Robonaut (Robonaut) - 01.14.15

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Robonaut is a two-armed humanoid robot torso designed with the versatility and dexterity to manipulate hardware, work in high risk environments, and respond safely to unexpected obstacles. Robonaut is currently mounted inside the International Space Station (ISS); in the future, it will perform tasks both inside and outside the ISS.  The Robonaut Teleoperations System enables Robonaut to mimic the motions of a crewmember wearing specialized gloves, a vest and a visor providing a three-dimensional view through Robonaut’s eyes.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Myron A. Diftler, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom Robonaut

Principal Investigator(s)

  • Myron A. Diftler, Ph.D., Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, United States

  • Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
    Information Pending
    NASA Johnson Space Center, Robotics Systems Technology Branch, Houston, TX, United States

    Sponsoring Space Agency
    National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

    Sponsoring Organization
    Technology Demonstration Office (TDO)

    Research Benefits
    Information Pending

    ISS Expedition Duration
    March 2011 - Ongoing

    Expeditions Assigned

    Previous ISS Missions

    Robonaut begins operations on ISS Expedition 25/26.

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    Experiment Description

    Research Overview

    • The Robonaut operational goals demonstrate the capabilities of humanoid robotic technology on the International Space Station (ISS).  Current research involves activities inside the ISS, but future project goals are to demonstrate humanoid robotic capabilities outside the ISS in the Extravehicular Environment.
    • The research being performed could help save crew time by offloading time consuming tasks both inside and outside the space station.  Robonaut could also help reduce human crewmember exposure to dangerous environments by providing a robotic option for investigation or action.  
    • Robonaut technology could evolve into other future robotic missions and other space exploration platforms.

    ISS Science Challenge Student Reflection

    ISS Science Challenge Selected Project    Script
    We did this experiment because we were learning about technology. We liked learning about Robonaut because robots are really cool.
    -Cael, Zach, Chase, and Kameron, Grade 5, North Tama Elementary School, Traer, Iowa

    Robonaut not only looks like a human, but it also is designed to work like one. With human-like hands and arms, Robonaut is able to use the same tools station crewmembers use. In the future, the greatest benefits of humanoid robots in space may be as assistants for astronauts during spacewalks.

    Robonaut is comprised of a robotic torso with a rotating waist, arms, a head with two high image cameras for eyes and a power pack (backpack). Robonaut is connected to a support stanchion (vertical post or rod) at the waist via an adapter. The stanchion interfaces to the International Space Station (ISS) structure via a base plate and use of the seat track system. The Robonaut Task Board has dummy (non-ISS interfaced) switches that Robonaut can interact with via ground or local ISS commanding.

    Robonaut activities include commanding to perform free space joint manipulation and interface with the task board where it performs simple functions such as flipping switches, removing dust covers and installing handrails. Upon successful completion of Robonaut Task Board experiments, operations will expand to include simple ISS Intravehicular Activity (IVA) tasks within a contained worksite area. During these initial operations, Robonaut is involved with education and public outreach activities demonstrations.

    As each session is successfully completed and operational confidence concerning Robonaut’s capabilities in microgravity are proven, Robonaut will be scheduled for more complex activities. Robonaut’s growth may be supported with hardware and/or software upgrades in future increments.

    The hardware required to perform tele-operation of the robot is the Robonaut Tele-operation System (RTS). The RTS consists of hardware the operator will don which includes a 3D visor, vest and gloves.  These hardware items worn by the operator contains specialized sensors capable of detecting the motion of the operator by mounting a tracking bar.  These sensors transmit the operator movements to a computer that works through the existing Robonaut control software to drive the robot in fashion that mimics the motion of the operator.  Feedback from the robot is in the form of left/right video cameras from Robonaut that feed direct video to a video display helmet that is worn by the operator.

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    Space Applications
    Robonaut not only looks like a human, but is designed to work like one, with human-like hands and arms that can operate the same tools crew members use.  For initial demonstrations, Robonaut flips switches, removes dust covers, installs handrails and performs other duties using the Robonaut Task Board inside the ISS.  Additional tasks are assigned to Robonaut as each session is successfully completed.  With further development and enhancements, humanoid robots will be able to work alongside humans on spacewalks.

