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 : Robotics, Automation & Control
Piezoelectric Actuator with Dual Horns that are Separately Controllable to Drive Miniature Vehicles Along a Single Axis

Actuators are a critical driver of all the mechanisms used in space, and improvements of their operation mechanism enhance mission capabilities. The disclosed invention is a new type of actuator that simultaneously drives dual...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Robot Powertrain Moves Toward Energy Autonomy

Inspecting the condition of dykes and other sea defense structures is typically a task for a team of robots. They consume a lot of energy to move across the dykes, perform tests, and communicate the results for six hours a day. Because charging stations are not a realistic scenario, University of...

Briefs : Motion Control
Evaluation Standard for Robotic Research

The Yale-CMU-Berkeley (YCB) Object and Model Set provides universal benchmarks for labs specializing in robotic manipulation and prosthetics. About two years ago, Aaron Dollar, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Yale University, came up with the benchmark idea to...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Lunar Regolith Simulant Sample Collection Mechanism for Remote Operation in a Thermal Vacuum Chamber

The Sample Capture Mechanism (SCM) is a remotely actuated, spring-driven mechanism designed to remotely capture and seal a 15-mL sample in less than 1 second. It was used to capture a 10-g sample of simulated regolith dispensed from a drill in a...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Sonar Inspection Robot System

NASA’s Johnson Space Center innovators have designed a Robotic Inspection System that is capable of surveying deep sea structures such as oil platform storage cells/tanks and pipelines in order to determine the volume of material remaining inside, interrogate structure integrity, and display real-time video and...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Robonaut 2: Industrial Opportunities

Researchers at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC), in collaboration with General Motors (GM) and Oceaneering, have designed a state-of-the-art, highly dexterous, humanoid robot: Robonaut 2 (R2). R2’s nearly 50 patented and patent-pending technologies have the potential to be game-changers in many...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Vessel Sealing Device for Robotic Devices

Invasive surgical procedures are essential for addressing various medical conditions. When possible, minimally invasive procedures are preferred, but these technologies are often limited in scope and complexity. These limitations are due in part to mobility restrictions from the use of rigid tools in...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Residual Mode Filters

NASA has developed a unique control algorithm and synthesis method that uses a system’s output to modify control inputs to cause the system to track a reference model or a fixed value in the presence of unmodeled system dynamics, varying operating environments, and unpredictable disturbances. The unique feature of this...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Probabilistic Surface Characterization for Safe Landing Hazard Detection and Avoidance (HDA)

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has developed a probabilistic algorithm for hazard detection and avoidance (HDA) that robustly handles sensor noise. Conventional surface characterization methods use fixed hazard thresholds to determine hazardous...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Robot for Controlled Deposition of Multilayer Thin Film Structures

During deposition of thin film layers using shadow masking techniques, thin film layer structure morphology changes with respect to the position of the thin film layer and the shadow of the mask. Morphology changes in the thin film result in refractive index and density changes...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Walk and Roll Robot

In smooth terrain, the most efficient motion to traverse the terrain is rolling. However, when a wheeled vehicle encounters obstacles, it must circumvent them if possible or choose an alternate path. Legged vehicles can traverse such obstacles by stepping over them, but are not energy efficient on smooth terrain. The Walk and...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Human Grasp Assist Device with Exoskeleton

Researchers at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC), in collaboration with General Motors (GM), have designed and developed Robo-Glove, a wearable human grasp assist device, to help reduce the grasping force needed by an individual to operate tools for an extended time or when performing tasks having...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Electromagnetic Monitoring and Control of a Plurality of Nanosatellites

NASA has developed an innovative combination of a Magnetometer, low-powered ElectroMagnets, and Res onant Inductive Coupling (MEMRIC) to create and control relative positioning of nanosatellites within a cluster. This is a game-changing approach to enable distributed...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Elimination of Yaw Component of Gyroscope Propagation Error During Arm Activity in MSL

When updating attitude during arm motion, gyroscope propagation error soon becomes greater than the tilt being monitored. The solution is to add an accelerometer-only mode that can update attitude without using gyroscopes, and to add the ability to monitor...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Locomotion of Amorphous Surface Robots

NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed multiple ways for amorphous robots to autonomously move across a surface without needing conventional wheels or legs. Amorphous robots are useful in dusty and sandy environments in which greater mobility, passive shape changing, and immunity to dust and...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Self-Latching Piezocomposite Actuator

NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed a self-latching piezocomposite actuator. The self-latching nature of this invention allows for piezo actuators that do not require constant power draw. Among other applications, the invention is well suited for use in aerodynamic control surfaces and engine...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Active Response Gravity Offload and Method

To train astronauts to live and work in the weightless environment on the International Space Station, NASA employs a number of techniques and facilities that simulate microgravity. Engineers at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) have developed a new system called the Active Response Gravity Offload...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Fluid Harmonic Absorber

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center’s Fluid Structure Coupling (FSC) technology is a highly efficient and passive method to control the way fluids and structures communicate and dictate the behavior of a system. This technology has the demonstrated potential to mitigate a multitude of different types of vibration issues,...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Variable-Aperture Reciprocating Reed Valve

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center engineers have developed a new reed valve for controlling fluid flow back and forth between two chambers. The VARR valve provides two-way flow that is proportional to flow demand. As the pressure gradient builds on one side, the reed valve responds by opening an...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Passive, Integrated, Sublimator-Driven Coldplate

Spacecraft thermal control systems typically perform three key functions — heat acquisition, heat transport, and heat rejection — in addition to those of insulation, heat generation, and heat storage. In a typical pumped fluid-loop spacecraft thermal control system, heat is acquired from...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Strat-X

Experiments in space can be expensive and infrequent, but Earth’s upper atmosphere is accessible via large scientific balloons, and can be used to address many of the same fundamental questions. Scientific balloons are made of a thin polyethylene film inflated with helium, and can carry atmospheric sampling instruments on a gondola...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Hydraulic Pressure Distribution System

Human operation in space over long time periods causes bone and muscle deterioration, so there is a need for countermeasures in the form of physical exercises consisting of working against controlled resistivity. Generally, there are three types of exercise machines that are used by space crews to maintain...

Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Dust Tolerant Connectors

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center has developed a novel ruggedized housing for an electrical or fluid umbilical connector that prevents intrusion of dust, sand, dirt, mud, and moisture during field use under harsh conditions. The technology consists of a pair of hand-sized protective umbilical interface housings, each...

Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
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 : Robotics, Automation & Control
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 : Robotics, Automation & Control
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...

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