Posts Tagged ‘Unmanned Space Manipulator’

1968 – Android Space Manipulator (Concept) – General Electric (American)

Android Space Manipulator

Robots May Tend Ailing Satellites -One of the frustrations of scientists is "burned out" satellites, those which, because of a malfunction or a worn-out part, inertly orbit the earth, doing no worldly good. "Such a satellite becomes a million dollar bit of space debris for lack of a two-dollar part. It would be impractical if not impossible in most cases to send an astronaut to do the job and in the few cases, where practical, the expense would be prohibitive. The answer would seem to be a highly sophisticated robot space vehicle which could be manipulated by ground control. A National Aeronautics Space Administration contract to make design studies of such a "space repairman" has been awarded to the General Electric Space Systems Valley Forge, Pa. In its ARMS (Application of Remote Manipulators in Space) project, GE scientists envision an orbiting space complex consisting of tender (home base) satellite and one or more robot repairmen [text illegibie].

This complex could easily be put into a continuous 24-hour orbit by a booster such as a Titan III-C. The tender would be controlled by radio from a ground station, receiving instructions and navigational information on satellites requiring repair. Before the rendezvous with the disabled satellite, however, the tender and its resting repairman would have to make a linkup with a repair kit, containing replacement parts or modules, launched into orbit from the earth. After this docking the tender, repairman and repair, all joined in one complex, would change orbit to close on the satellite needing repair. The intricate maneuvering required to complete this rendezvous in the vastness of space and the ensuing repair job would be directed from earth. This is made possible by "eyes" in the space units. The tender would be equipped with at least one television camera and the robot repairman would have one or, more probably, two. The direction and focus of the cameras could be adjusted from earth. The robot repairman is a box-like creature with three multi-jointed arms and pincer-like fingers that can be operated by remote control. In addition to the information supplied by the TV camera, the manipulators will also feed information, much like human muscles and limbs when performing a job. This enables the ground-control station to make adjustments to properly conduct the repair. The repairman will be maneuvered by miniature attitude control rocket nozzles which can be operated from earth. Present space vehicles are not designed for such easy repair. Satellites of the future would be designed so that trouble-prone, sensitive or exhaustible parts would be located on the outer surface in easily replaceable modules. GE studies indicate that the ARMS project would pay off after 12 satellite repairs, another way of saying that the costs of the repair system would equal the replacement cost of 12 non-functional satellites and any succeeding repairs would be pure gain for the space system. And, of course, should one of the repairmen develop a malfunction, he will be operated on by another robot.

Source: Oakland Tribune (Newspaper) – September 15, 1968, Oakland, California 

The spacecraft has an approximate weight of 530 pounds and is approximately 12 inches deep by 40 inches wide by 75 inches high (including antennas). It has two electric bilateral manipulator arms that are slave to a master control system in a remote site. The system has a payload capability of about 500 pounds and a mission duration of 10 hours (Interim – Kugath, 1969).

Subsystem Description

 Translation Subsystem

     The propulsion is accomplished by a common blow-down monopropellant hydrazine subsystem. It would have large rendezvous engines for translation to the worksite and smaller thrusters for attitude control and maneuvering.

Stabilization/Control Subsystems

 The attitude-control subsystem functions in two modes, 1) it stabilizes only the remote manipulator spacecraft; and, 2) it also stabilizes the worksite by a three-axis, rate-integrating gyro package. A momentum storage device reduces the thruster usage at the worksite.

 The spacecraft maneuvers are performed automatically; the inputs to the guidance computer are produced by (docked satellite). The attitude reference is supplied.

 The optical (video) system consists of two cameras  which

1) give the operator a three-dimensional display,

2) provide redundancy in case of a camera failure, and

3) serve as range finder to supply data to guidance/control subsystem for rendezvous and docking.

Actuator Subsystem

  This subsystem consists of three docking/stabilization arms and two manipulator arms. The manipulators are bilateral, slave type that resemble the human arms but

are not anthropomorphous. The manipulator characteristics are shown 'in Table 5-6 and dimensions are given in figure 5-22. Table 5-7 gives the weights and estimated power requirements for the remote manipulator spacecraft.

Volume 2, Final Report – Prepared for Marshall Space Flight Center – 9 April 1970.

Footnote: August, 2014 – This 1968 GE concept is the closest that resembles the Robonaut R2. The Robonaut R2 is currently the only humanoid robot in space and was delivered to the International Space Station in 2011. The current version can only operate internally, though.  There is an earlier dextrous dual-arm robot, called Dextre, delivered to the ISS in 2008, but this is not humanoid in shape and size.

Robonaut R2 shaking the hand of Station Commander, Dan Burbank.

