The Robonaut project seeks to develop and demonstrate a robotic system that can function as an EVA astronaut equivalent. Robonaut jumps generations ahead by eliminating the robotic scars (e.g., special robotic grapples and targets) and specialized robotic tools of traditional on-orbit robotics. However, it still keeps the human operator in the control loop through its telepresence control system. Robonaut is designed to be used for "EVA" tasks, i.e., those which were not specifically designed for robots. [...]
We're using a humanoid shape to meet NASA's increasing requirements for Extravehicular Activity. 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 investment in EVA tools, this accumulation of equipment requiring a humanoid shape and an assumed level of human performance presents a unique opportunity for a humanoid system. [...]
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.
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