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Human Robotic Systems (HRS): Extreme Terrain Mobility

Completed Technology Project
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Project Description

Human Robotic Systems (HRS): Extreme Terrain Mobility

The high level objective of the Extreme Terrain Mobility project element is to develop technologies that enable human and robotics systems in space to gain access to areas not currently accessible and to provide extra endurance or strength to crews on ISS and beyond.   

During 2014, the Extreme Terrain Mobility project element is developing five technologies: Exoskeleton Development for ISS Evaluation Extreme Terrain Mobility Testbed Low Gravity Testbed using Tethered Stewart Platform Prototype Crater Access Robot Advanced Mobility Navigation Software Exoskeleton Development for ISS Evaluation During FY12, HRS and GCD developed the X1 exoskeleton with the ultimate intent of augmenting crew endurance/strength in future missions.  Offshoots of the technology involved lightweight exercise devices for ISS and strength measurement by using the torque sensing in the X1's joints.  The objective for exoskeleton development in FY14 is to build prototype exoskeleton ankles and deliver them to the JSC space and life sciences organization for evaluation as exercise devices and to design a single-joint knee dynamometer, based on X1 technologies, capable of measuring crew strength.  Extreme Terrain Mobility Testbed The objective of FY14 work is to present mature systems that are ready to be carried forward by a Science Mission Directorate Principal Investigator (PI) willing to propose a system with greater mobility than exists on current Mars rovers.  HRS has recently identified a potential national need with the National Science Foundation (NSF) that requires no-emission vehicles, such as NASA rovers, on the Arctic, Antarctic, Alaska and polar coastal areas.  We have an opportunity to deploy NASA Space Technologies to these areas. Minimal success requires disseminating results to potential SMD PIs and potential partners within the NSF polar program.  Early in fiscal year 2014, the HRS extreme terrain mobility group will prepare an Analysis of Alternatives study of a 170 kg rover for the Advance Exploration System (AES) Resource Prospector (RP). Low Gravity Testbed using Tethered Stewart Platform This task creates a 6-DOF testbed for evaluating microgravity and low-gravity proximity and contact operations, e.g. in the vicinity of a Near Earth Asteroid (NEA). This is accomplished using an "inverted Stewart platform", where the vehicle under test is suspended by six computer-controlled cable winches so that it can be maneuvered in all 6 Degrees-of-Freedom. Prototype Crater Access Robot This task will develop and demonstrate a "mother-daughter" approach to exploring craters using tethered robots.  The small robots will be tethered to the larger robot with winches on both ends so that the "mother" can recover the "daughter" even in the event of failure of the small robot.  In normal operation, the daughter robot will pay out the tether to move further away, and spool it back in to return.  In FY13, this task demonstrated deployment of the daughter robot with an internal winch on a tether. The daughter robot is designed to move on steep slopes, up to vertical, to carry and point close-up instruments, and to collect samples.  In FY14, this task will design and build a tether that provides power from the mother robot to the daughter robot and provides for communications between them. Advanced Mobility Navigation Software The Advanced Navigation Software task is developing approaches for dealing with the significant challenges of autonomous planetary surface navigation, including descent on rough and steep terrain, exploring lava tubes, navigating long distances without communications, and localizing without infrastructure. In FY14, the team will build on its past Advanced Navigation work, leveraging and extending the development and testing performed previously.  The proof-of-concept algorithms developed during FY13 will be improved, streamlined, and integrated into the rover software stack to run onboard and in real time.  The resulting system will be tested in a live onboard test of the system in a realistic setting.

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