See other early Space Teleoperators here.

See other early Lunar and Space Robots here.

1973-8 – Daedalus ‘Wardens’ (Concept) – Bond, Martin, Grant et al (British)

An autonomous Warden building, servicing and maintaining Daedalus.

 Above image source: Robots, by Peter Marsh, 1985

Autonomy and the Interstellar Probe – Sourced from here.

by Paul Gilster on March 19, 2013


…..The span between the creation of the Daedalus design in the 1970s and today covers the development of the personal computer and the emergence of global networking, so it’s understandable that the way we view autonomy has changed. Self-repair is also a reminder that a re-design like Project Icarus is a good way to move the ball forward. Imagine a series of design iterations each about 35 years apart, each upgrading the original with current technology, until a working craft is feasible.

… The key paper on robotic repair is T. J. Grant’s “Project Daedalus: The Need for Onboard Repair.”

Staying Functional Until Mission’s End

Grant runs through the entire computer system including the idea of ‘wardens,’ conceived as a subsystem of the network that maintains the ship under a strategy of self-test and repair. You’ll recall that Daedalus, despite its size, was an unmanned mission, so all issues that arose during its fifty year journey would have to be handled by onboard systems. The wardens carried a variety of tools and manipulators, and it’s interesting to see that they were also designed to be an active part of the mission’s science, conducting experiments thousands of kilometers away from the vehicle, where contamination from the ship’s fusion drive would not be a factor.

Even so, I’d hate to chance one of the two Daedalus wardens in that role given their importance to the success of the mission. Each would weigh about five tonnes, with access to extensive repair facilities along with replacement and spare parts. Replacing parts, however, is not the best overall strategy, as it requires a huge increase in mass — up to 739 tonnes, in Grant’s calculations! So the Daedalus report settled on a strategy of repair instead of replacement wherever possible, with full onboard facilities to ensure that components could be recovered and returned to duty. Here again the need for autonomy is paramount.

In a second paper, “Project Daedalus: The Computers,” Grant outlines the wardens’ job:

    …the wardens’ tasks would involve much adaptive learning throughout the complete mission. For example, the wardens may have to learn how to gain access to a component which has never failed before, they may have to diagnose a rare type of defect, or they may have to devise a new repair procedure to recover the defective component. Even when the failure mode of a particular, unreliable component is well known, any one specific failure may have special features or involve unusual complications; simple failures are rare.

Running through the options in the context of a ship-wide computing infrastructure, Grant recommends that the wardens be given full autonomy, although the main ship computer would still have the ability to override its actions if needed. The image is of mobile robotic repair units in constant motion, adjusting, tweaking and repairing failed parts as needed. Grant again:

    …a development in Daedalus’s software may be best implemented in conjunction with a change in the starship’s hardware… In practice, the modification process will be recursive. For example the discovery of a crack in a structural member might be initially repaired by welding a strengthening plate over the weakened part. However, the plate might restrict clearance between the cracked members and other parts, so denying the wardens access to unreliable LRUs (Line Replacement Units) beyond the member. Daedalus’s computer system must be capable of assessing the likely consequences of its intended actions. It must be able to choose an alternative access path to the LRUs (requiring a suitable change in its software), or to choose an alternative method of repairing the crack, or some acceptable combination.

Background information on "Project Daedalus":

Project Daedalus – Interstellar Mission – Sourced from here.

Daedalus Interstellar Probe

Daedalus Interstellar Probe – image copyright Adrian Mann[not included]

This was a thirteen member volunteer engineering design study conducted between 1973 and 1978, to demonstrate that Interstellar travel is feasible in theory. The project related to the Fermi Paradox first postulated by the Italian Physicist Enrico Fermi in the 1940s. This supposes that there has been plenty of time for intelligent civilizations to interact within our galaxy when one examines the age and number of stars, as well as the distances between them. Yet, the fact that extra-terrestrial intelligence has never been observed leads to a logical paradox where our observations are inconsistent with our theoretical expectation. This original question from Fermi seemed to also reinforce the prevailing paradigm at the time that interstellar travel was impossible. Project Daedalus was a bold way to examine the Fermi Paradox head on and gave a partial answer – interstellar travel is possible. The basis of this belief was the demonstration of a credible engineering design just at the outset of the space age that could in theory, cross the interstellar distances. In the future scientific advancement would lead to a refined and more efficient design. The absence of alien visitors would therefore require a different explanation because Project Daedalus demonstrated that with current, and near future, technology, interstellar travel is feasible. Therefore, another solution to the absence of extra-terrestrial visitation was necessary.

