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Space Technology Research Grants

Enabling closed-loop control of high degree-of-freedom soft robotic structures

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Project Introduction

Enabling closed-loop control of high degree-of-freedom soft robotic structures
To expand the nation’s capabilities for space exploration, a new approach to robotic manipulation is proposed. The approach utilizes soft materials to create an extremely dexterous manipulator which can accurately control its pose without use of an external sensor. This enables safe interaction between robotic systems, tools, and humans in cluttered spacecraft. Unlike more conventional robots made out of hard plastics and metals, the robot can be manufactured, expanded, and repaired onboard spacecraft. During launch, the majority of the robot’s materials can be stored as a liquid in jars. When the mission requires a robot, the standardized modules can simply be cast inside a standardized mold, combined with their circuitry, and assembled into the desired configuration. Training of the robot is done in a shape-agnostic fashion, allowing the approach to be applied to arbitrary manipulator configurations, in addition to broader classes of objects including robotic fabrics. More »

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