NASA SBIR 2018-I Solicitation

Proposal Summary

 18-1- Z5.03-1584
 Payload Technologies for Free-Flying Robots
SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Tethers Unlimited, Inc.
11711 North Creek Parkway South, Suite D113
Bothell , WA 98011-8808
(360) 579-1340

Principal Investigator (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Dr. Nathan Britton
11711 N. Creek Pkwy S. Ste D113 Bothell, WA 98011 - 8808
(425) 486-0100

Business Official (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Dr. Robert Hoyt
11711 North Creek Parkway South, Suite D113 Bothell, WA 98011 - 8808
(425) 486-0100
Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) :
Begin: 2
End: 5
Technical Abstract

Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) proposes to develop a collaborative robotics platform, AstroPorter, for multi-agent coordinated tasks on the International Space Station (ISS). TUI will develop an AstroPorter payload for Astrobee to perform collaborative robotics tasks with TUI’s MANTIS - an EXPRESS Rack payload with a robotic arm for telerobotic operation of experiments on the ISS. AstroPorter will interface with Astrobee through the dedicated payload bay and function as a platform for transporting equipment and other stowed material around the ISS. Each AstroPorter will be equipped with TUI’s high precision 3DOF end-effector placement gimbal, COBRA-Bee, and support the optional installation of platforms between two AstroPorters by crew. This platform will be used to place cumbersome equipment or stowed materials for transport. The high-degree of mobility provided by Astrobee places it in an excellent position to perform cataloging and fetching tasks within a collaborative robotic environment with MANTIS serving to support fixed-base manipulation tasks. Developing the payload and software infrastructure that allows Astrobee and MANTIS to share subtasks using collaborative control will extend the capability of robotic systems aboard the ISS, reduce astronaut burden for basic caretaking tasks, and bring self-maintenance of in-space habitats closer to reality. In the Phase 1 effort, the TRL of AstroPorter will be matured to TRL-5, in preparation for preliminary demonstrations on the ISS in Phase II.

Potential NASA Applications

AstroPorter is a crosscutting technology which directly addresses three of the NASA 2015 Technology Roadmap Areas: 4.2.7 Collaborative Mobility, 4.3.5 Collaborative Manipulation, and 4.5.4 Multi-Agent Coordination. The development of AstroPorter and collaborative robotic demonstrations of Astrobee and MANTIS for habitat caretaking on the ISS will benefit not only ISS, but future missions and initiatives like NASA’s Deep Space Gateway.

Potential Non-NASA Applications

TUI views the development of the proposed collaborative robotics technology and demonstrations as a milestone on our roadmap to implementing complex, distributed space systems and in-space assembly under the general In-Space Manufacturing initiative. This technology will be critical for the assembly of TUI’s Constructable Platform - a modular self-assembling persistent structure, developed in partnership with DARPA to provide power and communication services for payload hosting.

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