There were three stated goals for Project Daedalus:

    (1) The spacecraft must use current or near-future technology
    (2) The spacecraft must reach its destination within a working human lifetime
    (3)The spacecraft must be designed to allow for a variety of target stars. The final design solution was published in a special supplement of the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society in 1978.

The two-stage engine configuration was powered by inertial confinement fusion using deuterium and helium-3 pellets. Electron beam diodes positioned around the base of the engine exhaust would impinge on the pellets and ignite them to produce large energy gain, at a rate of 250 detonations per second. This would continue for a boost phase lasting over 3.8 years followed by a cruise phase lasting 46 years and travelling at over 12% of the speed of light until the 450 tons science probe would finally reach its destination of the Barnard’s Star system 5.9 light years away, which it would transit in a matter of days due to its flyby nature.
Daedalus Interstellar Probe compared with Saturn V Moon rocket

Daedalus Interstellar Probe compared with Saturn V Moon rocket – image copyright Adrian Mann

In the final study reports all of the main vehicle systems were considered including the structure, communications, navigation and the deployment of mitigation sub-systems to deal with the bombardment of interstellar dust. The pedigree for Project Daedalus derives directly from 1950-1960s Project Orion, a vehicle that used Atomic and Hydrogen bombs to propel the spacecraft. The main issue with Orion however was the existence of several nuclear test ban treaties which forbid the use or testing of such technology. Project Daedalus proposed to shrink this technology down to the size of pocket coins but still take advantage of the enormous energy release from a fusion based fuel.

The Project Daedalus study was primarily led by Alan Bond, Tony Martin and Bob Parkinson and even today the study distinguishes itself from all other studies as the most complete engineering study ever undertaken for an interstellar probe. Even if Daedalus is not the template for how our robotic ambassadors will someday reach the distant stars, at the very least it will be a crucial part of the journey for getting to that first launch. Rigorous engineering assessments are the only way to provide reliable information on what is possible today or in the near-future.

Source: Here

The Daedalus Future – Stephen Baxter, 11/11/13 – Sourced from here.


This paper explores the future society assumed by the Project Daedalus team as background to the building of their starship.

The plausibility of Project Icarus – like Daedalus before it – will depend to some extent on the plausibility of an imagined future society that might have the capability and will, socially, economically and technically, to mount such a project. In their introductory essay in the Daedalus final report ([1] ppS5-S7), Bond and Martin noted that ‘Without such a background the results of the study would probably be naive, and would certainly be incorrect’ (pS6).

The Daedalus project was inspired by the propulsion system choice, so the team had to envisage a society that would naturally support a pulse-fusion starship using He3 as fuel. The team drew on precursor work such as Parkinson’s papers [2] [3] [4] on the nature of a society on the brink of interstellar flight, and as Daedalus progressed it became possible for the team to envisage such a society more clearly, a society defined not just by what the team imagined it would be capable of but also by what it would not be capable of.

But what kind of society was this?

The sketch by Bill Dillon included in the final report (pS4), of the construction of Daedalus at Callisto, gives some indication. Along with an array of specialised craft surrounding the immense bulk of Daedalus itself, we glimpse a wheel-in-space habitat and an astronaut performing an EVA. This is evidently a society capable of mounting a manned construction operation on a massive scale above a moon of Jupiter – and has the will to devote such resources to the peaceful end of scientific exploration.

The purpose of this brief review is to summarise the ‘Daedalus future’ as specifically as possible, as depicted by clues and assumptions spread throughout the report. The hope is that this review will help us more clearly to imagine the assumed ‘Icarus future’ that will underpin the plausibility of our own starship.

Earth and the Solar System

Bond and Martin, in their introduction to the Daedalus report (ppS5-7), described a future Earth that was populous and energy-hungry. Against a background projected from the then-current ‘world energy crisis’, they predicted a demand for future energy sources of ‘minimal impact on the environment of Earth, which will by then be required to house about 1010 people’ (pS6).

What could such sources be? Bond and Martin noted the ‘apparent disadvantages’ then associated with nuclear fission (pS6). But the team did not envisage capabilities much beyond fusion. In their essays on the propulsion system, Martin and Bond said: ‘It is generally hoped that magnetic fusion reactors . . . will be operational . . . before the end of the century’. But producing antimatter for example was seen as requiring ‘large extrapolations of modern-day capabilities’ (pS45).

As for the fusion fuel choice, Martin and Bond go on to suggest a reliance on He3 because of its “cleanness”: ‘The deuterium-helium 3 reaction . . . [is] at present the only “clean” fusion reaction which can seriously be considered for application in reactors, from the point of view of achievable containment conditions and temperatures’ (pS7).

