Robonaut (Robonaut) - 01.09.14

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

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone

Robonaut was developed under the Space Act Agreement between NASA and General Motors (GM) and was launched to the ISS on STS-133.  Robonaut is a dexterous humanoid robot designed with the versatility and dexterity to manipulate hardware, exhibit greater endurance than humans and react safely when bumped or interacted with in a way that was not expected.  Robonaut is currently deployed inside the ISS, however, future project goals include mobility in both inside the ISS and outside the ISS in the Extravehicular Environment.  The Robonaut Tele-operations System is an additional control method, beyond ground control, which involves Robonaut mimicking crewmember motions via gloves, a vest and a 3D visor.

Science Results for Everyone Information Pending

This 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


    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 - September 2014

    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 is an endeavor between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and General Motors (GM) to improve robotic technology and capabilities for future space exploration platforms.

    Earth Applications

    General Motors plan to use technologies from Robonaut in future advanced vehicle safety systems and manufacturing plant applications. Robonaut validates manufacturing technologies that will improve the health and safety of GM team members at manufacturing plants throughout the world.

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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

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    Related Websites

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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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