Robonaut 2 – Robot heading to SpaceStation

Get a detailed look at Robonaut 2, NASA's first humanoid robot to fly to space, in this infographic.
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Robonaut 2, dressed for pigskin punditry. But is it a Packers fan or a Steelers fan?

—-  Wow, he has his own Facebook and Twitter Account —
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(Credit: General Motors)

The Internet may already know who’s going to win the Super Bowl, but fortunately there are still some surprises to look forward to at Sunday’s big game–like what Robonaut 2 will have to say when it appears on Fox’s pregame show.

NASA’s experimental humanoid bot took a break from training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston earlier this week to tape a segment with Fox Sports analyst Howie Long. In it, Long and R2 banter about their predictions for which player will win the Chevrolet Super Bowl MVP award and score a new 2012 Camaro convertible. The Fox Pregame Show kicks off at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Robonaut 2, or R2 as it is better known, was developed by NASA and General Motors to assist astronauts on the International Space Station and help GM conduct crash avoidance and other safety tests.

The 330-pound R2 has a torso with a head, two arms, two dexterous humanlike hands complete with four fingers and one thumb each, and its own Twitter account. When it’s not sending tweets or pondering football stats, it’s learning skills that eventually will be uploaded to its twin, which is already packed in special casing aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery awaiting a scheduled February 24 launch from Kennedy Space Center.

Image via Wikipedia

Once inside the ISS’ Destiny orbiting laboratory, the robot will be tested by engineers to see how it operates in microgravity and the station’s radiation and electromagnetic interference environments. It’s expected to become a permanent resident of the ISS, possibly working side-by-side with astronauts in the future.

Robonaut 2

In the current iteration of Robonaut, Robonaut 2 or R2, NASA and General Motors are working together to accelerate development of the next generation of robots and related technologies for use in the

R2 20 pound weight, Robonaut
automotive and aerospace industries. Robonaut 2 (R2) is a state of the art highly dexterous anthropomorphic robot. Like its predecessor Robonaut 1 (R1), R2 is capable of handling a wide range of EVA tools and interfaces, but R2 is a significant advancement over its predecessor. R2 is capable of speeds more than four times faster than R1, is more compact, is more dexterous, and includes a deeper and wider range of sensing. Advanced technology spans the entire R2 system and includes: 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. The dexterity of R2 allows it to use the same tools that astronauts currently use and removes the need for specialized tools just for robots.
Integrated Truss Structure.

Image via Wikipedia

One advantage of a humanoid design is that Robonaut can take over simple, repetitive, or especially dangerous tasks on places such as the International Space Station. Because R2 is approaching human dexterity, tasks such as changing out an air filter can be performed without modifications to the existing design.

Another way this might be beneficial is during a robotic precursor mission. R2 would bring one set of tools for the precursor mission, such as setup and geologic investigation. Not only does this improve efficiency in the types of tools, but also removes the need for specialized robotic connectors. Future missions could then supply a new set of tools and use the existing tools already on location.

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R2 in July 2009

Robonaut is a humanoid robotic development project conducted by the Dextrous Robotics Laboratory at NASA‘s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas. Robonaut is a different class of robot than other current space-faring robots. While most current space robotic systems focus on moving large objects — such as robotic arms, cranes and exploration rovers — Robonaut’s tasks require more dexterity.

The core idea behind the Robonaut series is to have a humanoid machine work alongside astronauts. Its form factor and dexterity are designed such that Robonaut can use space tools and work in similar environments to suited astronauts.

NASA's Robonaut 2, or R2 for short, who will h...

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The latest Robonaut version, R2, is slated to be delivered by Space Shuttle Discovery on mission STS-133 to the International Space Station, and subsequently tested inside the ISS (current launch date February 24, 2011). [1][2]



[edit] Initial designs

Robonaut 1996 concept

Visualization of Robonaut working on the International Space Station

The initial design of Robonaut was for it to be used as an end-effector for the robotic arm on the International Space Station, where it could serve as an alternative to human extravehicular activity for external maintenance on the station. The first series of Robonauts (R1A and R1B) had many partners including DARPA. The second Robonaut series (R2A and R2B) was a joint effort between NASA and General Motors.

Other designs for Robonaut propose uses for teleoperation on planetary surfaces, where Robonaut could explore a planetary surface while receiving instructions from orbiting astronauts above.[3] R1 had several lower bodies, including a base with two wheels using a Segway PT.[4] There is also an option for a base with wheels.[5]

Robonaut B was introduced in 2002.[6] Its likeness to Star Wars bounty hunter Boba Fett has been noted by some.[by whom?][citation needed]

Robonaut has participated in NASA’s Desert Research and Technology Studies field trials in the Arizona desert.[citation needed] With a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award from NASA, the company Sensics, LLC of Baltimore, MD has further developed the visual interface of the Robonaut.[citation needed]

Latest design (R2)

The latest Robonaut design is the R2, which is capable of moving its arms up to 2 m/s and has a 40 lb. payload capacity. Its hands have a grasping force of roughly 5 lbs. per finger. There are over 350 sensors in the robot.

Robonaut uses telepresence and various levels of robotic autonomy. While not all human range of motion and sensitivity has been duplicated, the robot’s hand has 12 degrees of freedom as well as 2 degrees of freedom in wrist. [7][8] The R2 model also uses touch sensors at the tips of its fingers.[9]

“The 330-pound R2 consists of a head and a torso with two arms and two hands. R2 will launch on space shuttle Discovery as part of the STS-133 mission, originally planned for November, 2010, but due to mechanical issues, it is now scheduled for, 24 February 2011 16:50:13 EST. Once aboard the station, engineers will monitor how the robot operates in weightlessness. Throughout its first decade in orbit, the space station has served as a test bed for human and robotic teamwork for construction, maintenance and science.” says a blog post at NASA.[citation needed]

The next generation of Robonauts was born from a partnership between the automotive company General Motors and NASA. This partnership began in 2007 using a Space Act agreement to ensure both NASA and GM were able to protect and share intellectual property rights. The public release of the partnership between NASA and GM occurred on Thursday, February 4, 2010.

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