The proposed innovation is a six-axis force and torque sensor that can survive and function in the harsh environments that would be expected during a lander mission to Europa, or a similarly high-radiation, low-temperature environment. This type of mission will expose a sensor to extremely hot and cold temperatures, to near vacuum atmospheric pressure, and to high levels of radiation. The six-axis force and torque sensor developed will include redundant sensing elements for increased mission reliability.
Because ATI has already developed a six-axis force/torque sensor for use on the 2020 Mars Rover, extending that same technology to more extreme environments should be a relatively low-risk endeavor compared to having to develop this capability from the ground up. Being able to operate in such environments would enable currently impossible science to be done, such as real-time feedback of operational loads, thus allowing more advanced exploration of many areas, both extraterrestrial and on Earth.
Most commercially available six degree of freedom force and torque sensors are generally intended for terrestrial use. While ATI has successfully developed a six-axis force/torque sensor suitable for use on Mars (SHA FTS on 2020 Perseverance Rover), additional validation is required to ensure the same fundamental technology would be successful in more extreme environments.
There are a number of potential NASA applications for six degree of freedom force and torque transducers which are able survive these harsh conditions. They include:
-Providing loading feedback to a robot arm controller about the arm’s end effector, such as a robotic drill or corer. The feedback can allow the operation to be adjusted for best performance.
-Providing loading feedback from an end effector on a teleoperated robotic arm, perhaps on the ISS or another body in space.
-Providing loading feedback for limbs in a Robonaut-type application.
Potential non-NASA commercial applications include:
-Robotic arm loading feedback for remote vehicles operating on the moon
-Sensing loads caused by an experiment or operation being conducted in orbit.
-Providing loading feedback experiments and remotely operated vehicles in the cold of the Earth’s Polar Regions.
-Deep-sea oil/gas remotely-operated vehicles