Robonaut to return to ISS

ATLANTA — As Russia prepares to launch an experimental humanoid robotic to the Worldwide House Station later this month, the same NASA robotic is being readied for a return to the station after repairs on Earth.

In an Aug. 1 presentation on the ISS Analysis and Growth Convention right here, Jonathan Rogers, deputy venture supervisor for Robonaut at NASA’s Johnson House Heart, stated the robotic will probably be flown again to the station late this 12 months on both a Cygnus or Dragon cargo spacecraft.

“We’re on the trail to returning to ISS ops,” he stated, with ultimate verifications of the robotic underway. A particular mission that Robonaut can be flown on hasn’t been chosen, he stated, noting that the robotic is “topic to prioritization” with different cargo destined for the station.

Robonaut 2, because the robotic is formally recognized, flew to the station in 2011 on one of many ultimate shuttle missions. The robotic carried out a collection of assessments to display how a robotic might work alongside astronauts on the station. Nevertheless, Robonaut 2 began to expertise issues in 2014, shortly after astronauts added a pair of legs to the robotic’s torso.

“Our processor stopped responding throughout a software program improve session,” Rogers stated. Rebooting the robotic fastened the issue quickly, however the issue stored occurring. “Finally we acquired to the purpose the place these processors wouldn’t boot in any respect.”

NASA initially tried to repair the robotic in orbit, with a number of astronauts performing restore work like changing suspect elements with spares on the station. That work traced the issue to a degraded 24-volt energy cable. Whereas the venture thought-about sending up a alternative cable to the station, he stated, ISS administration “made the big-picture choice to convey Robonaut dwelling and permit us to do a correct restore.”

Robonaut was despatched dwelling on the SpaceX CRS-14 Dragon cargo spacecraft, arriving again on the Johnson House Heart in Might 2018. As soon as within the lab, engineers discovered that the foundation explanation for the issue was a lacking return wire within the energy provide for the robotic’s pc chassis. Present was as a substitute utilizing a “sneak circuit” that overheated a connector in Robonaut’s backpack.

“These on-orbit troubleshooting periods gave us an amazing begin for a fast affirmation as soon as we acquired it dwelling,” he stated. “This is able to have been very troublesome to restore on orbit.”

That fault existed since Robonaut 2 was first developed, he added, however didn’t present itself till legs have been added to the robotic. “It was not current to us till we requested extra of the facility system.”

Engineers overhauled Robotnaut’s electrical system, work that recognized three extra potential sneak circuits that would have posed issues for the robotic. In addition they carried out different upgrades to the robotic’s {hardware} and software program.

As soon as Robonaut returns to the station, engineers have an in depth checkout deliberate that may contain each astronauts and Russian cosmonauts. “Now we have mentioned doing this as a Russian joint analysis exercise,” Rogers stated, as a result of Russian officers have expressed curiosity in being concerned with the venture.

After that checkout, Rogers stated NASA will conduct extra experiments with Robonaut. “We really feel that Robonaut provides a really distinctive platform for [technology readiness level] development,” he stated. “Now we have already made a big funding on this robotic. Now we have the {hardware}, we now have the management system.”

One space of curiosity is how robots like Robonaut could possibly be used on the lunar Gateway, which can have astronauts on board for less than quick durations of time. A check deliberate for later subsequent 12 months on the ISS can have Robonaut work along with Astrobee, one other robotic on the station, to find after which fetch particular cargo luggage.

“One of many methods we’re studying from that is ways in which we are able to affect the Gateway design to make issues extra robotically operable,” he stated.

Robonaut, although, gained’t be the primary humanoid robotic to go to the ISS this 12 months. The Russian state area company Roscosmos is making ultimate preparations for the launch of the Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft Aug. 21 that may verify the power to make use of the upgraded Soyuz-2.1a rocket for future Soyuz missions. Whereas Soyuz MS-14 is not going to carry any people, it should have on board a Russian-built humanoid robotic referred to as Skybot F-850, or FEDOR.

Skybot F-850:

«@NASA colleagues are getting ready a associate for me, right here he’s https://t.co/3CMXz5jcLM Would love to fulfill him» https://t.co/lOKOPkBojq

— РОСКОСМОС (@roscosmos) August 2, 2019

Roscosmos, in preparations for the launch of FEDOR, even created a Twitter account for the robotic, the place it posts first-person updates about its launch preparations. That included one tweet Aug. 2 the place it referenced Robonaut. “NASA colleagues are getting ready a associate for me,” it said, together with a picture of Robonaut 2 from its earlier time on the station. “Would love to fulfill him.”

Such a gathering seems unlikely. FEDOR is predicted to return to Earth with the Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft when it leaves the station in early September.

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