    Earth Applications
    Robonaut is a project under a Space Act agreement with General Motors, which plans to use Robonaut-related technology in future vehicle safety systems and manufacturing applications. Robonaut helps to advance development of robotic assistant and manufacturing technologies that improve worker health and safety inside factories. As part of the demonstration, Robonaut is also involved in several education and public outreach activities, connecting robotics and the space program to students and the general public on Earth.

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    Operational Requirements
    Robonaut is commanded via remote guidance control and success in each research operation is determined by the ground operators based on observations of the Robonaut performance recorded via cabin video and by Robonaut telemetry received on the ground. Each session detailed below can be repeated multiple times to obtain the greatest insight to Robonaut operations in the 0 g (zero gravity) environment and remote guidance.  Robonaut can also be operated using Tele-Operation equipment which involved on-orbit crewmember donning a vest, gloves and 3D visor to manipulate the movements of Robonaut.

    • Robonaut Phase I Operations (Stationary Ops)
      • Sensor and safety system checkout (Completed)
      • Freespace joint checkout (Completed)
      • VelociCalc Tool Ops (Completed)
        •  NOTE: Future VelociCalc Tool ops are on the tentative future schedule
      • Taskboard Vision Characterization (In-Work)
      • Taskboard A Contact Ops (Completed and Ongoing)
      • Taskboard B Contact Ops (Completed and Ongoing)
      • Taskboard C Contact Ops (Completed and Ongoing)
      • Handrail Cleaning (Completed and Ongoing)
      • Taskboard D Contact Ops
      • Taskboard E Contact Ops
      • Tele-Operation Freespace Ops
      • Tele-Operation Contact Ops
      • Barcode Scanning Ops
      • Vacuum Air Filter Ops
      • EVA Hook Taskpanel C Contact Ops

    • Robonaut Phase II Operations (IVA Mobility)
      • On-Orbit Assembly of IVA Mobility Unit
      • Sensor and safety system checkout
      • Freespace joint checkout
      • Maintenance and Housekeeping Ops
        • Barcode Scanning
        • Handrail Cleaning
        • Inventory Management
      • Atmospheric and Environmental Monitoring/Reporting Ops
      • EVA Tool Ops in the IVA environment

    • Robonaut Phase III Operations (EVA Mobility)
      • On-Orbit Assembly of EVA Mobility Unit
      • Sensor and safety system checkout IVA
      • Freespace joint checkout IVA
      • JEM Airlock EVA Access Ops
      • Sensor and safety system checkout EVA
      • Freespace joint checkout EVA
      • Hanrail inspection Ops
      • MLI/Softgoods manipulation Ops
      • Worksite prep/tear down
        • APFR setup
        • Retrieve/Configure/Stow EVA Tools
        • Replace/Remove MLI

    • Retrieve, translate and pre-position ORUs

    •  EVA Contingency Ops Support

    Robonaut is confined to operations in the ISS's Destiny Laboratory. However, future enhancements and modifications may allow it to move more freely throughout the station's interior and eventually the exterior as well.

    Operational Protocols
    Robonaut operates via ground commanding with little interaction by the crewmembers. The exception to this is during Robonaut Tele-Operation (RTS) sessions.  For RTS sessions, crewmembers don a 3D visor, gloves and a vest and Robonaut will mimic their motion.

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    Results/More Information

    Information Pending

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    Results Publications

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    Ground Based Results Publications

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    ISS Patents

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    Related Publications

      Tzvetkova GV.  ROBONAUT 2: Mission, technologies, perspectives. Journal of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics. 2014 January 1; 44(1): 97-102. DOI: 10.2478/jtam-2014-0006.

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    Related Websites
    Planetary Gear - Robonaut 2: The offspring of GM and NASA
    NASA to Launch Human-Like Robot to Join Space Station Crew
    NASA Developing Robots with Human Traits

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    image NASA Image: JSC2009-E-155300 - Robonaut is the next generation dexterous robot, developed through a Space Act Agreement by NASA and General Motors. It is faster, more dexterous and more technologically advanced than its predecessors and able to use its hands to do work beyond the scope of previously introduced humanoid robots.
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    image NASA Image: JSC2009E155295 - NASA and General Motors have come together to develop the next generation dexterous humanoid robot. The robots were designed to use the same tools as humans, which allows them to work safely side-by-side humans on Earth and in space.
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    image NASA Image: ISS026E034308 - European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli, Expedition 26/27 flight engineer, poses with Robonaut 2, the dexterous humanoid astronaut helper, in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station.
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