In his essay on propellant acquisition for Daedalus (ppS83-S89), notably the 30,000 tonnes of He3 required, Parkinson backed up this conclusion. With He3 impossibly scarce on Earth – the 1970s estimate of availability from various natural sources was one part in 104 to one part in 107 (pS83) – one option would be to breed the fuel load in ground-based fusion reactors, using either a D-D or D-T reaction. To produce the fuel at a rate of 1500 tons a year for 20 years (the team’s target timescale), either route would require power levels at multiples of Earth’s total present-day output, as well as consuming heroic quantities of other fuels and creating vast amounts of waste. Parkinson opined that a society capable of devoting such resources to a starship might find some other propulsion method easier, such as a laser-powered photon sail. Besides, a fusion-based society would be motivated to use any He3 available in a ‘clean reactor network’ on Earth (pS84).

Therefore, said Parkinson, the tapping of extraterrestrial sources of He3 ‘becomes a logical supply of propellant not simply for Daedalus but for mankind’ (pS84). Bond and Martin estimated that an import of 1000 tons of He3 per year from extraterrestrial sources could supply the world’s energy at 1970s levels; presumably more would be required for the more populous world of the future. And ‘the provision of the fuel for a starship may be merely an upgrading of this level of activity’ (pS7), a sensible projection if the 1500 tons per year for Daedalus is accepted.

The society of the future then would be populous, energy-rich, environmentally conscious, and connected to an interplanetary web of resource extraction and transportation, just as Earth is globally interconnected today: ‘That community will already be employing nuclear pulse rockets for space flight, and will probably be transporting helium 3 from the outer planets to the inner planets on a routine basis’ (pS7).

To build a starship would however require political will, and peace: ‘It seems probable that a Solar System wide culture making use of all its resources would easily be wealthy enough to afford such an undertaking [as Daedalus], and presumably in order to have reached the stage of extensive interplanetary flight would also have achieved reasonable political stability, and an acceptance of this new environment’ (pS7).

The sketched future scenario was in the end quite specific: ‘In summary, then, we envisage Daedalus-type vehicles being built by a wealthy (compared to the present day) Solar System wide community, probably sometime in the latter part of the 21st century’ (my italics) (pS7).

But people would still be people. In their essay on the mission profile ([1] ppS37-S42), Bond and Martin assume in passing that the mankind of the future era of the launch date will be much the same as today, with a ‘useful working life of about 40 years’ (pS38).

Space Operations

An interplanetary society this might be, but Parfitt and White in their paper on structural material selection (ppS97-S103) assumed that most materials for spacecraft and spaceborne structures, including Daedalus, would come from the Earth-moon system. For reasons of economy their choice of materials for Daedalus therefore concentrated on those most abundant on Earth, such as aluminium, ‘even if this imposes a small mass penalty’ (pS99).

In-space construction techniques were assumed by Strong and Bond in their paper on the vehicle configuration (ppS90-96); because Daedalus would not have to withstand the rigours of a planetary launch (and because the ship’s acceleration would be low), the main systems could be hung from a ‘slender structural spine’ (pS90). Bond and Martin sketched the construction programme: ‘The vehicle would be assembled in the inner Solar System, the exact location depending on where the manufacturing complexes may be located at that time. It would be fuelled either in Lunar or Jovian orbit depending on the source of helium 3. During preceding years several engineering mock-up and flight test vehicles would have been flown in an extensive test programme to develop system reliability to the required level’ (pS40). In his paper on navigation (ppS143-8) Richards suggested a full-scale rehearsal flight through the solar system (pS143).

As for other structures in space, in their paper on communications (ppS163-171) Lawton and Wright envisaged ‘the use of a very large array (VLA) “Cyclops” type system as the receiving antenna for the radio link. This can be either sited on Earth itself or (preferably) in space but in the vicinity of Earth’ (pS165). Indeed, it was anticipated that such arrays might be in operation for other purposes by the time Daedalus was launched. Cyclops [5] had been a 1972 study by NASA advocating an array of 1000 radio telescopes 10 miles across for the purposes of SETI.

Parkinson however ruled out very much larger structures. In his essay on propellant acquisition for Daedalus (ppS83-S89) Parkinson considered mining the solar wind for He3, but the number density of He3 nuclei in the solar wind is such that ‘to capture the propellant requirement in 20 years would require a cross-section of some 1011 km2 – or a circle 30 times the diameter of the Earth. Even allowing for large numbers of collecting units operating close to the Sun, it is difficult to imagine the individual collecting units having diameters less than thousands of kilometres’ (pS84). Parkinson remarks that a society capable of handling magnetic fields on this scale could well prefer alternative propulsion schemes.

