This six-legged, 10 by 16-foot robot mimics how satellites move in space. NASA uses the hexapod robot to conduct precise tests of robotic satellite servicing operations. Sitting on top of the six-legged hexapod is a partial model of a satellite. Mounted to a panel close by, representing the payload deck of a robotic servicing spacecraft, is an advanced robotic arm. Together, these robots practice a calculated dance. As the hexapod moves, the robotic arm reaches out to grasp the mock satellite. This complex maneuver has never been attempted in space with a satellite that wasn’t designed to be approached.
Lab demonstrations and testing will help NASA engineers perfect technologies for an autonomous (no humans involved) rendezvous in orbit. NASA is working to prove the combination of technologies necessary to robotically refuel a satellite in orbit that was not designed to be serviced. The same technologies developed for the Restore-L project will advance in-orbit repair, upgrade and assembly capabilities. The ground demonstrations take place in the Robotic Operations Center at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The hexapod robot was custom built for NASA by a New Hampshire-based company called Mikrolar. This time-lapse of lights out testing shows how a robotic arm attached to a servicer satellite would approach and grasp a client satellite.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense, Robotics • robotic grippers • end effectors