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NASA astronauts test free-flying smartphone robots in space

Last Updated: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - 18:57

Zee Media Bureau

Washington: Yes, astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have been working with the small free-flying robots since 2011. Now, they believe that these small spherical robots, which are being upgraded with the smartphones, will be able to perform the housekeeping jobs for them.

On July 16th, NASA`s Ames Research Centre in Moffett Field, California, has sent two Google prototype Project Tango smartphones aboard the ISS that astronauts will attach to the small free-flying SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites) for technological demonstrations inside the space station.

These three bowling ball-size free-flying SPHERES have been flying inside the ISS since 2006.

These satellites provide a test bed for development and research. Each has its own power, propulsion, computer, navigation equipment and physical and electrical connections for hardware and sensors for various experiments, said NASA.
Chris Provencher, manager of the “Smart SPHERES” project said: “NASA uses robots for research and mission operations. It is exciting to demonstrate the use of small, mobile robots to enhance future exploration missions.”

In a two-phase experiment, astronauts will manually use smartphones to collect visual data using the integrated custom 3D sensor to generate a full 3D model of their environment.

Once the map and its coordinate system are developed, a second activity will involve smartphones being attached to the SPHERES to make them free-flying “Smart SPHERES”.

As the “free-flying” robots move around the ISS with the help of smartphones, they will provide locational clues to the crew inside the station and the flight controllers in mission control.

Finally, researchers hope that these smartphone-controlled robots will perform housekeeping tasks such as video surveys for safety and configuration audits, noise level measurements and air quality measurements for astronauts.
(With Agency Inputs)

Photo credit: NASA

First Published: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - 18:57

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