Robonaut 2 -which was designed and built through the partnership of NASA and General Motors with assistance from Oceaneering Space Systems engineers- is on aboard the International Space Station. Robonaut 2 was launched in February 2011 with the last flight of Nasa’s discovery space shuttle and it started to work last March.
Robonaut 2’s first duty was on a handheld air flow meter. A team of programmers controlled the robot remotely to operate valves on the task board in the Destiny Laboratory of the space station. Because steady hands were needed and any other kind of air flow (even human breath) can spoil the delicate samples; monitoring the air velocity around the vents against a blokage in ventilation apparatus was an important duty of the robot under microgravity. While Robonaut 2 was working, the earth based personnel could see through the eyes of the robot and could acquire the current data for the first time.
Robonaut 2 has: optimized overlapping dual arm dexterous workspace, series elastic joint technology, extended finger and thumb travel, miniaturized 6-axis load cells, redundant force sensing, ultra-high speed joint controllers, extreme neck travel, and high resolution camera and IR systems. It is fast and compact. Its dexterous hands enable to use the same tools with astronauts so there is no need for extra tools specialized for robots. It is able to handle many of the EVA tools and interfaces.
Now, the plan is adding legs that will give mobility to the robot. Hopefully, the robot will eventually take over the tasks that are simple, repetitive or too dangerous for astronauts and challenging for a human being.
Below, you can watch the interview where Robonaut 2 is described as “another pair of hands to help out”:
Video Credit: NASA