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Astrobee Performs First Autonomous Flight on the International Space Station

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The Astrobee cube robot  Bumble in its docking station onboard the International Space Station

One of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's autonomous Astrobee robots is operating on the International Space Station.

Credit: NASA/JSC

A National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Astrobee robot is now up and running on the International Space Station (ISS).

The goal of the robot, named Bumble, for its first autonomous mission was to undock itself, follow a flight plan consisting of a list of waypoints and objectives uploaded to the robot from the ground, and then return to its dock in the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) on the ISS.

So far, the biggest hurdle to the robot accomplishing its goals has been getting its localization to work in a robust way.

The robot navigates visually, but it is dependent on preexisting maps rather than doing simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM).

Putting together the initial maps involved hand-carrying Bumble around the JEM to collect images, which were then processed offline to identify features and correlate them with locations for use in navigation.

From IEEE Spectrum
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Abstracts Copyright © 2019 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


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