The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) has big plans for Robosimian, a four-legged robot that took fifth place in last weekend's finals of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Robotics Challenge.
The space agency envisions the robot building parts for the International Space Station and satellites in space. Researchers say the SpiderFab project has the potential to change the way spacecraft are built and deployed.
Robosimian can stand upright on two legs and use its other two limbs as arms with hands capable of grasping a lever, holding a tool, or turning a valve. "The dexterity and mobility capabilities that come along with Robosimian could be adapted for zero-g [gravity] environments," says JPL researcher Brett Kennedy. He notes Robosimian is expected to look much like it does now after a redesign, and a test in space is likely a few years away. Assembly work in space would reduce costs for NASA.
"The most immediate research we're going to be doing...would be more along the lines of building very large telescopes or fuel depots for satellites," Kennedy says. "Currently, the largest telescopes we can build are limited by the size of the rocket that launches them."
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