M2M Enables Robotics in Space


M2M technology is traveling everywhere these days, even into outer space. Wireless connectivity enables a robot that’s specially built to assist astronauts, making it safer for humans in space by allowing a machine to handle some tasks.

Known as Robonaut, the robot was built and designed at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Robonaut is meant to work alongside people, as well as perform jobs that put humans at risk. One of the special features of Robonaut is its hands and arms, which are designed to be as dexterous as human hands when wearing a space suit. By creating the robot to resemble a human, it is able to use many of the same work spaces and tools that are already designed for use in space.

To provide connectivity to Robonaut, NASA is using a wireless module from Digi Intl., www.digi.com. The ConnectCore Wi-i.MX53 provides Wi-Fi access wirelessly, which is important because the robot needs to be free to move around with no wires when it performs tasks on the International Space Station. Robonaut will complete duties such as air quality testing and housekeeping.

Digi says the module used in Robonaut had to undergo tests to prove it could endure the environment of space. By providing Wi-Fi connectivity, astronauts are able to manipulate the robot remotely from anywhere in the space station, or even back on earth at NASA Mission Control Center. A camera on Robonaut will also use the connectivity link to transmit views of what it’s seeing in realtime. This will help controllers to better understand what the robot is doing and respond accordingly.

Right now, the Robonaut in place on the International Space Station features a head, torso, and arms bolted to a pedestal, and it’s connected using wires. Once wireless is installed, the robot will be upgraded to feature the means to move throughout the station, freeing it to complete additional tasks. In the future, Robonaut may even perform tasks outside of the space station.

Today M2M is making transportation of all kinds safer for humans through technologies like the connected car and aircraft monitoring systems. Now, M2M is also protecting astronauts as they travel through space by performing difficult or dangerous tasks on the space station.

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