Sunday, July 11, 2010

Robonaut 2 prepares for flight to the International Space Station

Later this year the space station will have another crew member besides the standard complement of six station astronauts. The seventh crew member will be Robonaut 2 (or R2 for short) developed jointly by NASA and General Motors (GM). The primary purpose of R2 is to develop a robotic assistant that will someday work alongside astronauts both inside and outside the station. In this particular version, the 300-pound R2 consists of a head and a torso with two arms and two hands. This particular prototype of R2 will be confined to operations in the station's Destiny laboratory. However, NASA and GM expects that future enhancements and modifications may allow it to move more freely around the station's interior or outside the complex. "Testing the robot inside the station will provide an important intermediate environment. R2 will be tested in microgravity and subjected to the station's radiation and electromagnetic interference environments." Right now, NASA explains that interior operations will provide performance data about how a robot may work side-by-side with astronauts and as development activities progress on the ground, station crews will be provided hardware and software to update R2 to enable it to do new tasks.

Take a look at these pictures. GM designed and built the torso of Robonaut 2 not only to look like a human but also to work like one. With human-like hands and arms, NASA states that R2 is able to use the same tools station crew members use, especially tools that are used during EVAs.

Credit: NASA/JSC

 Credit: NASA/JSC

Robonaut is scheduled to be launched to the ISS on the STS-133 mission on space shuttle Discovery. Discovery, which had been scheduled for launch Sept. 16 is now targeted for liftoff at 4:33 p.m. EDT on Nov. 1.

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