Humanoid Robotic Development Project
Using leading edge control, sensor and vision technologies, NASA and GM
engineers and scientists came together at NASAs Johnson Space Center to
build a new dexterous humanoid robot (Robonaut2, or R2 for short)
capable of working side by side with people whether that means helping
GM create safer cars and safer manufacturing plants or assisting NASA
astronauts on dangerous space missions.
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.
The latest Robonaut version, R2, is slated to be delivered by the Space
Shuttle on mission STS-133, to the International Space Station and
subsequently tested inside the ISS.
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.
Work on the first Robonaut began in 1997. The idea was to build a humanoid robot that could assist astronauts on tasks in which another pair of hands would be helpful or to venture forth to perform jobs either too dangerous for crew members to risk or too mundane for them to spend time on.
This system wouldn't need specialized tools and would be able to use the same ones the as the astronauts. 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.
Robonaut is a humanoid robot designed by the Robot Systems Technology Branch at NASA's Johnson Space Center.
The Robonaut project seeks to develop and demonstrate a robotic system that can function as an EVA astronaut equivalent.
jumps generations ahead by eliminating the robotic scars (e.g., special
robotic grapples and targets) and specialized robotic tools of
traditional on-orbit robotics.
it still keeps the human operator in the control loop through its
telepresence control system.
Robonaut is designed to be used for "EVA"
tasks, i.e., those which were not specifically designed for robots.
Inc. researchers were involved in the design of Robonauts manipulators,
hands, vision system and automation control software.
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
While not all human range of motion and sensitivity has been duplicated,
the robot's hand has 14 degrees of freedom and uses touch sensors at
the tips of its fingers.
“The 300-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 planned for November, 2010. 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.
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 4th,
In late 2009–early 2010 a proposed mission called Project M was
announced by JSC that, if approved, would have as a goal landing a R2
robot on the Moon within 1,000 days.
Robonaut 2: Your Future Coworker?
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.
R1 had several lower bodies, including a base with two wheels using a
Segway PT. There is also an option for a base with wheels. Robonaut B
was introduced in 2002.
Its likeness to Star Wars bounty hunter Boba Fett has been noted by
some. This is because both Robonaut's and Boba Fett's designers were
inspired by the appearance of the Roman centurion helmet.
Robonaut was created by Philip Strawser, Kris Verdeyen, Bill Bluethmann,
and Robert O. Ambrose, employees of the Johnson Space Center in
Houston. Robonaut has participated in NASA's Desert Research and
Technology Studies field trials in the Arizona desert. 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.
Project M Concept Animation
A concept animation of the proposed Project M. Project M is a proposed
project to land an operational humanoid robot on the moon in 1000 days
(M is the Roman numeral for 1000).
The humanoid will travel to the moon
on a small lander fueled by green propellants, liquid methane and
It will perform a precision, autonomous landing,
avoiding any hazards or obstacles on the surface.
Upon landing the
robot will deploy and walk on the surface performing a multitude of
tasks focused on demonstrating engineering tasks such as maintenance and
construction; performing science of opportunity (i.e. using existing
sensors on the robot or small science instruments); and simple student
Robonaut 2, the latest generation of the Robonaut astronaut helpers, is
set to launch to the space station aboard space shuttle Discovery on the
It will be the first humanoid robot in space, and
although its primary job for now is teaching engineers how dexterous
robots behave in space, the hope is that through upgrades and
advancements, it could one day venture outside the station to help
spacewalkers make repairs or additions to the station or perform
R2, as the robot is called, will launch inside
the Leonardo Permanent Multipurpose Module, which will be packed with
supplies and equipment for the station and then installed permanently on
the Unity node.
Once R2 is unpacked – likely several months after it
arrives – it will initially be operated inside the Destiny laboratory
for operational testing, but over time both its territory and its
applications could expand. There are no plans to return R2 to Earth.