High-performance controller may be key to deep space

Oct. 6, 2005
NASA is developing space travel vehicles to replace the Shuttle, which is scheduled to hang up its tiles in 2010.

Robotic Workspace Technologies will provide control systems for a future mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.

Deep space missions will utilize the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), which emphasizes extended support for humans on such long missions as travel to Mars.

The rendezvous, resupply, and service of vehicles in space will require some high-performance technology. So, NASA's Vision for Space Exploration is generating intensive research at its Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Fort Myers Beach, Fla.

To that end, Dr. Ed Cheung and a team from Jackson and Tull,, working at the GSFC, are building robotic systems using a high-performance controller made by Robotic Workspace Technologies Inc. (RWT), Fort Myers Beach (See "Ford has a better idea: Open controls for robotic arms," MACHINE DESIGN Supplement 5/17/01, pg. S6).

The Universal Robot Controller (URC), they claim, solves issues inherent in working in zero gravity. Dr. Cheung and his team have experience with space robotics, having worked on the conceptual study for the Hubble Space Telescope Robotic Servicing Mission.

The URC is the first open-architecture PC controller designed specifically for industrial robots and other automated devices. The controller will support the integration of multiple devices like end-of-arm tooling, parts feeders, sensors, and other automated equipment. RWT also developed the programming language, RobotScript.

The URC controls multiple axes beyond the six axes normally associated with robots and integrates ancillary devices like sensors.

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