by Stephen Clark
Posted: April 16, 2014
A humanoid “Robonaut” launched to the International Space Station in 2011 will finally receive its space legs when SpaceX’s Dragon cargo carrier arrives at the complex, allowing engineers to experiment with the full breadth of the robot’s capabilities.
The two legs are loaded inside the Dragon spacecraft’s pressurized cargo cabin, ready for launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket. Liftoff is scheduled as soon as Friday.
The legs will give Robonaut 2, the space station’s humanoid robot, mobility inside the space station’s modules. Officials eventually plan to test the robot outside the station, once it receives upgrades to its upper body.
The dextrous robot, also called R2, includes a computerized torso, head and two arms with hands and five fingers. It is designed to accomplish many of the same upkeep tasks astronauts do every day aboard the space station.
“Robonaut is an example of how we can use robots for repetitive and dangerous tasks in space,” said Andy Petro, head of NASA’s small satellite technology development program.
According to NASA, the legs will be unpacked and attached to Robonaut 2 by the end of June, with an eye toward testing the assembled robot within the confines of the space station’s pressurized modules later this year.
“We call them legs,” Petro said. “They’re not really for walking in the zero gravity environment. They’re used for climbing around.”
The legs have seven joints and stretch out to a length of 9 feet to give Robonaut flexibility when moving around the station.
“At the end, instead of feet, they have clamping devices to allow them to connect to handrails and other objects on the space station,” Petro said.
Robonaut’s use of its legs for climbing frees up its hands and fingers for finer tasks, such as working with tools or repairing systems.
Go to http://spaceflightnow.com/falcon9/009/140416robonaut/ to read the rest of the story.