NASA's Robonaut To Receive Its Legs
March 13, 2014

SpaceX-3 Mission Will Deliver Legs For Robonaut 2

[ Watch the Video: NASA Building Legs For ISS Robonaut 2 ]

April Flowers for - Your Universe Online

The International Space Station's (ISS) Robonaut 2 (R2) will be receiving new legs built and sent by NASA aboard the SpaceX-3 cargo supply mission. The SpaceX mission is due to launch March 16 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The new legs were funded by NASA's Human Exploration and Operations and Space Technology mission directorates. The legs will give R2 the mobility required to help with regular and repetitive tasks inside and outside the space station, in order to free up the crew for more critical work, including scientific research.

The robonaut will have a fully extended leg span of nine feet once the legs are attached. This will give the robot great flexibility for movement around the ISS. Each of R2's legs has seven joints and a device on what would be the foot, called an "end effector." The end effector will allow the robot to take advantage of handrails and sockets, both inside and outside the station. The end effectors will also have a vision system that will be used to verify and eventually automate each limb's approach and grasp.

Although the new legs are designed to work both outside and inside the station, the upper body of R2 will require upgrades before it can begin work outside the space station.

Currently, the legless R2 is attached to a support post and is undergoing experimental trials with astronauts aboard ISS. Since R2 arrived on the ISS, it has performed a series of tasks aimed at demonstrating its functionality in microgravity. These tasks include:

• Using sign language to say hello to the world during its initial checkout.

• R2 shook hands with ISS Commander Dan Burbank, making it the first humanoid robot to shake hands with a human in space.

• Over the last several months, R2 has worked with its controllers, showing its capabilities for pressing buttons, flipping switches and turning knobs.

• Astronaut Tom Marshburn teleoperated R2, using it to catch a free-floating object inside the US lab module of the space station.

The robonaut has worked inside the station with space blankets and other flexible material in preparation for future spacewalks. This was achieved both through ground control and through teleoperation.

The legs will undergo their initial checkout in June, which will include joint health checkouts, followed by simple joint motions and opening and closing of the specialized end effectors (feet) designed to grasp handrails. R2's first step will follow these preliminary checks

The technologies that have been developed for the Robonaut mission have led to new robotic devices for future spaceflight, as well as having direct applications here on Earth. A robotic exoskeleton, for example, is being developed by NASA to help astronauts stay healthier in space and also aid people with physical disabilities.