Similarly an interstellar ramjet, which would require the control of electric and magnetic fields over very large length scales, was considered ‘not within a reasonable extrapolation of modern technology’ (pS45) by Bond and Martin in their notes on the choice of propulsion system.

The main space operation described was of course propellant acquisition. In his paper on the topic (ppS83-89) Parkinson speculated on specific sources of extraterrestrial He3. Mining Titan’s atmosphere might be relatively straightforward: ‘The extraction plant would not be mass-limited, and manned operation would ensure fairly continuous operation. In addition the escape velocity is low and transport costs would be minimal’ (pS89). However the available resource on Titan was probably limited; ‘one starship-load would take away 0.1% of the total available’.

Parkinson settled on mining Jupiter’s atmosphere, envisaging 128 ‘aerostat’ extraction factories, each weighing 130t, operating for 20 years in the Jovian atmosphere, with a power expenditure of ~500MW. Parkinson briefly speculated on the operational requirements of this spectacular venture (pS89): ‘Jupiter’s radiation belts make manned operations difficult within the satellite system, and so it is expected that most of the operation will be unmanned. Callisto, which appears to be outside the hazardous radiation zone, could be used as a base camp, and if manned operations have to be conducted in an orbit at the fringes of the Jovian atmosphere a well-shielded “transfer station” might be placed in an elliptical orbit between Callisto and the minimum altitude orbit.’


Artificial intelligence was seen as key to the success of Daedalus. Grant, in his paper on Daedalus’s computer systems (ppS130-142), gave a clear description of the requirements of those systems, including systems control, data management, navigation, and fault detection and rectification. All this would be beyond the influence of ground control, and so ‘the computers must play the role of captain and crew of the starship; without them the mission is impossible’ (pS130).

In his paper on reliability and repair (ppS172-179) Grant pointed out that Daedalus would have to survive ‘for up to 60 years with gross events such as boost, mid-course corrections and planetary probe insertions occurring during its lifetime’ (pS172). A projection of modern reliability figures indicated that a strategy of component redundancy and replacement would not be sufficient; Daedalus would not be feasible without on-board repair facilities (pS176). AI would be used in the provision of these facilities, partly through the use of mobile ‘wardens’ capable of manipulation.

A high degree of artificial intelligence was also a key assumption for Webb in his discussions of payload design for Daedalus (ppS149-161). Because the confirmation of the position and nature of any planets at the target system might come only weeks before the encounter (ppS153-S154), it would be the task of the onboard computer systems to optimise the deployment of the subprobes and backup probes.

In addition, during the cruise the wardens could construct such additional instruments as ‘temporary (because of erosion) radio telescopes many kilometres across from only a few kilograms of conducting thread’ (pS154), and even rebuild or manufacture equipment afresh after receipt of updated instructions from Earth (pS156). One intriguing possibility was a response to the detection of intelligent life in the target system, in which case ‘the possibility of adjusting the configuration of the vehicle for the purposes of CETI (Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence) in the post-encounter phase should always be borne in mind’ (pS151).

Grant foresaw the continuing miniaturisation of hardware, as was already evident in the 1970s, and envisaged Daedalus being equipped with hierarchies of ‘picocomputers’ (pS132). The design of the controlling artificial intelligence could only be sketched; it would have to be capable of ‘adaptive learning and flexible goal seeking’, which would necessitate ‘heuristic qualities’ beyond the merely logical (pS131). Grant imagined the system being capable of in-flight software development – indeed, Grant speculated that pre-launch Daedalus, given a general design by a human team, would be able to write most of its own software! (pS141).

This theme of humans working in partnership with smart machines is evident elsewhere. Parkinson (pS89), describing the Jupiter atmospheric mining operation, noted that ‘The degree of autonomy demanded of unmanned components in the system is illustrated by the fact that the delay time of communications between Callisto and a station within the Jovian atmosphere will be about 12 seconds.’


Summarising the Daedalus future, Parkinson argued that ‘[An] undertaking on the scale of Daedalus fits naturally into the context of a Solar System wide society making intelligent use of its resources, rather than a heroic effort on the part of a planet-based society’ (pS89). That society would evidently be capable of massive manned operations conducted at Jupiter, but would be limited to fusion as a power source, would not yet be capable for instance of building gigantic structures to harvest He3 from the solar wind, and would be suffused with artificial intelligences working mostly in partnership with humans. The fuel required for Daedalus would represent a sizeable increase in the extraction effort already extant at Jupiter to satisfy the terrestrial energy demand, but not the establishment of an entirely new capability, and not an increase in capacity of orders of magnitude.

