NASA Developing Robots to Enable Assembly of Solar Arrays on the Moon

The NASA Assemblers project is a recently awarded Early Career Initiative (ECI) proposal led out of NASA’s Langley Research Center, seeks to advance the technology, including hardware and software, that would allow autonomous in-space assembly, a critical technology for future human exploration and being able to live and work further on the Moon and Mars.

Above – Assemblers: A Modular and Reconfigurable Manipulation System for Autonomous In-Space Assembly, is an Early Career Initiative project led by James Neilan at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.
Credits: NASA’s Langley Research Center

The Assemblers robots consist of stacked platforms that have actuators providing 6 degrees of freedom of movement between two bases and sensors that provide feedback on where components are located. The team is working on algorithms for software so that the robots could choose how many platforms to stack and the right tool for the task at hand. It would also calculate trajectories so routes are deconflicted and it could identify and correct any errors during the build process.

“The project goal is to increase the technology readiness level for the modular robot, autonomous in-space assembly, and develop a robotic prototype for ground testing,” said James Neilan, principal investigator.

The prototype will be a modular autonomous manipulation system that uses platforms that stack up to any size to allow multiple configurations to assemble components in space. It will use task management software to allow robots of various configurations and capabilities to work together. There’s also an error detection and configuration component that could be used during and after a build to identify and address any issues.

The ECI award provides $2.5 million over two years to allow the team to bring together a cohesive system from the pieces that have been incubated over time, fill in the missing pieces and mature the technology. It also allows early-career employees to get management experience using an “agile” system, helping transform the way NASA manages projects to allow work to happen in “sprints” with regular small check-ins instead of larger reviews.

17 thoughts on “NASA Developing Robots to Enable Assembly of Solar Arrays on the Moon”

  1. The big problem is that the decision is about who will hold the power, not whether the power should be held by anyone. US (was) is a limited government constitutional republic, not a democracy.

  2. I’m a lifelong libertarian, so have no particular love for left or right socialists, but his seems more like ineptitude than a conspiracy. The main thing to know is that people who succeed in Primal Therapy have a “live and live” attitude, by direct observation. In other words, all healthy people are libertarian.

  3. You can identify multiple failure points in that breakdown, the problem is, the failure points are all important people, and so aren’t going to be fixed.

    Our election system is rife with problems, and I think they all are traceable back to the fact that the decisions are made by people with conflicts of interest.

  4. Yeah, I’m aware that this is the early stage in the multiple elections that even decide who goes into the actual election. We’ve seen the USA do this enough times to get the process.

    But we’ve also seen that a selection process that isn’t generally accepted as fair can then lead to issues with the main election. (As is only reasonable.)

  5. Have ~62% done ~ 6h ago, should be pretty soon. A vote for convention delegates, not an election for office.

  6. Microwave absorption in the air is a fairly straight forward issue that can be tested at small scale before the project really gets going.
    I wouldn’t put that on the list of things to worry about.

  7. A caucus, complicated *primary*, so run by party. Back end glitch, they say. Ballots paper, but reporting results by phone app. That caucus probably to be abandoned next time for simple vote primary.

  8. Beamed solar power from space is a….well its iffy. Not sure how the atmosphere would react to getting cooked by the worlds largest microwave.

  9. Meanwhile, off Topic

    Early hints on the news are that the USA has suffered a major technological breakdown in their election process.

    True? A good example of bad tech? Or of using a technical solution that was completely inappropriate for the application and hence a big step backwards from the paper and pencil approach that worked for the previous 200 years?

  10. Something that is 3D printed with an arc welder ends up being made (with low precision) of cast steel. Cast steel has many good properties, but light weight is not one of them.

    Sure, launch costs have come down, but $/kg is still ridiculously high by comparison with any earth bound field short of high end bicycle construction.

    And an arc-welded structure is not going to be very precise. Not exactly what you want to mount any sort of precision instrumentation on.

    Lastly, cast steel is only a structural material. If you want any more functionality you need solar cells, electronics, batteries, lenses, mirrors etc. None of which can be made of low resolution steel. So you still need your robot constructors to bolt most of the components in place.

  11. Better yet, use metal from a NEO. Just a few launches to set up and you get much cheaper for large amounts.

  12. Why can’t they just 3D print with an arc welder in zero g…. You don’t even need any shielding gas since there’s no air… All you need to launch in orbit is a reel of wire and robotic arms

Comments are closed.