Energid Technologies has secured funding from Nasa to develop a lightweight robot arm for use with small robotic research platforms that fly onboard the International Space Station (ISS).
Under the contract, the company will design the manipulator system and provide algorithm and simulation tools.
Using an arm, the assistive free-flyers (AFF) on the orbital laboratory will help astronauts stage workspaces, accurately place sensors for monitoring, and perch on handrails to save power.
"The AFF will be able to grab and push off of other objects allowing it to move through the ISS just like astronauts do."
Energid plans to support the system with its Actin software kit for robot control and simulation framework for mobile articulated mechanisms.
Energid Technologies project manager Doug Barker said: "The robot arm we are developing will provide a vital interface between free-flyers and their surroundings in the ISS.
"In addition to using the arms to manipulate objects, we see a lot of potential for using the arm in manoeuvring the flyer.
"With an arm, the AFF will be able to grab and push off of other objects allowing it to move through the ISS just like astronauts do."
The new arm will weigh less than 1lb and is designed to provide acrobatic type motion using new control algorithms.
Actin software will be configured to control the new arm and simulation, free-flyer platforms, sensors, and the ISS environment, which will allow researchers to test control strategies and demonstrate manipulation and sensing tasks.