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Astrobee Free-Flying Robots Delivered to International Space Station
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Astrobee Free-Flying Robots Delivered to International Space Station

The first two Astrobee free-flyers, Honey and Bumble, along with the Docking Station spares kit, launched on the Northrup Grumman 11 (NG-11) rocket from Wallops Flight Facility on April 17. The Cygnus spacecraft was captured and berthed at the International Space Station (ISS) on April 19th. The first Astrobee activity, checkout of the first robot, will take place on May 2nd.

BACKGROUND: The Astrobees are next-generation free-flying robots that will operate in the interior of the ISS. 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 will also serve utility functions: as free-flying cameras to record video of astronaut activities, and as mobile sensor platforms to conduct surveys of the ISS. They are developed under the Human Exploration Telerobotics 2 (HET2) project.

The HET2 project demonstrates how telerobotics — robots remotely operated by astronauts or ground controllers — can be used to perform a variety of routine, highly repetitive, dangerous, or long-duration tasks. The primary goal of HET is to improve NASA’s understanding of the requirements, benefits, limitations, costs, and risks of integrating telerobotics into future deep-space exploration missions.

NASA PROGRAM FUNDING: The HET2 project is primarily funded by the Game Changing Development (GCD) program, under the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), with additional funding from the Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) program, under the Human Exploration and Operations Missions Directorate (HEOMD).

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.


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