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Technology Demonstration Missions

Human Exploration Telerobotics (HET)

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

ISS demos to test and assess how advanced, remotely operated robots can improve exploration before, during and after the crew. ISS is used to obtain baseline data (engineering & ops) for reducing cost and mitigating risk of future deep-space human exploration missions. The Human Exploration Telerobotics project is demonstrating how a variety of robotic elements including dexterous humanoid robots, free-flying “smartbots,” rovers and other remotely controlled devices can accomplish routine, highly repetitive or dangerous tasks traditionally performed by astronauts. The goal is to improve human exploration capabilities, provide for greater autonomy and hasten the start of human space exploration missions to new destinations. Two such robots—Robonaut 2 and SmartSPHERES,or the Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient Experimental Satellites—have demonstrated survey and monitoring capabilities aboard the International Space Station. Others are being developed and tested at NASA facilities including Ames Research Center in Moffatt Field, Calif., and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. HET: Key Mission Facts - In space exploration, robots must work in extreme conditions, and must be remotely operated over highly constrained communication networks. Consequently, telerobots now in use on Earth are largely inappropriate for space operations, and new, advanced designs and control modes are required. - The Human Exploration Telerobotics mission makes extensive use of open-source software -- from user interfaces to robot controllers -- and relies on open-source platforms such as Android and Linux for most computing. Open source accelerates software development, increases quality and makes technology transfer easier. - The SPHERES free-flying robots use an Android "Nexus S" smartphone for data processing -- the first commercial smartphone certified by NASA to fly on the space shuttle and the first cleared for use on the International Space Station. - Robonaut 2 is a two-armed, humanoid robot flown to the space station in 2011. Robonaut 2 is part of a long-term NASA effort to develop robots with dexterous manipulation capabilities similar to those of suited astronauts. - Disruption Tolerant Networking software is used to compensate for intermittent network connectivity and delays when sending data between computers on the ground and robots in space. NASA and other space agencies are using it to create a "Space Internet."

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