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Astrobee Completes 4th Space Station Radio Frequency Identification Recon Science Activity
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Astrobee Completes 4th Space Station Radio Frequency Identification Recon Science Activity

On April 6th, 2022, the 4th Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Recon Science activity took place on the International Space Station (ISS), where the RFID and Astrobee teams successfully completed the primary objective and half the secondary objectives. In this mission, Astrobee was perched around ISS’ Japanese Pressurized Module (JPM), one of three segments in Japan’s Kibo Laboratory Module, by crew using Astrobee’s gripper arm while the RFID Recon unit inventoried the environment. The perching audit was a great success, yielding what appears to be a comprehensive audit of this section of station.

Additionally, a linear inventory traversal of JPM was attempted using “fplan” and teleoperational capabilities, where the team uses the Plan Editor in the Control Station to construct, validate, and run sequences of commands for Astrobee that include waypoints and actions to perform at the waypoints (fplan), or single commands teleoperationally, but crew assistance was eventually needed to complete the inventory traversal. The error with navigation appears to be an onboard trajectory planner error and will be investigated. The next RFID-Recon activity is planned to be a test of a potential NASA Lunar Gateway RFID/Inventory Management System (IMS) setup using Astrobee and RFID as a fixed RFID reader. (Lunar Gateway, or Gateway, is a planned small space station in lunar orbit intended to serve as a solar-powered communication hub, science laboratory, short-term habitation module for government-agency astronauts, as well as a holding area for rovers and other robots.)

BACKGROUND: The Astrobees are next-generation free-flying robots that operate in the interior of ISS and can be remotely operated by astronauts in space, or by mission controllers on the ground. Their primary purpose is to provide a flexible platform for research on zero-gravity free-flying robotics, with the ability to carry a wide variety of future research payloads and guest science software. They were also designed to perform a number of Intra-Vehicular Activities (IVAs), including interior environmental surveys (e.g., sound level measurement), inventory, and mobile camera work.

NASA PROGRAM FUNDING: The Astrobee Facility project is funded by the ISS program’s Research Integration Office.

TEAM: The Astrobee team is composed of over 30 researchers, engineers, and technicians from the Intelligent Systems Division and the Engineering Directorate at NASA Ames Research Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

POINT OF CONTACT: Jose Benavides, jose.v.benavides@nasa.gov

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