rover. Each drive must end with the rover at a heading where the Earth will be unoccluded during the next HGA communications pass. This is a multidimensional problem that can take considerable time to assess in detail. For a portion of heading/tilt space, the Earth track starts outside joint limits for one kinematic pointing solution, and ends outside joint limits for the other. Tracking would either stop at the joint limit, or go off Earth point (“flop”) in the middle of the pass in order to change kinematic solutions to complete the pass. Special attention to uplink must be made when a drive ends at a heading where there is risk of a flop.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Machinery & Automation, Robotics

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