Systems Engineering Seminar

EVA/Robot Teams: From Hubble to Mars and Beyond

Presented by:
Dr. Dave Akin, Director, Space Systems Laboratory, University of Maryland
Ms Meghan Baker, UMD, and Ms Alexandra Langley, UMD

September 9, 2003, 1:00 p.m.
Building 3 Auditorium

EVA/Robot Teams: From Hubble to Mars and Beyond

Results from Hubble Space Telescope servicing and International Space Station assembly have once again clearly shown the utility of humans in extravehicular activity (EVA) for performing complex tasks in space. Many of these accomplishments have depended on the shuttle and space station remote manipulator systems to provide mobility and restrained positioning for the EVA crew. This combination of EVA crew and positioning manipulator represents a simple instance of a human/robot team, which enables capabilities neither system would have alone.

In this seminar, we will discuss the near-term and far-future potentials for human/robot teams in space operations, based on twenty years of Space Systems Laboratory research experience. Detailed reviews of past Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions have shown that the addition of dexterous robotic support to the EVA crew can increase overall EVA servicing performance between 60% and 400%, based on the specific servicing task. We will present a detailed concept for adding robotic capabilities to HST Servicing Mission 4, called HERCULES. This system adds one or two dexterous manipulators to a next-generation RMS Manipulator Foot Restraint, providing additional "hands" for the EVA crew and the capability for ground-controlled robotic activity between EVAs to close out past work sites and prepare future ones. (Although not strictly a human/robot team, we will also describe how the same HERCULES technologies would be easily adapted to a purely robotic servicing capability for an extended HST mission.)

Looking farther off in space, conventional pressure suits are not ideal for routine external work in the deep space environment. For this application, the University of Maryland has designed the Space Construction and Orbital Utility Transport, or SCOUT system. SCOUT provides a shirt-sleeve environment for its operator, along with sufficient support for multi-day extended missions. A surface-mounted hard suit torso and arms will allow direct human manipulation of the work site, aided by three dexterous robotic manipulators. SCOUT provides enhanced duration, mobility, and crew protection, while increasing capability over conventional EVA operations. Designed specifically for an L1 Gateway station concept, SCOUT has practical applications ranging from International Space Station to the assembly and in-flight maintenance of vehicles for the human exploration of Mars.

Finally, we will briefly cover some of the long-term potentials for human/robotic teams in space operations, Building from past SSL work in robotically augmented space suit gloves, we will present concepts for robotic space suits. Rather than discussing current space suits in terms of what small fraction of shirt-sleeved performance they provide, these "Supersuits" will be designed to instill the wearer with capabilities beyond those of an unencumbered human. Provided with greater sensory capabilities, access to extensive data bases, equipped with augmented force capabilities, the future EVA crew will have a symbiotic relationship with the pressure suit. Such a system will provide dramatically increased performance in Mars or lunar surface exploration, along with interesting new capabilities such as the self-rescue of an incapacitated human in EVA.



Dr. David L. Akin is an Associate Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland, where he is also the Director of the Space Systems Laboratory. He received the Bachelor of Science degree in 1974, the Master of Science in 1975, and the Doctor of Science degree in 1981, all from the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His current research activities include space human factors (pressure suit design, EVA biomedical instrumentation, and performance metrics), teleoperation and robotics (including human/robotic interfaces and teaming), and spacecraft design. He was the Principal Investigator on the Experimental Assembly of Structures in EVA, a flight experiment on board Space Shuttle Mission 61-B, and for the ParaShield Flight Test Experiment on the American Rocket Company SET-1 mission.

Dr. Akin is a member of the NASA Space Science Advisory Committee, the Independent Review Team for the Mars 2003 Rover missions, and the AIAA Space Automation and Robotics Technical Committee. He has served on the NASA Telerobotics and EVA Working Groups and the NASA Advisory Council on the Role of Humans in Geostationary Orbit. He has written over fifty papers on aerospace systems design, EVA, teleoperation, robotics, and space simulation.

Ms Meghan Baker, UMD

Ms Alexandra Langley, UMD



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