Astrobee (Astrobee) - 11.15.17

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

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
A new buzz comes to the International Space Station (ISS): Astrobee. Three free-flying, cube-shaped robots. The robots are designed to help scientists and engineers develop and test technologies for use in microgravity to assist astronauts with routine chores, and give ground controllers additional eyes and ears on the space station. The autonomous robots, powered by fans and vision-based navigation, perform crew monitoring, sampling, logistics management, and accommodate up to three investigations.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Maria Bualat, M.S., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom: Astrobee

Principal Investigator(s)
Terry Fong, Ph.D., NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, United States

Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
Maria Bualat, M.S., NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, United States

Developer(s)
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
Technology Demonstration Office (TDO)

Research Benefits
Space Exploration

ISS Expedition Duration
September 2017 - February 2018; -

Expeditions Assigned
53/54,55/56

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • Astrobee consists of three self-contained, free flying robots and a docking station for use inside the International Space Station (ISS).
  • Astrobee is an autonomous free flyer powered by fans and operates in the entire U.S. Operating Segment (USOS) using vision-based navigation.
  • Astrobee is operated remotely from the ground, and the robot may move through all of the USOS autonomously.
  • Astrobee facility enables robotic free flyer technology research in microgravity, and is used to test computer vision, robotic manipulation, control algorithms, and Human-Robot Interaction (HRI).
  • Astrobee cameras and sensors perform crew monitoring, sampling activities, logistics management and other routine tasks; thus enabling astronauts to dedicate their efforts to other science and engineering duties.
  • Each Astrobee free flying robot is capable of accommodating up to threepayloads with mechanical attachment, power and data connectivity.

Description

The purpose of Astrobee is to deliver a free-flying robotic system that performs remote controlled sensor/camera tasks , such as inventory management or visual inspection, in order to off-load those tasks from International Space Station (ISS) crew. The Astrobee system objectives are to provide microgravity robotic research platform capabilities, perform mobile camera tasks in the ISS U.S. Operating Segment (USOS), and perform free flyer sensor tasks in the USOS. Broadly, the robotic system includes the Astrobee free flyers, a dock/resupply station for replenishing power, and any necessary hardware and software for remote communication, control and data transfer. Astrobee is self-contained and autonomous. It is expected to be capable of autonomous localization and navigation inside the ISS USOS.
 
Astrobee has video cameras that allow it to serve as a remotely operated mobile camera platform, and may be used to assist the unit with localization and navigation. Astrobee also has peripheral port(s) where additional sensors and hardware can be attached for demonstration, testing, and use aboard the ISS. Additional sensors that may be attached to or integrated with the Astrobee include a Radio-Frequency IDentification (RFID) reader with the necessary software to communicate with the inventory management system, and a high-definition (HD) camera. Astrobee communicates principally via the station Payload Local Area Network (LAN). The propulsion of Astrobee is provided by electric-motor-driven fans. Localization uses vision-based navigation that utilizes visual features of the ISS interior as points of reference. Astrobee also includes a perching arm to grab ISS handrails, which enables the unit to hold position without using its propulsion system.

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Applications

Space Applications
Astrobee provides the crew with more time for science activities by taking some maintenance activities off their hands. The robots also contribute to the ISS’s use as a laboratory by providing microgravity robotics research platform capabilities. The robots have peripheral ports where additional sensors and hardware can be attached to test computer vision, robotic manipulation, control algorithms, and Human-Robot Interaction (HRI).

Earth Applications

The Earth Application for this investigation has yet to be identified.
 

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Operations

Operational Requirements and Protocols
During commissioning activities, Astrobee requires one crew member for initial installation, basic checkout activities, and for attaching/detaching payloads. Astrobee activities need to be carefully coordinated with the Flight Operations Directorate (FOD) and International Space Station program (ISSP) due to crew privacy concerns, and to be aware that there is a “moving speed bump” out there. Astrobee activities may require high downlink rates (up to 15 Mbps per Free Flyer), depending on what sensor data is being downlinked. The ground team remotely operates Astrobee to map the USOS. This is a slow process of “peeking” beyond its known map boundary, downlinking the data, and slowly extending the map. This activity does not require crew time. The ground team conducts a demonstration using an attached payload.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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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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Imagery

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Three Astrobee free flyers are on board the International Space Station to perform video and sensor tasks, and to provide a microgravity research platform for other payloads. Image courtesy of NASA.

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The Astrobee free flyer (clockwise from upper left): front face, right propulsion module and bottom payload bays; left propulsion module, top payload bay, and perching arm deployed; top payload bay with perching arm stowed; aft face including docking interface and perching arm deployed. Image courtesy of NASA.

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Annotated rendering of an Astrobee free flyer showing key sensing and human interface components, including the 6 cameras: Hazard Camera, Science Camera, Navigation Camera, Speed Camera, Perching Camera and Dock Camera. Image courtesy of NASA.

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