The Daedalus assumptions have of course been extensively revisited, in internal Icarus discussions and elsewhere. Forty years on it does seem unlikely that the Daedalus future will come to pass ‘sometime in the latter part of the 21st century’. Recently Zubrin [6] has sketched a developed solar system with fuel transportation networks on an interplanetary scale, and Hein et al [7] tested the assumptions behind the use of interplanetary sources of He3. Parkinson meanwhile [8] revisited the idea of using He3-powered pulse-fusion rockets for interplanetary transport.

These retrospective considerations are however irrelevant to the success of Project Daedalus in its time. The ‘Daedalus future’, the social and economic basis the team assumed would be in place to support their interstellar mission, was logical, reasonable as a projection from the time the report was written, internally consistent, an essential underpinning to the feasibility of the report, and a model for our work on Icarus.


[1]        A. Bond et al, Project Daedalus Final Report, British Interplanetary Society, 1978.
[2]        R.C. Parkinson, ‘The Starship as Third Generation Technology’, JBIS 27, pp295ff, 1974.
[3]        R.C. Parkinson, ‘The Starship as an Exercise in Economics’, JBIS 27, pp692ff, 1974.
[4]        R.C. Parkinson, ‘The Starship as a Philosophical Vehicle’, JBIS 28, pp745ff, 1975.
[5]        J. Billingham et al, ‘Project Cyclops: A Design Study of a System for Detecting Extraterrestrial Intelligent Life’, NASA Ames, report CR114445, 1972.
[6]        R. Zubrin, ‘On the Way to Starflight: Economics of Interstellar Breakout’, in Starship Century, eds. J. and G. Benford, Microwave Sciences, 2013.
[7]        A. Hein, A. Tziolas and A. Crowl, ‘Architecture Development for Atmospheric Helium 3 Mining of the Outer Solar System Gas Planets for Space Exploration and Power Generation,’ IAC-10-D4.2.6, 2010.
[8]        R. Parkinson, ‘Using Daedalus for Local Transport’, JBIS 62 pp422-426, 2009.

See other early Space Teleoperators here.

See other early Lunar and Space Robots here.

1960 – Space Manipulators – General Mills (American)

Donald F. Melton

Remote-handling systems can be defined as combinations of equipment the primary purpose of which is to move items relative to each other in a controlled environment. The system is includes not only the actuators and structures required for the physical tasks to be performed, but also in viewing, sensing, control, and power systems necessary for operation. In a broad sense, this definition includes the overall vehicle system.
There undoubtedly well be complete space vehicles devoted entirely to remote-handling missions. In a more limited sense, the remote-handling system will be a subsystem integrated into  the overall system in terms of power supply, communication and control links, and compatible configuration.
The items to be handled may be separable remotely from the handling equipment — as, for example, a powered tool-or may be permantly attached to it-for example, an integrated television camera.
Remote can be considered to be any location beyond the human operator’s reach. Remote-handling required where the operational environment is not suitable for occupancy or when the objects to be handled and the distance they are to be moved are beyond the force and reach capabilities of a man.
The environmental conditions in space, as well as on the moon and most, if not all, of the planets,
are such as to make direct human contact impossible. Remote-handling equipment will be required.
The potential applications for remmoe-handling equipment in space are many, and can be said to include any of the manipulative tasks done directly by a person under normal conditions.
A listing of specific space tasks would be long and would be incomplete within a short time, as new missions are determined. Instead of this detail listing, the work tasks normally done by a person’s arm and hand, which will probably be performed by remote-handling systems in space (see figures 1,2, and 3), can be categorized basically into:
a. Grasping and holding— e.g., grasping and holding one space vehicle from another (figure 1)
b. Transferring -e.g., transferring a power supply from a support vehicle to an operational vehicle (figure 2)
c. Orienting -e.g., orienting a television camera to view an approaching object (figure 2)
d. Guiding —e.g.. guiding a cutting device to gain entry into another object (figure 2)
e. Applying of forces and torques—e.g., applylng a force to insert or pull shear pins, or a torque to tighten or loosen bolts in the orbital assembly of a space station (figure 1)
f. Sensing of forces, temperature, roughness, hardness, etc. —e.g., sensing the hardness of a foreign object by means of a manipulator-held sensing device (figure 1)

