Space robot could revolutionise construction

Space robot
The E-Walker robot has been designed to help build structures like large aperture space telescopes (Source: NASA)

Researchers have designed a walking robot that could revolutionise space-builds, and Earth-based construction projects.

The end-over-end walking robot (E-Walker) will help scientists build big space structures, such as the 25m Large Aperture Space Telescope (LAST), which must be assembled in-situ.

Demand for large infrastructure in space and associated maintenance is set to grow. But these projects cannot be assembled on earth due to limited space shuttle size.

The risks to humans working in space outside of a space-craft are high, which is another driver to improve space robotics and autonomous systems.

Researchers proven the E-Walker’s ability to construct the LAST in space. Their results are in the journal Frontiers in Robotics and AI.

In-orbit commissioning

Corresponding author Manu Nair, PhD candidate at the University of Lincoln, said: “The prospect of in-orbit commissioning of a LAST has fuelled scientific and commercial interests in deep-space astronomy and Earth observation.

“Although conventional space-walking robotic candidates are dexterous, they are constrained in manoeuvrability.”

The E-Walker is a limbed robotic system that can move to different locations to perform tasks with seven degrees of motion capability. The design incorporates mobility features to offer access to a larger workstation without compromising the dexterity.

The design also showed promise for large Earth-based construction and infrastructure projects.

Nair added: “The analysis of the scaled-down prototype identifies it to also be an ideal candidate for servicing, maintenance, and assembly operations on Earth, such as carrying out regular maintenance checks on wind turbines.”

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