Feeds

'R2' robot to join space station crew, says NASA

Not a proper R2 unit though - can't do EVA

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

NASA has announced that once again life is to imitate art, as the human race's principal manned spacecraft - the International Space Station (ISS) - is soon to gain a robot crewmember known as "R2".

The R2 robot from NASA and GM. Credit: NASA

Probably doesn't have a message from an imperilled princess or anything.

Rather than a small ambulatory bleeping dustbin riding in a socket outside the station, however, the droid - also known at NASA and partner developer GM as "Robonaut 2" - will be resident inside the station's "Destiny" lab module. According to NASA the machine "does not have adequate protection needed to exist outside the space station in the extreme temperatures of space".

This is something of a disappointment as one of the principal roles foreseen for the robot was Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA) or spacewalking, a complex and time-consuming task for human astronauts. The lengthy periods spent suiting up and unsuiting fleshy operatives would of course be unnecessary in the case of the "Dextre" robot already available for use with the station's manipulator arm, or future space-proofed R2s.

For now, however, the human-style droid torso unit will remain confined to the station interior, having been flown up aboard space shuttle Discovery during the STS-133 mission scheduled for September.

According to NASA:

Testing the robot inside the station will provide an important intermediate environment. R2 will be tested in microgravity and subjected to the station's radiation and electromagnetic interference environments. The interior operations will provide performance data about how a robot may work side-by-side with astronauts. As development activities progress on the ground, station crews may be provided hardware and software to update R2 to enable it to do new tasks.

Global motor mammoth GM, partnered with NASA on the R2, considers the effort well worthwhile.

"Partnerships between organizations such as GM and NASA help ensure space exploration, road travel and manufacturing can become even safer in the future," enthused GM R&D bigwig Alan Taub.

NASA evidently considers the R2 important, given that room has been found for the on-the-face-of-it not particularly useful machine aboard one of the few remaining Shuttle flights. Meanwhile other and potentially rather more significant technologies, (albeit like the R2 still not fully developed) have no flight slot and must hope that the new wave of privately-developed lifters arrive as promised. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
Volcanic eruption in Iceland triggers CODE RED aviation warning
Lava-spitting Bárðarbunga prompts action from Met Office
NASA to reformat Opportunity rover's memory from 125 million miles away
Interplanetary admins will back up data and get to work
Major cyber attack hits Norwegian oil industry
Statoil, the gas giant behind the Scandie social miracle, targeted
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.