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Goddard Space Flight Center Engineering Colloquium

Date: Monday, September 22, 1997

Title: Getting Robots into Space: The Ranger Telerobotic Shuttle Experiment

Speaker: Dave Akin


Robotic applications in space have been hampered by a "chicken-and-egg" problem: no impetus exists to develop a robotic system unless a mission requirement is identified, but no mission will specify a requirement for a non-existent robotic system. In an effort to break this log-jam, the NASA Telerobotics Program has instituted the Ranger Telerobotic Shuttle Experiment to demonstrate end-to-end robotic servicing on-orbit at extremely low cost. This talk will provide an overview and lessons learned to date from the Ranger program, in both the original incarnation as a free-flying vehicle launched on an expendable rocket and the current version designed as a Space Shuttle payload. Ranger TSX will demonstrate robotic servicing of systems from the International Space Station as a designated ISS Risk Mitigation Experiment, along with robotic changeout of EVA-designed orbital replacement units from the Hubble Space Telescope. Ranger is currently under development as a joint activity of the University of Maryland Space Systems Laboratory and the NASA JSC Automation, Robotics, and Simulation Division, and is targeted for launch in late 1999.


David L. Akin is an Associate Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and the Institute for Systems Research at the University of Maryland, where he is also the Director of the Space Systems Laboratory (see and the Neutral Buoyancy Research Facility. His current research spans the range of space operations from purely manual activities such as extravehicular activity, through teleoperation and robotics, to space applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He is a member of the NASA Telerobotics and EVA Working Groups and the AIAA Space Automation and Robotics Technical Committee.

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