Exploration robots

Top Seven NASA Robots Which are Interesting to Know About


by Shivani Muthyala

August 22, 2021


These NASA robots replaced humans in completing dangerous tasks

Robots have been helpful in numerous ways, similarly, they have also been playing a major role in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The institute has designed several robots and devices to help, augment and substitute in place of astronauts to perform difficult tasks such as repairing in dangerous environments filled with radiations or micrometeorite risks. Let us see what are the interesting things about the top NASA robots.



Robonaut is a project designed by DARPA and NASA in the 1970s for creating a humanoid robot that can function as humans. The Robonaut project aimed to build a robot that is capable of exceeding the efficiency of the astronaut. At present, there are four diverse robonaut and others have also been developing. These types of robonaut allow studying different stages of mobilities. But the interesting part is that all four robots use various locomotion methods. As the robonaut was created to mic humans, not all human range of motion and sensitivity has been replicated. The robot’s hand can only move until the fourteen-degree angle and uses touch sensors on the tips of its fingers. The robonauts R1 and R2 are still working and R2 was the first humanoid robot in space.



Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot also known as ‘RASSOR’. It is one of the lunar robots which will autonomously excavate soil when it is near completion, using its small tank on either side mounted on arms that helps the robot to climb and surpass the obstacles. Razor’s drums are positioned vertically and are 2.5ft tall weighing 100 pounds. This robot is unique in its way because NASA has not designed this as soft and fragile but it has created it to be more robust and hardy. When looking at the excavating drums they are designed to remove soil into a hopper that can hold 40 pounds of material. RASSOR drives to the processing plant to chemically break the lunar soil to convert it into rocket fuel, and water. This way the launching cost could be saved by 90%. NASA has already started to design RASSOR 2 which will be closer to the prototype of RASSOR 1.



Spidernaut is an arachnid motivated ‘Extra Vehicular Robot’ created by NASA for maintenance, construction, and repairing the projects in space missions which can be unsafe for humans to do. The interesting part about Spidernaut is that its legs can move in three different points and has one rotary joint in its hip and two more joints that are linearly actuated. Each leg of the Spidernaut weighs about 40 pounds and is capable of supporting 100 pounds, exerting upwards of 250 pounds of force. This robot can climb across surfaces including the solar panels and exterior of spacecraft without damaging them a bit too. Spidernaut is powered by a 72V/3600 Watt-hour lithium-ion battery and depends on Power Conditioning and Distribution Module which converts the 72V main bus to all the voltages that are needed for devices on the board. In its new developments and research, NASA has begun to experiment with a web-like cable deployment system that allows the robot to climb and hang above the structures.



All Terrain Hex-Legged Extra-Terrestrial Explorer is also called ATHLETE. It is a six-limbed robotic lunar rover test-bed that is developed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at California Institute of Technology. This robot is designed as a testbed for several systems that can be used for several systems of lunar or Martian exploration. This six-legged NASA robot has six degrees of freedom having independently operated joints. The first-gen ATHLETE robot was developed in 2005 and is still operational even today. The second-gen ATHLETE was built in 2009 where the robot was redesigned and implemented with 3 limbed robots known as Tri-ATHLETs. This advancement helps in cargo handling, loading, and unloading. The second-gen robots are 4m and have a capacity of 450 kg.



Dextre is a two-armed robot, a tele manipulator that is part of the Mobile Servicing System on the International Space Station (ISS). The activities such as spacewalks are replaced by these Dextre robots. It was launched into space in 2008.



Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites are otherwise called Spheres. These are still in the experimental phase at NASA which is about the size of a bowling ball. Each Sphere is self-contained having its own power, computers, propulsions, and navigation equipment. These spheres are used inside the space station to test how well the spheres can follow a set of detailed flight instructions. The results from the sphere testing will be applied to satellite servicing, vehicle assembly, and future spacecraft that can be designed to fly in a formation.


Curiosity rover

Curiosity is the Mars rover which is a mobile laboratory launched in 2011. The rover landed on Mars on August 6, 2012. This is considered to be the largest rover of NASA that has been placed on Mars. It is twice as long and five times heavy as its processors. This robot has been designed taking design elements from the previous generation of Mars rovers such as rocker-bogie suspension, six-wheel drive, and cameras mounted to the mast of the rover helping the mission’s team direct the rover. Unique to Curiosity is that it has an inboard laboratory to test the soil and rocks on Mars.  NASA made this capable of rolling through its obstacles up to 65 centimeters high and traversing up to 200 meters per day on Martian terrain.

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