Robotic help on the space station

March 6, 2013
A robotic hand operates with or without an astronaut’s presence.

THK America

A new robotic hand has been assisting astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) by moving cargo from the delivery rocket into the ISS. The hand, developed by THK America, Schaumburg, Ill., uses ball-screw actuators to create its gripping force.

The hand was recently used in the Japanese Experiment Module known as KIBO, the largest module of its kind on the ISS. A recent mission combined use of the robotic hand with REJX, an astronaut support robot or astrobot. A standard payload unit attached to KIBO’s exterior let the hand mounted on an extendable robotic arm move cargo from the payload unit into the ISS and back. Experiments conducted on the arm and gripper while they moved cargo helped determine the effects of arm extension and positioning. They also let researchers explore the arm’s manipulation capabilities.

© 2013 Penton Media, Inc.

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