Star Wars meets Space Station

Robonaut 2 stretching out one of its arms

Robonaut2 is faster, more dexterous and more technologically advanced than its predecessors and able to use its hands to do work beyond the scope of previous humanoid robots.

  • First humanoid robot in space
  • To be tested aboard the Space Station
  • Has a head, two arms and hands

NASA will launch the first human-like robot to space later this year to become a permanent resident of the International Space Station.

Robonaut 2, or R2, was developed jointly by NASA and General Motors under a co-operative agreement to develop a robotic assistant that can work alongside humans, whether they are astronauts in space or workers at GM manufacturing plants on Earth.

The 140kg R2 consists of a head and a torso with two arms and two hands. It will launch on space shuttle Discovery as part of the STS-133 mission planned for September.

Once aboard the station, engineers will monitor how the robot operates in weightlessness. R2 will be confined to operations in the station’s Destiny laboratory. However, future enhancements and modifications may allow it to move more freely around the station’s interior or outside the complex.

“This project exemplifies the promise that a future generation of robots can have both in space and on Earth, not as replacements for humans but as companions that can carry out key supporting roles,” said John Olson, director of NASA’s Exploration Systems Integration Office at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Chris Ihrke, senior project engineer for General Motors, works with Robonaut 2.

Chris Ihrke, senior project engineer for General Motors, works with Robonaut 2.

“The combined potential of humans and robots is a perfect example of the sum equalling more than the parts. It will allow us to go farther and achieve more than we can probably even imagine today.”

The dexterous robot not only looks like a human but also is designed to work like one. With human-like hands and arms, R2 is able to use the same tools station crewmembers use.

In the future, the greatest benefits of humanoid robots in space may be as assistants or stand-in for astronauts during spacewalks or for tasks too difficult or dangerous for humans.

For now, R2 is still a prototype and does not have adequate protection needed to exist outside the space station in the extreme temperatures of space.

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

Filed Under: Featured storiesNews ArchiveShuttle / StationSpaceflight

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