NASA to Launch Robonaut 2 Robot to International Space Station

Apr 14, 2010
The Robonaut 2.

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA will launch the first human-like robot to space later this year to become a permanent resident of the International Space Station. Robonaut 2, or R2, was developed jointly by NASA and General Motors under a cooperative agreement to develop a robotic assistant that can work alongside humans, whether they be astronauts in space or workers at GM manufacturing plants on Earth.

The 300-pound Robonaut 2 consists of a head and a torso with two arms and two hands and will launch on as part of the STS-133 mission planned for September. Once aboard the station, engineers will monitor how the operates in weightlessness. R2 joins another station robot, known as Dextre. That robot, built by the Canadian Space Agency, consists of two, long arms to perform tasks that normally require spacewalking astronauts to complete.

While Dextre is located on the station's exterior, R2 will be confined to operations in the station's Destiny laboratory. However, future enhancements could allow it to move more freely around the station's interior, and it could one day be modified to operate outside the complex.

“The use of R2 on the space station is just the beginning of a quickening pace between human and of space,” said John Olson, director of NASA's Exploration Systems Integration Office. “The partnership of humans and robots will be critical to opening up the solar system and will allow us to go farther and achieve more than we can probably even imagine today.”

The dexterous humanoid robot not only looks like a human, it is designed to work like one. With human-like hands and arms, R2 is able to use the same tools that station crew members use. In the future, the greatest benefit of humanoid robots in space may be as an assistant or stand-in for astronauts during spacewalks or for tasks too difficult or dangerous for humans. For now, R2 is still a prototype and lacks adequate protection needed to exist outside the space station in the extreme temperatures of space.

Testing the robot inside the station will provide an important intermediate environment. R2 will be tested in zero gravity, as well as being subjected to the station’s radiation and electromagnetic interference environments. The interior operations will provide performance data on how a robot may work side-by-side with astronauts. As development activities progress on the ground, station crews may be provided hardware and software to update R2 to allow it to do new tasks.

R2 is undergoing extensive testing in preparation for its flight. Vibration, vacuum and radiation testing along with other procedures being conducted on R2 also benefit the team at GM. The automaker plans to use technologies from R2 in future advanced vehicle safety systems and manufacturing plant applications.

“The extreme levels of testing R2 has undergone as it prepares to venture to the are on par with the validation our vehicles and components go through on the path to production,” said Alan Taub, vice president of GM’s global research and development. “The work done by GM and NASA engineers also will help us validate manufacturing technologies that will improve the health and safety of our GM team members at our manufacturing plants throughout the world.”

GM’s manufacturing engineering team is already working to identify potential applications for R2’s array of vision, motion and sensor technologies that will assist workers in manufacturing operations.

Explore further: SpaceX making Easter delivery of station supplies (Update 2)

Related Stories

NASA Sends Dextre to Fix the Hubble

Aug 11, 2004

NASA has decided to try to save the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope by sending a Canadian-made robot Dextre to fix it, agency officials say. Dextre - formally the Special Purpose Dextrous Manipulator - is a ...

Space shuttle Atlantis, 7 astronauts back on Earth

Nov 27, 2009

Space shuttle Atlantis and its crew of seven astronauts ended an 11-day journey of nearly 4.5 million miles with a 9:44 a.m. EST landing Friday at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Space Station To Grow Faster, Mark Firsts Throughout Year

Jan 31, 2007

Already spanning an acre in orbit, the International Space Station this year will grow faster in size, power, volume and mass than ever before, significantly expanding its capabilities and setting new records ...

Recommended for you

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

17 hours ago

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

19 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

The importance of plumes

20 hours ago

The Hubble Space Telescope is famous for finding black holes. It can pick out thousands of galaxies in a patch of sky the size of a thumbprint. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Hubble provided ...

Ceres and Vesta Converge in Virgo

23 hours ago

Don't let them pass you by. Right now and continuing through July, the biggest and brightest asteroids will be running on nearly parallel tracks in the constellation Virgo and so close together they'll easily ...

User comments : 7

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Buyck
1 / 5 (2) Apr 14, 2010
Robots in space!

!!!Welcome to the future!!!

Amazing news.
DeadMike
5 / 5 (4) Apr 14, 2010
and nowhere in the article does it say what the robot will be doing during the tests or in the future... I could have written all the information in one paragraph, i guess the writers get paid by the word... seems like the same information was repeated multiple times in the article, like they were trying to say the same thing in different words just so they could stretch this non-article into an article... sigh...
LariAnn
3.5 / 5 (2) Apr 14, 2010
Problem is, they've got it backwards. R2 should be the prototype for the trashcan-sized robot, and the humanoid type should be C3 . . .
Szkeptik
2 / 5 (1) Apr 14, 2010
And this is cheaper than just sending up one more guy?
Nik_2213
4 / 5 (1) Apr 15, 2010
Szkeptik, these tele-operators don't breathe, sweat, shed, lose bone-calcium, suffer radiation exposure or need a potty-break. Their ground-based operators can work shirt-sleeve shifts. With care, tele-operators will be able to work in modules that have restricted ventilation or leak-- Of ammonia or to space...

Another potential use of tele-operators is to crew the station without any-one 'physically' aboard.
Shaffer
not rated yet Apr 15, 2010
Does anyone else find it odd that the publicity photo is showing the robot doing something it will never need to do? Is it really so human that it needs to exercise? Hahahaa!!!!

Oh yeah....GM was involved...I guess they are better at robots these days.

PS3
not rated yet Apr 15, 2010
Seems like pointless weight for the rocket to me. Being designed for indoor, what good is it?

More news stories

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.