Robotics, Automation & Control

Access our comprehensive library of technical briefs on robotics, automation & control, from engineering experts at NASA and government, university, and commercial laboratories.

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Systems, Methods, and Apparatus of a Low-Conductance Silicon Micro-Leak for Mass Spectrometer Inlet

Mass spectrometers on atmospheric entry probes require a method for introducing gas from high-pressure ambient regions to the vacuum of the mass spectrometer interior.

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
In-Situ Load System for Calibrating and Validating Aerodynamic Properties of Scaled Aircraft in Ground-Based Aerospace Testing Applications

NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed three techniques and systems to calibrate and validate wind-tunnel force balances and other multi-component force transducers. The first is the Single Vector...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Release of a Stuck Solar Array or Antenna

Satellite launches experience approximately one deployment failure every two years. These failures include a solar array or antenna that fails to deploy because it is stuck due to a mechanism failure, or is snagged by a cable or thermal blanket. Knowledge of the exact circumstances of the deployable...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
High-Heat-Flux-Capable Boundary Layer Vortex Generator and Boundary Layer Transition Device

Afixed geometry device has been developed to promote boundary layer transition and generation of streamwise vorticity, and is capable of withstanding entry heating environments for the Space Shuttle Orbiter. Designed to have a total height above the...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
GEMINI Stability Control for Reducing Pointing Jitter in CubeSats and Smallsats

Because of the cost-effectiveness of flying smallsats compared to large flagship spacecraft, there is increasing interest in boosting their capabilities for supporting precision science payloads and sophisticated instrumentation. Unfortunately, a major current...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Piezoelectric-Actuated Rotary Ultrasonic Motor

This actuator was developed out of a need for a cryogenic actuator that can operate effectively in spite of the thermal mismatch involved with construction materials that have different expansion coefficients. Also, there is a need for a cryogenic motor that can drive infrared systems and produce...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Limboid Reconfigurable Robots for In-Space Assembly

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...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Cam Hand

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...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Autonomous Flight Termination System Reference Design Hardware

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...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
RoboSimian: Software Algorithms for a Mobile Manipulation Quadruped Robot

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...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Robot Task Commander with Extensible Programming Environment

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,...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Multi-Spacecraft Autonomous Positioning System/Network-Based Navigation

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...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Heading Versus Tilt Chart for Assessing HGA Occlusion and Flop Risk in MSL Operations

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...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Rapid Forest Triage by Sub-Canopy Micro Air Vehicles

Today, tree distribution maps can only be generated manually in a very time-consuming process, and real-time microclimate mapping of a large 3D volume under tree canopy is not possible. A prototype small quadrotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) system was developed that is able to maneuver in...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Insertable, Miniature, In-Vivo Surgical Robot with Embedded Control

This innovation is a miniature, in-vivo surgical robot that is able to be inserted into the peritoneal cavity under insufflation. It is designed to perform Laparoendoscopic Single-Site Surgery (LESS). This robotic device is capable of direct visualization of the surgical...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Contact State Estimation for Multi-Finger Robot Hands Using Particle Filters

A method, using a particle filter, has been created for identifying the location, orientation, and shape of an object that a robot hand touches. An appropriate motion model has been defined that characterizes the motion of the robot hand as it moves relative to an...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Tendon-Driven Finger, Wrist, and Thumb Actuation System

The Robonaut 2 (R2) Dexterous Robot is the result of an effort to build a two-armed, ten-fingered humanoid robot torso capable of assembly work. This invention concerns a multi-fingered hand, and is composed of several parts. One is a tendon-driven, four-link, four-degree-of-freedom robotic...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Visual-Aided Inertial Navigation for Computationally Constrained Aerial Vehicles

Micro aerial vehicles (MAVs) are lightweight, highly dynamic vehicles with limited payload, sensing, and computation capabilities. There is significant interest to automate MAVs for military surveillance, reconnaissance, and search-and-rescue missions. The current...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Robotic Surgical Devices, Systems, and Related Methods

Various advancements have been made in the development of miniature in vivo surgical robots. These robots are designed to perform Laparoendo scopic Single-Site Surgery (LESS). After being inserted through a single incision, these robots can perform surgical procedures in a dexterous...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Ship Classification Using Gnostic Fields

There are many applications for Autonomous Seaborne Vessels (ASVs). The seaborne cargo shipping industry moves over 9 billion tons of cargo per year, is worth $375 billion, and is responsible for 90 percent of world trade. Autonomous cargo ships could reduce the operating expenses of cargo ships by 44%....

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Tension-Stiffened and Tendon-Actuated Space Manipulators

The Space Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (SRMS) and Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS) have proven the benefit of long-reach manipulators, with the reach of both manipulators in the l5-18-m class. Manipulators with greater reach provide many benefits. The SRMS’s limited...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
NASA Tensegrity Robotics Toolkit (NTRT) v1

Tensegrity robots have many unique properties useful for robots intended to operate in natural settings, yet the exploration of how to build and control such robots is just beginning. Many of their positive qualities, such as multipath force distribution, compliance, and their oscillatory nature, also...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
RoboSimian Software System from the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals

A software architecture to allow semi-autonomous mobile manipulation of highly dexterous robots under degraded communications was developed to enable remote operation of a mobile manipulation robot as a first responder in a disaster-response scenario. The software architecture...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Autonomous Micro Aerial Vehicle Flight Using Optical Flow and Inertial Cues

Micro aerial vehicles (MAVs) are agile and have unstable flight dynamics. They require a failsafe method to be navigated through areas even without GPS coverage. The approach of this work is to use only the feature matches between two consecutive images, i.e. optical...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Universal Robotically Operated Leave-Behind Gripper

This universal robotically operated leavebehind gripper allows robotic (or extravehicular activity — EVA) attachment capability of any object at eight existing types of attachments at the International Space Station (ISS). It enables expansion of external stowage and payload sites to include...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
DshellCommon Simulation Framework

DshellCommon software has been developed for specifying and executing generic multibody system simulations. This innovation helps the user create and execute simulations for mechanisms, vehicles, spacecraft, or other systems by making it easier to write simulation “run scripts” for systems that vary from...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Neutrally Buoyant Tank Inspection and Cleaning Robot

Huge savings in cost and inspection times (as well as improved safety) could be obtained by performing in-service inspection of tank floors and walls with robotic devices. This would have a reduced environmental impact and meet EPA and state regulations.

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Visualization and Introspection for Teleoperation of Robotic Systems

The Space Exploration and Analysis Simulations (SEAS) project at JPL performs analysis of advanced mission and system concepts on behalf of NASA. One of the concepts being explored involves operation of robotic rovers on the Moon from a remote operator station located either at...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Robotic Exoskeleton (EXO)

The Exoskeleton (EXO) is a device that falls into a new classification of robotics called wearable robots. On-orbit applications include countermeasures and dynamometry, allowing for continual assessment of a person’s muscle strength while aboard the International Space Station. Due to its small, compact size and...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
3D Motor for Multi-Axis Attitude Control on SmallSats

Preliminary data was recently provided for a reaction sphere prototype on NASA’s zero-gravity parabolic flight vehicle. Gyroscope telemetry indicates that reaction spheres were successfully commanded at 10- to 20-ms pulses during a handful of parabolas in each flight. This is the first...