The design considerations important to remote-handling equipment for use in space include careful analyses of and provision for the environmental conditions to be met in space as well as during prelaunch and launch conditions.
The temperature at which the equipment will operate in space is determined by the radiation balance of the equipment, the vehicle on which it is mounted, the sun, and any other mass close enough and with sufficient temperature difference to be significant, as well as any heat generated within the equipment. “Hot” and “cold” radiation zones in the spherical angle surrounding the equipment can be used to advantage. Selective coating of the external surfaces can be used to control the internal temperature. Lunar- or planet-based operation imposes a more severe problem than in space because of the strong ground effect.
A directed or collimated thermal antenna can be of value in selecting desirable radiation zones. Thermal insulation is advantageous in reducing fluctuations in temperature as the radiation field changes.
With existing high- and low-temperature components and materials, and with proper design for temperature regulation, satisfactory operation can be obtained. In special cases, materials can be selected to operate satisfactorily without special temperature-control devices.
The high-vacuum operation encountered poses a considerable design problem in providing suitable bearings and mechanisms and the lubrication for them. Three approaches to this problem are: (a) to seal the housings in which the bearings and mechanisms are contained to enable conventional lubricants to be used, (b) to use low vapor-pressure lubricants which will operate in the vacuum for the required time, and (c) to use bearings and mechanisms that require no lubricants.
High-Energy Radiation
The radiation levels as established to date do not pose serious problems.
Micrometeorite Collision
The impact and erosion levels do not appear serious. The change in emissivity of surfaces used for temperature control, due to erosion, can be anticipated and provided for.

The reliability requirement is of prime importance and is best obtained by basic simplicity. Complex designs must be avoided.
Weight and Efficiency
Because of the high cost per pound of placing a system in space, the weight must be a minimum commensurate with the high reliability required. The power required to operate the remote-handling equipment, and therefore chargeable to it, can be expressed in terms of weight, either as pounds per watt-hour in the case of energy-storing or fuel-consuming devices, or as pounds per watt-hour for regenerative supplies such as solar cells. High efficiency throughout is required to minimize the power-weight requirement.

Source: “Survey of Remote Handling in Space”, D. Frederick Baker,  USAF, 1962

In the 1950’s, General Mills, yes, the American breakfast food and cereal company, built materials handling equipment. Their success and novel designs led them to build remote-handling manipulators for the then new nuclear industry. Some senior engineers spun off this division to become Programmed and Remote Systems (PaR Systems). Their success and expertise was such that they were invited to propose space manipulators.   I will later add some posts on Gen Mills and PaR Systems regarding their still successful line of remote-handling manipulator arms.

Trivia: Image in figure 2 above seems to have been borrowed from an illustration from the children’s book “Space Flight The Coming Exploration of the Universe”, published by Golden Press, New York, 1959 seen down the bottom of this post here.

See other early Teleoperators here.

See other early Lunar and Space Robots here.

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1964 – SCHMOO Unmanned Space Repair Craft – Lockheed Company (American)

Space Schmoo . . . If you're a collector of acronyms (initials that make words) here's a beaut: Schmoo (for Space Cargo Handler and Manipulator for Orbital Operations). It's a vehicle that was designed by Lockheed Missiles & Space Co.

Caption: This is the age of monsters in space also. A four-armed SCHMOO approaches a nuclear-powered Snap vehicle in this artist's concept by Lockheed Missiles and Space company of Sunnyvale. Such an unmanned repair craft will be needed to service other spacecraft, particularly those using fuel dangerous to man, according to Lockheed, producer of the Polaris missile and the Agena satellite. A space station, shown in the background – with a planet further distant would be the mother ship for the remotely controlled SCHMOO. Repairs to a spacecraft would be done with the aid of a television camera on the SCHMOO.

