NASA's human-robotic systems communicate with RTI middleware

SUNNYVALE, Calif., 17 Nov. 2009. Real-Time Innovations (RTI) has announced that NASA is using RTI middleware to control a fleet of experimental robots. The NASA Human-Robotic Systems Project is developing four prototype robots at four major research centers. The robots share a network data architecture that uses RTI middleware.

Nov 17th, 2009

SUNNYVALE, Calif., 17 Nov. 2009. Real-Time Innovations (RTI) has announced that NASA is using RTI middleware to control a fleet of experimental robots. The NASA Human-Robotic Systems Project is developing four prototype robots at four major research centers. The robots share a network data architecture that uses RTI middleware.

The Human-Robotic Systems Project includes four robots, each with a different mission. NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., is building a robot: K10. It carries an array of cameras and laser scanners, and can operate in an unstructured environment by itself or with human oversight.

ATHLETE, a large, six-limbed robot built at the Jet Propulsion Lab, is designed to transport large payloads across a wide range of terrain, including steep slopes and rocks. Johnson Space Center has built a Lunar Electric Rover—or LER—that could transport astronauts across long distances on the moon or Mars someday.

Finally, Langley Research Center is building a crane-like robot called the Lunar Surface Manipulator System (LSMS) to help with assembly and loading missions on planetary surfaces.

These systems are prototypes for vehicles that will someday operate on extraterrestrial surfaces. Today, the prototypes are being tested in harsh analog environments. For instance, K10, ATHLETE, and the LER spent weeks at Black Point Lava Flow in Northern Arizona.

All the NASA robots are designed to share a common data communications interface, saving deployment costs, reducing training requirements, and leveraging code and experience between the centers. Someday, when NASA launches the systems, having only one communications architecture will eliminate the need for duplicate testing, simplify operator equipment, and reduce ground staffing.

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