Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Astronauts to test free-flying 'housekeeper' robots

Date:
July 20, 2014
Source:
NASA
Summary:
Inspired by science fiction, three bowling ball-size free-flying Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) have been flying inside the International Space Station since 2006. These satellites provide a test bed for development and research, each having its own power, propulsion, computer, navigation equipment, and physical and electrical connections for hardware and sensors for various experiments.

Three satellites fly in formation as part of the Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) investigation. This image was taken during Expedition 14 in the Destiny laboratory module.
Credit: NASA

Inspired by science fiction, three bowling ball-size free-flying Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) have been flying inside the International Space Station since 2006. These satellites provide a test bed for development and research, each having its own power, propulsion, computer, navigation equipment, and physical and electrical connections for hardware and sensors for various experiments.

Related Articles


Aboard Orbital Sciences Corp.'s second contracted commercial resupply mission to the space station, which arrived to the orbital laboratory July 16, NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, sent two Google prototype Project Tango smartphones that astronauts will attach to the SPHERES for technology demonstrations inside the space station. By connecting a smartphone to the SPHERES, it becomes "Smart SPHERES, " a more "intelligent" free-flying robot with built-in cameras to take pictures and video, sensors to help conduct inspections, powerful computing units to make calculations and Wi-Fi connections to transfer data in real time to the computers aboard the space station and at mission control in Houston.

For the first Smart SPHERES experiments in 2011, a Nexus S was launched to the station on the final flight of space shuttle Atlantis. For the upcoming experiments, the features of the Project Tango phone add new capabilities to increase the options of what researchers can do with the SPHERES platform.

In a two-phase experiment, astronauts will manually use the smartphones to collect visual data using the integrated custom 3-D sensor to generate a full 3-D model of their environment. After the map and its coordinate system are developed, a second activity will involve the smartphones attached to the SPHERES, becoming the free-flying Smart SPHERES. As the free-flying robots move around the space station from waypoint to waypoint, utilizing the 3-D map, they will provide situational awareness to crewmembers inside the station and flight controllers in mission control. These experiments allow NASA to test vision-based navigation in a very small mobile product.

"NASA uses robots for research and mission operations; just think about the rovers on Mars or the robotic arm on the ISS or space shuttle," said Chris Provencher, manager of the Smart SPHERES project. "Inside the ISS space is limited, so it's really exciting to see technology has advanced enough for us to demonstrate the use of small, mobile robots to enhance future exploration missions."

Ultimately it is the hope of researchers that these devices will perform housekeeping-type tasks, such as video surveys for safety and configuration audits, noise level measurements, air flow measurements, and air quality measurements, that will offset work the astronauts currently perform.

The SPHERES facility is managed under NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, Advanced Exploration Systems division. The Smart SPHERES project and SPHERES facility are managed under the Intelligent Robotics Group at NASA Ames, with participation from NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA. "Astronauts to test free-flying 'housekeeper' robots." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140720111613.htm>.
NASA. (2014, July 20). Astronauts to test free-flying 'housekeeper' robots. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140720111613.htm
NASA. "Astronauts to test free-flying 'housekeeper' robots." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140720111613.htm (accessed March 29, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

What NASA Wants To Learn From Its 'Year In Space' Tests

What NASA Wants To Learn From Its 'Year In Space' Tests

Newsy (Mar. 28, 2015) Astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will spend a year in space running tests on human physiology and psychology. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Crew Starts One-Year Space Mission

Crew Starts One-Year Space Mission

Reuters - News Video Online (Mar. 28, 2015) Russian-U.S. crew arrives safely at the International Space Station for the start of a ground-breaking year-long stay. Paul Chapman reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why So Many People Think NASA's Asteroid Mission Is A Waste

Why So Many People Think NASA's Asteroid Mission Is A Waste

Newsy (Mar. 27, 2015) The Asteroid Retrieval Mission announced this week bears little resemblance to its grand beginnings. Even NASA scientists are asking, "Why bother?" Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space Station Crew Docks Safely

Space Station Crew Docks Safely

Reuters - News Video Online (Mar. 27, 2015) NASA TV footage shows the successful docking of a Russian Soyuz craft to the International Space Station for a year-long mission. Rough cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins