Washington: NASA engineers are in the process of developing climbing legs for the International Space Station`s robotic crewmember Robonaut 2 (R2).
The legless R2, currently attached to a support post, is undergoing experimental trials with astronauts aboard the orbiting laboratory.
Since its arrival at the station in February 2011, R2 has performed a series of tasks to demonstrate its functionality in microgravity.
These new legs, funded by NASA`s Human Exploration and Operations and Space Technology mission directorates, will provide R2 the mobility it needs to help with regular and repetitive tasks inside and outside the space station. The goal is to free up the crew for more critical work, including scientific research.
Once the legs are attached to the R2 torso, the robot will have a fully extended leg span of 9 feet, giving it great flexibility for movement around the space station.
Each leg has seven joints and a device on what would be the feet called an end effector, which allow the robot to take advantage of handrails and sockets inside and outside the station. A vision system for the end effectors also will be used to verify and eventually automate each limb`s approach and grasp.
NASA engineers have built the legs and R2 will be receiving them early next year. The new legs are designed for work both inside and outside the station, but upgrades to R2`s upper body will be necessary before it can begin work outside the space station.