There is a disconnect between the mission operation languages used by various NASA robots and by flight controllers or crew members. This disconnect unduly burdens mission operators, as it requires the involvement of expert robot programmers to define each activity. To eliminate this burden, we propose that robots in space (whether autonomous or remotely commanded by humans) should be commanded using verified, human-readable procedures. Such an approach will allow NASA to seamlessly allocate new robotic capabilities and resources to existing space activities, and will facilitate the cooperation of humans and their robot assistants when performing joint activities.
In Phase I of this work, progress towards this goal was demonstrated by combining two previously disparate software suites. TRACLabs' Procedure IDE for authoring and running electronic procedures and our CRAFTSMAN mobile manipulation planning and control software have been developed over the past few years in conjunction with NASA engineers and researchers on various projects. The integration of these two research streams in this PHARAOH (Procedure-Handling Architecture for Robots And/Or Humans) system has demonstrated the promise of our approach, while also highlighting deficiencies in the current electronic procedure software as it pertains to command and control of complicated remote robots. In Phase II, we will build upon lessons learned to replace, improve, and validate various architectural, operational, and computational components of the Phase I prototype. The specific aim of this Phase II is to achieve a TRL-6 software package with suitable software and hardware validations to ensure that TRL-7 performance could be achieved within a 5 year time frame, where we envision non-robotics flight controllers using PHARAOH to task remote robotic assets by using English-language procedures that automatically map directly to robot capabilities on the back-end.
For NASA, we envision non-robotics flight controllers being able to write and run electronic procedures to task remote robotic assets to create English language procedures that automatically map directly to robot capabilities behind the scenes. TRACLabs and SwRI will work with NASA personnel to ensure the Phase II system aligns with provides NASA-relevant mission capabilities applicable to systems such as GSFC's Satellite Servicing Projects Division (SSPD), Resource Prospector, Astrobee, K-Rex, Valkyrie, and the Deep Space Gateway.
The target market for this technology are organizations (both commercial and government) who need a human-readable executive for remote commanding of mobile manipulation robots. This includes automotive manufacturing, oil drilling (including undersea), chemical manufacturing, nuclear decommissioning, private space companies, and government organizations such as DoD, including SPAWAR, TRADEC, and others. TRACLabs already has three Fortune 500 customers that use the PRIDE electronic procedure software and the CRAFTSMAN robotic-tasking suite. By combining these two previously disparate software packages in this project, all three customers are potential immediate customers.