NASA Meatball




Hand (5.3 M)
Telepresence (3.3 M)
Arm motion (2.9 M)
Grasping (2.1 M)
Tether hook (1.9 M)
Velcro (2.7 M)


Analysis tools
Software development
Telepresence Laboratory


Humanoid robots around the world

NASA is building an advanced humanoid system called Robonaut,currently under development at the Johnson Space Center.

The Shape of Things to Come

We're using a humanoid shape to meet NASA's increasing requirements for Extravehicular Activity (EVA, or spacewalks). Over the past five decades, space flight hardware has been designed for human servicing.Space walks are planned for most of the assembly missions for the International Space Station, and they are a key contingency for resolving on-orbit failures. Combined with our substantial investmentin EVA tools, this accumulation of equipment requiring a humanoid shapeand an assumed level of human performance presents a unique opportunityfor a humanoid system.

While the depth and breadth of human performance is beyond the current state of the art in robotics, NASA targeted the reduced dexterity and performance of a suited astronaut as Robonaut's design goals, specifically using the work envelope, ranges of motion, strength and endurance capabilities of space walking humans. This Web site describes the design effort for the entire Robonaut system, including mechanisms, avionics, computational architecture and telepresence control.

Mechanism Design

The manipulator and dexterous hand have been developed with asubstantial investment in mechatronics design. The arm structure has embedded avionics elements within each link, reducing cabling and noise contamination. Unlike some systems, Robonaut uses a chordate approach to data management, bringing all feedback to a central nervous system,where even low-level servo control is performed. This biologically inspired neurological approach is extended to left-right computational symmetry, sensor and power duality and kinematical redundancy, enabling learning and optimization in mechanical, electrical and software forms.

The theory that manufacturing tools caused humans to evolve by requiring skills that could be naturally selected is applied to Robonaut's design as well. The set of EVA tools used by astronauts was the initial design consideration for the system, hence the development of Robonaut's dexterous five-fingered hand and human-scale arm that exceeds the range of motion of even unsuited astronauts. Packaging requirements for the entire system were derived from the geometry of EVA access corridors, such as pathways on the Space Station and airlocks built for humans.

Sensors and Telepresence Control

Robonaut's broad mix of sensors includes thermal, position, tactile,force and torque instrumentation, with over 150 sensors per arm. The control system for Robonaut includes an onboard, real time CPU with miniature data acquisition and power management in a small,environmentally hardened body. Off-board guidance is delivered with human supervision using a telepresence control station with human tracking.


Meeting the needs

To meet the dexterous manipulation needs foreseen in future NASAmissions, the Automation, Robotics, and Simulation Division at JohnsonSpace Center is developing Robonaut, a highly dexterous anthropomorphicrobotic system. Robonaut is advancing the state of the art in anthropomorphic robotic systems, multiple use tool handling end effectors, modular robotic systems components and telepresence controlsystems. The project has adopted the design concept of an anthropomorphic robot the size of an astronaut in a space suit and configured with two arms, two five-fingered hands, a head and a torso. Its dexterous pair of arms enables dual-arm operations and its handscan interface directly with a wide range of interfaces without specialtooling. Its anthropomorphic design enables intuitive telepresence control by a human operator.

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