February 26, 2024

NASA Celebrates 3 Years of Astrobee Robotic Free-Flyers Buzzing on Space Station

Robots like the Astrobees are important parts of NASAs Artemis mission to deliver humans back to the Moon, before taking a trip to Mars and beyond.
Given that launch, the Astrobee program– run out of NASA Ames– has actually run over 750 hours on the space station, completing over 100 activities, from tech demonstrations to assisting in experiments. Researchers just recently demonstrated the tech aboard the International Space Station utilizing Astrobee, NASAs free-flying robotic assistants. Astrobee is a free-flying robotic system for the International Space Station. ISAACs 2 most recent presentations utilized Astrobees to develop 3D maps of the space stations interior.

Animation of Astrobees on the spaceport station. Credit: NASA
3 years back, a set of robots were released to the International Space Station (ISS) to help lead the way for the future of robotics and self-governing systems in area. Those pioneers were Honey and Bumble, who were soon joined by a third buddy called Queen, and together they make up the Astrobee free-flying robotic system. Robotics like the Astrobees are vital components of NASAs Artemis mission to provide people back to the Moon, before taking a trip to Mars and beyond.
” Theres a reason numerous sci-fi stories have a cherished robotic along with the human heroes– we understand we cant check out space alone,” said Jose Benavides, the Astrobee Facilities Project Manager at NASAs Ames Research Center in Californias Silicon Valley. “Were revealing that humans and robotic systems can collaborate and support powerful science and engineering beyond Earth.”
NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough poses aboard the International Space Station with all 3 Astrobee robotic free-flyers. Credit: NASA/Shane Kimbrough
Since launch, the Astrobee program– run out of NASA Ames– has operated over 750 hours on the spaceport station, finishing over 100 activities, from tech demonstrations to helping in experiments. The robots have shown capable of accomplishments previously in the realm of science fiction, such as detecting an abnormality throughout a simulation on station (see video below) and linking autonomously with station subsystems. Honey, Bumble, and Queen have been busy bees, and they reveal no signs of slowing down.

NASAs Integrated System for Autonomous and Adaptive Caretaking, or ISAAC, is advancing new innovation for robotics to take care of spacecraft. Researchers just recently demonstrated the tech aboard the International Space Station utilizing Astrobee, NASAs free-flying robotic assistants. Credit: NASA/Ames Research
3 Years of Evolving Astrobees
The Astrobees are a next-generation innovation, building upon three orb-shaped robots of the Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellite (SPHERES) task. Astrobees developed from that initial idea as scientists developed brand-new tools and abilities.
Video from April 1, 2018, explaining how the Astrobee project is developing a set of three free-flying robotics that will operate inside the International Space Station (ISS) along with astronauts. Credit: NASA
They fly through microgravity utilizing electric fans, they “see” using sensors and video cameras, and they have arms to hold items or keep constant for jobs needing stability. Scientists have likewise evaluated an adhesive innovation, inspired by gecko feet, to permit the Astrobees to get onto a range of surfaces without using force to adhere and then remove as needed. The Astrobee teams picture a robotic system thats versatile and clever adequate to manage simpler upkeep and tracking chores to leave astronauts complimentary to deal with more complex work.
Astrobee is a free-flying robotic system for the International Space Station. Developed and built at NASAs Ames Research Center in Californias Silicon Valley, the system will be used to help researchers and engineers develop and test technologies for usage in zero-gravity.
The Astrobee platform isnt simply for astronauts. The winning groups get to see their programs run on the robotics in space.
NASA astronaut and Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy positions with 2 Astrobee robotic assistants throughout visual and navigation tests inside the Kibo lab module from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency). Credit: Chris Cassidy/ NASA
Robotic Autonomy for Artemis and Beyond
NASA astronaut and Expedition 65 Flight Engineer Megan McArthur observes Astrobee robotic Honey throughout an experiment screening its capability to “listen” to station elements to assist find abnormalities in spacecraft systems that may need maintenance. Credit: NASA
Unlike the space station, future deep space stations may not be crewed year-round, and will require autonomous systems to stay operational. That consists of Gateway, which will orbit the Moon and serve as a launching-point for missions to Mars.
The Integrated System for Autonomous and Adaptive Caretaking project (ISAAC) aims to evaluate how robotic systems can complete tasks like repairs, maintenance, and even experiments independently.
By offering Honey and Bumble difficulties to fix by themselves– like eliminating a “sock” obstructing an air vent– ISAAC is developing capabilities needed for robots to take care of spacecraft when astronauts arent aboard. A major component of autonomously operating in an intricate environment is being able to have a detailed map and understand where you are.
ISAACs two latest demonstrations utilized Astrobees to create 3D maps of the space stations interior. Bumble flew out of its house module and drawn up a new environment by itself. The ability to check out and map individually is vital to the future of autonomous robotics.
” Three years earlier, we desired to check out how robotics might support human space expedition, not just for this years, however for the next several years,” stated ISAAC deputy task manager Maria Bualat at Ames. “Were beginning to see what thatll look like.”
Astrobee and ISAAC were funded by NASAs Game Changing Development Program, part of the Space Technology Mission Directorate.