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Robotic Technology

German robot travels to space

By FFJournal staff

August 2010 - Meet Justin. He plans on traveling to space. He strives to be like a human. The German Aerospace Center (DLR), created this robot, named Space Justin, to repair satellites. Scientists have discovered about 13,000 objects larger than a softball orbiting the Earth, and they also believe there's more than 100,000 pieces of debris bigger than a penny and tens of millions of smaller pieces, according to NASA's website. Space Justin is just the beginning of the solution to that problem, and he opens up opportunities to use robotics elsewhere.

"In the future, humanoid robots are envisioned in household applications as well as in space environments," according to the German Aerospace Center's website. The institute's innovative robot, named Justin, made an appearance at the International Aerospace Exhibition June 8-13, held at the ILA Space Pavilionin Berlin.

Described as 'a service robot that can be deployed in space or on Earth,' in a press release, Space Justin is hooked up to an operator and mimics the actions of said operator. "A human-system interface (also referred to as a Man-Machine-Interface or MMI) records the movements of the arms, fingers and head of the operator and sends these to the robot in the form of commands. With a 'pair of eyes,' Space Justin is able to create a 3-D image of the environment and transmit this to the operator," according to a press release. Force and torque sensors in Space Justin's arms and fingers allow the operator to experience whatever the robot encounters.

"As an extension of humans in space, intelligent robots will increasingly define the future of space-flight. Space Justin, a robot developed by DLR, is able to tackle tasks both out in space and here on Earth. With five-fingered hands, Space Justin can act in a way similar to humans," according to a press release.

Remote details
Carsten Preusche, coordinator for telerobotics and VR research at the DLR's Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics, says Space Justin functions by employing intelligent joints with integrated sensors. Essentially, the robot is remote-controlled.

"Our humanoid robot Justin contains several robot technologies from different research lines in the institute," he says. "The structure is made from carbon-fiber elements. The key element to achieve the 1:1 payload/weight ratio is the DLR Robodrive electrical motor, which has an optimal loss and low-weight design." Preusche says Space Justin has 49 joints and weighs about 45 kg. The robot's arms are capable of carrying a 15 kg load, and the hand size is about 1.1 times the size of a human hand. Each finger tip has a maximum force of 7N.

Although many advancements have been made in robotics, there's room for further progress. "The development of humanoid robots has made significant progress in the last years," according to DLR's website. "Impressive walking robot systems were developed. The capabilities of these robots to manipulate objects or interact with their surrounding are quite limited."

FFJ

Sources

  • The German Aerospace Center Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics
    Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany
    www.robotic.dlr.de

  • NASA
    Washington, D.C.
    phone: 202/358-0001
    www.nasa.gov

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