is a little game-changing robot that will soon buzz around the International
Space Station, aiding astronauts with routine tasks, testing technologies in
zero-g and providing an extra set of eyes and ears for flight controllers in
are four things to know about this free-flying helper, which will make its way
to the space station this spring as a set of three.
Learn more about Astrobee from this recent
Space to Ground episode. Image Credit: NASA
1. Astrobee is independent
builds on the success of SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold Engage and
Reorient Experimental Satellites), NASA’s first generation free-flyer; however, the robots
don’t need astronaut supervision. They can operate in a fully automated mode or
remotely—for instance, from mission control in Houston. This freedom allows them
to run more often and provides more time for testing.
2. Astrobee is small … but impactful
measurements of 1 foot by 1 foot—a neat little cube—Astrobee is certainly a
space saver. But what the robots lack in stature, they make up in usefulness. The
flyers will enable the automation of tasks, freeing up astronauts to conduct
valuable research while the robots tackle the mundane. For example, with tens
of thousands of tools and parts to keep track of, Astrobee can cruise through
station to continually verify the location of items with its RFID scanner,
instead of requiring astronauts to spend their time doing this by hand.
3. Astrobee tests game-changing technologies
the engineers, researchers and scientists developing advanced technologies,
operating Astrobee aboard the space station, sans astronaut supervision, means
opportunities to experiment and test capabilities—and with lower risk. One
game-changing technology ripe for integration is magnetic propulsion, which
could provide a means to control swarms of satellites flying in formation.
Instead of waiting years to launch an expensive set of satellites, it’s far
easier for investigators to add magnetic propulsion modules for the Astrobee
robots to test in zero-g, and with no risk of losing the mission in space.
4. Astrobee visited Johnson for acoustics testing
managed and developed at NASA’s Ames Research Center, the three Astrobee cubes and
docking station made a stop at NASA’s Johnson Space Center for a barrage of
acoustics testing in late January.
Take a look at some
of the action below.
Astrobee development engineers Vinh To and Roberto Carlino conduct acoustics
testing on the Astrobee free flyers and docking station in the Acoustics and Noise
Control Laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Image Credits: NASA/Robert Markowitz
Astrobee undergoes a barrage of acoustics testing on Jan. 30. Image Credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz