IEEE Spectrum got a behind-the-scenes look at a prototype Astrobee robot, destined to replace SPHERES used on the ISS. The video embedded in their article is great – I especially love the blown-up photographs of interiors of the ISS throughout the testing room to give the look and feel of a simulated station interior!
Since 2006, NASA has had a trio of small, free-flying robots on board the International Space Station. Called SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellites), these robots have spent about 600 hours participating in an enormous variety of experiments, including autonomous formation flying, navigation and mapping, and running programs written by middle school students in team competitions. But beyond serving as a scientific platform, SPHERES weren’t designed to do anything especially practical in terms of assisting the astronauts or flight controllers, and it’s time for a new generation of robotic free fliers that’s fancier, more versatile, and will be a big help for the humans on the ISS.
This is Astrobee.
Last fall, IEEE Spectrum visited NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., to have a look at the latest Astrobee prototype and meet the team behind the robot.