Robots to protect ISS from deadly space junk

PTI London | Updated on September 07, 2014 Published on September 07, 2014

Researchers have flight-tested new sharp-eyed mini robots that will protect the International Space Station (ISS) from potentially damaging space junk and help repair defunct satellites.

The space laboratory regularly changes orbit to avoid colliding with derelict satellites, rocket stages and other objects whizzing around Earth at huge speeds.

These robots may fly out to assess the danger presented by the vast array of objects not already tracked by radar, ‘New Scientist’ reported.

Investigator Alvar Saenz-Otero and his colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have built several self-guided robots.

The robots are smaller than a soccer ball and designed to investigate potentially damaging objects from a safe distance with a 3D stereo camera. The images are relayed to the crew aboard the ISS, who can decide how to proceed.

“An autonomous inspector could collide with the object and make problems worse. So very good sensors must be used to allow the vehicle to move safely around the object it is inspecting,” said Saenz-Otero.

The robots, during a test aboard the ISS, successfully manoeuvred around an “unknown” object floating in micro-gravity.

They maintained a safe distance from the object as they filmed it, making use of their cameras and internal gyroscopes to navigate, the report said.

Published on September 07, 2014
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