Since 1950, inventions have revolutionised the way we live. Radio, Telephones, Television, Computers, Washing Machines - we've come a long way. Whats the next big thing? Robots. Of course.
Monday, April 02, 2007
Let the robots do the repair...
As astronauts prepare themselves to make repairs in space to the underbelly of the space shuttle, engineers led by Northrop Grumman has engaged in developing an Autonomous Walking Inspection and Maintenance Robot (AWIMR) for NASA. AWIMR might look like something out of the War of the Worlds (Steven Spielberg’s film starring Tom Cruise in case you guys forget), but this six legged arthropod robot is capable of autonomously navigating across truss structures and clinging to the outside or underbelly of the spacecraft to perform maintenance. Putting AWIMR in space to perform the routine maintenance implies more safety and scientific efficiency for the astronauts.
Though still in its development phase, AWIMR is projected to weigh approximately 20kg and measure about 1m across including its legs. Its “brain” is encapsulated in a central body with diameter of only 30cm, made of aluminum frame and plastic sheets.
Using the cameras and other sensors, on both its body and belly, AWIMR can walk across the surface and perform inspection. By measuring the transfer function between its feet as it advances, AWMIR is able to determine if subsurface corrosion of holes from micro meteorites exist. For repair, AWMIR would wield the electron beam welding tool used currently by the astronauts.
Control of AWIMR can also be made from inside the space shuttles using wireless links such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. With AWIMR, astronauts no longer need to expose themselves to the risk of micro meteoroids or solar radiation that can happen anytime.