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Surface Telerobotics Team Successfully Conducts Second K10 Rover Test with the International Space Station
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Surface Telerobotics Team Successfully Conducts Second K10 Rover Test with the International Space Station

The Intelligent Robotics Group successfully conducted the second “Surface Telerobotics” test session with the International Space Station (ISS) on July 26, 2013. During the test session, Expedition 36 Astronaut Luca Parmitano remotely operated the K10 planetary rover in the NASA Ames “Roverscape” outdoor testbed from the ISS. Parmitano used K10 to deploy and inspect a simulated Kapton film-based radio antenna.

This test session is notable for:

  • First astronaut (Luca Parmitano) to interactively deploy and inspect a simulated radio antenna using a planetary rover in an outdoor analog testbed
  • 100 minutes of real-time teleoperation (discrete commanding and supervisory control) of a planetary rover from spacd
  • Engineering data collection to characterize “crew-controlled surface telerobotics” concept of operations: operator workload and situation awareness, data communications link utilization, robot user interface (operation and mode changes), and robot telemetry (health, status, etc.)
  • On-site observation by senior management at NASA Headquarters, Ames Research Center, the National Lunar Science Institute/Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute, the Space Technology Mission Directorate Technology Demonstration Missions, the European Space Agency, Motorola Mobility, and the University of Colorado at Boulder
  • Significant media coverage: 15 “live shots” (TV interviews), live NASA TV coverage, eight media outlets (including NBC, KCBS, Wired, Make magazine, and, and 15 social media bloggers. Total weekend media coverage: approximately 100 TV broadcasts with an estimated viewership of 2.5 million

The Surface Telerobotics series of tests represents the first fully interactive, remote operation of a planetary rover by an astronaut in space. The primary objective of the testing is to collect engineering data to characterize system operation. This includes collecting data about how the astronaut works with the robot user interface, rover telemetry, and data communications. Surface Telerobotics is part of NASA’s Human Exploration Telerobotics project in the Space Technology Missions Directorate’s (STMD) Technology Demonstration Missions (TDM) program.

Surface Telerobotics is also designed to simulate a possible future mission involving astronauts aboard NASA’'s Orion spacecraft traveling to the L2 Earth-Moon Lagrange point 65,000 km above the far side of the moon. From such a location, astronauts could operate a robot remotely to perform surface science work, such as deploying a radio telescope. This mission concept was developed by the Lunar University Network for Astrophysics Research at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

A description of the Surface Telerobotics tests and relevant online coverage can be found here:

BACKGROUND: Surface Telerobotics demonstrates a future exploration concept of operations in which an astronaut in an orbiting spacecraft remotely operates a robot on a planetary surface. The primary objective of Surface Telerobotics is to collect baseline engineering data from crew, robot, and data communications to characterize system operation. Surface Telerobotics is part of the Human Exploration Telerobotics (HET) project.

HET explores how advanced telerobotics can improve the productivity of human explorers and increase the performance of human missions. HET conducts tests and demonstrations of robot systems remotely operated by crew in space and by ground controllers on Earth. HET makes use of the ISS and a wide variety of robots, including the Robonaut 2 dexterous humanoid robot, the “smart” SPHERES free-flying robots, and the K10 planetary rover.

If approved, the Lunar Farside (L2) mission will investigate regions dramatically different than those looked at by Apollo. In this mission, orbiting astronauts will remotely operate a rover on the lunar far side from the Earth-Moon L2 Lagrange point. The rover will deploy a unique polyimide film antenna in the radio-quiet and ionosphere-free zone of the Moon’s far side. A metallic conductor deposited on the surface of Kapton film will be unrolled and used as a low-frequency radio antenna to detect signals from the first stars and galaxies that formed after the Big Bang.

NASA PROGRAM FUNDING: Technology Demonstrations Mission, Space Technology Program, NASA Office of the Chief Technologist

TEAM: Mark Allan, Xavier Bouyssounouse, Maria Bualat (Project Manager), Tamar Cohen, Terry Fong (Science PI), Lorenzo Fluckiger, Ravi Gogna, Linda Kobayashi, Grace Lee, Susan Lee, Tod Milam (TRACLabs), Estrellina Pacis, Chris Provencher, Debbie Schreckenghost (TRACLabs), Ernie Smith, Vinh To, Jay Torres (JPL), Hans Utz, and DW Wheeler

COLLABORATORS: The NASA Astronaut Office, Johnson Space Center Mission Operations Directorate, the Lunar University Network for Astrophysics Research (University of Colorado at Boulder), Lockheed Martin Corp, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, the International Space Station Technology Demonstrations Office, International Space Station Avionics and Software, and the Academy of Art University

Contact: Terry Fong

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