Robonaut (Robonaut) - 09.19.18

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

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Robonaut is a humanoid robot designed with the versatility and dexterity to manipulate hardware, work in high risk environments, and respond safely to unexpected obstacles. Robonaut is comprised of a torso with two arms and a head, and two legs with end effectors that enable the robot to translate inside the ISS by interfacing with handrails and seat track. Robonaut is currently operated 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

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
Space Exploration, Earth Benefits, Scientific Discovery

ISS Expedition Duration
March 2011 - March 2016; March 2016 - October 2018

Expeditions Assigned

Previous 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 crew member 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’s torso 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). Below the waist, Robonaut has two legs that enable climbing and translation activities. The feet, or end effectors, on Robonaut contain cameras, sensors, and lights to aid in the robot’s autonomous mobility.
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. The Robonaut Task Board has dummy (non-ISS interfaced) switches that Robonaut can interact with via ground or local ISS commanding. Operations also 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, including the addition of a battery backpack. The battery backpack will provide wireless power and data capabilities, extending Robonaut’s operational margins.
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. The hardware items worn by the operator contain 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 a 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 founded 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 and Protocols

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 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 Operations (Completed)
    • Taskboard Handrail Cleaning (Completed and Ongoing)
    • Tele-Operation Freespace Ops (Completed)
    • Tele-Operation Contact Ops (Completed)
  • Robonaut Phase II Operations (IVA Mobility)
    • On-Orbit Assembly of IVA Mobility Unit (Completed)
    • Sensor and safety system checkout
    • Freespace joint checkout
    • IVA climbing/steps
    • Auto stow/unstow
    • Maintenance and Housekeeping Ops
      • Barcode Scanning
      • Handrail Cleaning
      • Inventory Management
    • Atmospheric and Environmental Monitoring/Reporting Ops
    • EVA Tool Ops in the IVA environment
    • On-orbit Integration of Battery Backpack
    • Sensor and safety systems checkout
    • Freespace joint checkout
    • IVA Mobility demonstration with battery
  • 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
    • Handrail 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.
Robonaut operates via ground commanding with little interaction by the crew members. The exception to this is during Robonaut Tele-Operation (RTS) sessions. For RTS sessions, crew members don a 3D visor, gloves and a vest and Robonaut will mimic their motion.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Results Publications

    Diftler MA, Ahlstrom TD, Ambrose RO, Radford NA, Joyce CA, De La Pena N, Parsons AH, Noblitt AL.  Robonaut 2 - Initial Activities On-Board the ISS. 2012 IEEE Aerospace Conference, Big Sky, MT; 2012 pp.1-12.

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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
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
A Step Up for NASA’s Robonaut: Ready for Climbing Legs
Climbing Legs for Robonaut 2 Headed to International Space Station

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image NASA Image: ISS040e139221 - Robonaut after installation of the Robonaut legs on ISS. 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.
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image NASA Image: ISS040E139237 - NASA astronaut Steve Swanson taken with Robonaut after installation of the Robonaut legs.
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image NASA Image: ISS036E038288 - NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy wears tele-operation gear consisting of a vest, gloves and visor to telerobotically test Robonaut's maneuvers.
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image NASA Image: ISS039E003125 - Japan Aerospace Exploration agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata poses for a photo with Robonaut.
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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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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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NASA Image: ISS036E029148 - Astronaut Chris Cassidy, Expedition 36 flight engineer, performing Robonaut Teleops activities with Robonaut 2, the first humanoid robot in space, in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station.

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image NASA Image: ISS039E003795 - Expedition 39 flight engineer Rick Mastracchio poses for a photo with Robonaut 2 (R2) in the Destiny U.S. Laboratory.
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image NASA Image: ISS050E037542 - Expedition 50 crew members (l-r)Peggy Whitson (Flight engineer), Shane Kimbrough (commander) and Thomas Pesquet (flight engineer) poses for a photo with Robonaut 2 (R2) in the Destiny U.S. Laboratory.
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