Collaborative Robots for Space Exploration

Collaborative Robots for Space Exploration

Image courtesy of NASA

Managing Extreme Environments With Self-Communicating Collaborative Robots (Cobots)

Space exploration agencies like NASA have employed robots in various capacities of research for decades. As technological advances enhance collaborative robot (cobot) capabilities, NASA and other leading institutions dedicated to space research are developing new ways to leverage them.

NASA has announced prospective plans to explore Titan, Saturn’s moon, with a total of 12 miniature shapeshifting cobots. Designed for Titan’s challenging environment, such as freezing temperatures, lakes, caves, seas, cryovolcanoes, and rain of liquid hydrocarbons, the cobots will be equipped with a propeller, enabling them to fly or swim. Currently, a 3D-printed prototype is being tested at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JLA). The cobots are designed to explore places out of reach to humans and less sophisticated robots.

The shapeshifting collaborative robots will be able to join together automatically to create a chain designed to explore caves, fly independently, and split, creating two flying drones. Titan’s terrain is varied and largely unexplored, so the JLA team is designing the cobots with versatility in mind.

Collaborative robots are proving to be extremely versatile in space exploration. MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) has developed cobots that can construct elaborate structures in space. Building these structures on Earth and transporting them to space is cost-prohibitive and logistically difficult. MIT’s cobots are designed to build structures such as space stations, houses, airplanes, and other intricate structures, autonomously in space.

Continued technological innovations and miniaturization, along with advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI), are facilitating unique, exciting, and expanded possibilities for space exploration with cobots. Formerly far flung ideas like reaching new planets and investigating planetary surfaces in intricate detail are becoming a reality thanks to collaborative robots. New discoveries and applications for cobots are ushering in a new era of space exploration.

Read RIA's collaborative robots blog articles for in-depth understanding of innovative technological advancements in the exciting emerging market of industrial cobots.