NASA Develops Water-Extracting Robot for Exploration

February 13, 2013

When it comes to exploring uncharted territories, we’re pretty limited by the tech that can get us there, whether it’s the dark and highly pressurized ocean depths or far-off planets and moons. Despite the lack of warp drives and transporters, NASA is hard at work to push the technological envelope and keep our opportunities for exploration open.

NASA Now Has Robot Gas Station for Space, Robot Miner for the Moon
by Evan Ackerman

This little guy is named RASSOR, which is obviously pronounced “razor” and equally obviously stands for “Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot.” Regolith is a fancy geology word for dirt, and RASSOR is designed to autonomously drive around the Moon and scoop up dirt with those toothy drums. The entire robot only weighs about 100 pounds, but it can haul up to 40 pounds of dirt. The idea is that RASSOR would be sent to the Moon along with a larger lander, and then autonomously rove around 16 hours a day, pouring loads of dirt into a processing plant on the lander which would extract water, hydrogen, and oxygen from it. Let the system run for long enough, and we could head to the Moon knowing that there’s a nice big pile of water, air, and rocket fuel waiting there for us.

Read the full article at IEEE Spectrum. It’s hard not to have your imagination piqued by images of terraforming robots and space colonies! Do you think space robotics will one day become a sizable part of the industry? What private companies do you know of that are working hard on aerospace applications?

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Robots Help Recycle Satellites

January 23, 2013

One of the main advantages of using robotics is that they’re able to go into hazardous environments or work in places unreachable by people, which is they’re so useful to NASA. NASA has recently started a program that will employ robots to recycle dead satellites  revitalizing some of the debris floating in orbit around the earth.

DARPA reveals plan to use robots to recycle satellites
by Bailey Johnson

Satellites don’t last forever. They’re expensive to launch, technically challenging to maintain and like all machines, they eventually putter out. But the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has an ambitious plan to service — and even recycle — satellites using robotics.

Today, when a satellite fails, it is a total loss. The satellite either burns up in Earth’s atmosphere or lifelessly orbits the planet until a replacement is launched. DARPA’s Phoenix program is a plan to change that cycle by sending robots to scavenge parts from dead satellites and attach them to miniature “satlets” to reuse.

The main item of interest for DARPA researchers is how to reuse the antennae of functionless satellites. While most satellites are uniquely designed to serve their particular function, certain pieces of the spacecraft could be recycled – including the antennae and solar arrays.

Read the full article here at CBS News.