Sunnyvale, Calif. – When a space station needs to haul aboard fuel or other supplies . . . when it wants to make repairs to another spacecraft . . . when it wants to clear the area of dead satellite! . . . How will It do It? Scientists and engineers at Lockheed Missiles & Space Co. today announced plans for a fix-it and do-everything vehicle which could be sent out from the space station and be controlled remotely by radio and television. With apologies to comic strip artist Al Capp, this Space Cargo Handler and Manipulator for Orbital Operations is called SCHMOO for short. Like Al Capp's character, spelled Shmoo, the Lockheed SCHMOO would be a pear-shaped creature, though somewhat larger – 15 feet wide, 18 feet long and 12 feet high. It would have four mechanical arms with hands capable of doing anything from tugging a vehicle to the mother space station, to replacing a black box of electronic equipment. The SCHMOO is a serious concept which, in the opinion of its three principal designers, Charles E. Vivian, William H. Wilkins and Louis L. Haas, can perform many difficult tasks which await the occupants of space stations. SCHMOO can be designed also to be controlled from the earth. A repair and service vehicle which does not carry a human operator and which can be controlled remotely has certain advantages. Handling nuclear vehicles, for instance. Suppose the space station occupants want to make repairs to a nuclear powered neighbor. First of all, the space station would want to stay at a safe distance. And to send a man to the nuclear vehicle would require him to be heavily shielded in a repair vehicle, still at some risk to him. The remotely controlled repair vehicle, however, could perform the task miles from the space station. Use of cryogenic (super cold) fuels, such as liquid hydrogen at 423 degrees F. below zero, will become more and more common with spacecraft. Handling of such fuels, however is hazardous to human beings. Suppose that cryogenic fuel is stored in a orbiting tanker, and that the space station is given the task of transferring some of this tricky fuel to another spacecraft. The remotely controlled SCHMOO could do the job. As conceived by Lockheed, two of the mechanical arms would be for grasping the object in space, and the other two highly articulated arms would be for performing more intricate and delicate tasks. The SCHMOO would be propelled by two engines, and would be equipped with 16 "microthrust" engines for attitude and position control of the vehicle. Floodlights mounted on the aluminum body of the SCHMOO would illuminate the area of the target vehicle with which the SCHMOO was concerning  itself. Clear viewing by the operators located in the space station would be provided by a three-dimensional color TV system and a two-dimensional TV system, both mounted on the manipulating vehicle. Electrical power would be supplied by fuel cells, and the  designers have even thought of a tool bit in which the mechanical genie would store its wrenches and other working devices. Considerable attention has been devoted to design of the manipulator systems. The manipulators would be more versatile and stronger than human hands. Moreover, to assist in dexterity and handling capability, the SCHMOO designers propose a computer system which will translate into action many of the operator's desires.
In more detail, what are some of the envisioned uses of the Space Cargo Handler and Manipulator for Orbital Operations? Here are some excerpts from the report prepared by the Lockheed designers: Space Tug Operations: There is no doubt that future space stations of any appreciable size will be assembled in space from forms or materials placed in parking orbits by multiple-launch operations . . . space tugs or tractors will have to be developed (to assemble these parts) … The SCHMOO has this capability and can operate in space before or after astronauts arrive on location. Cargo Handling: Extended space missions will require  import of food and supplies at various times by means of ground launches . . . The SCHMOO can either bring the  cargo vehicle to the space station for unloading or go to the cargo vehicle, unload the required supplies, and return to the space station with only the amount for which storage space is available in the station. Refueling: The logistics of fuel supply for extra-terrestrial missions will impose the requirement for fuel tankers in parking orbit. The SCHMOO can either take the spacecraft to the fuel tanker or take the tanker to the spacecraft. The SCHMOO will use its manipulators to position both vehicles, connect the required transfer lines, and transfer the fuel. Service and Maintenance of Orbiting Equipment: The SCHMOO can investigate meteoroid damage, replace components, patch holes caused by meteoroids, change batteries, exchange electronic components, and so on.
  Rescue:  At least smoe aspects of the over-all safety program (in space operations) will require the capability to rescue an astronaut who has experienced an accident. A case in point would occur when an astronaut in his space suit working in free space loses his hold, or his lifeline to the station, or his ability to maneuver with his self-contained propulsion system. The SCHMOO would stand ready to retrieve the astronaut and return him to the space station. Checkout: (For checking out the equipment on a satellite or other spacecraft) SCHMOO can transport and attach a separate pod which will include stimuli, pressurization equipment, additional telemetry, and command equipment for remote control from either a manned satellite or Earth. In addition, this pod could include a complete checkout computer to control all checkout necessary to test and evaluate flight equipment. Scavenger Operations: Today there are more than 250 satellites, boosters, and parts of boosters orbiting the earth . . . the amount of junk remaining in orbit . . . eventually will constitute at least a nuisance if not a hazard to subsequent operations (SCHMOO will be able) to track down and remove any objects located within the region of operations and posing a threat to the successful out come of a space mission. . . The method of accomplishment basically will involve destroying an object's orbiting capability by slowing it down sufficiently to enter a destructive orbit burnup will follow as it enters the earth's atmosphere.

Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel, Oct 14, 1964, "SCHMOO The Space Age's Mr. Fixit",  By Cecily Browntone AP


   The SCHMOO system was described to the 1964 proceedings of the 12th Conference on Remote Systems Technology as an unmanned vehicle capable of performing operations on a remote hostile spacecraft (i.e., a nuclear power type) while being controlled from an earth or orbiting base station (Vivian, 1964).

   The SCHMOO, as shown in Figure 5-19, is an oblate spheroid with a width of 15 feet, length of 18 feet, and height of 12 feet. Its dry weight is approximately 7,500 pounds, and-its wet weight is 11,300 pounds.

Subsystem Description
Translation/Stabilization/Control Subsystem
Propulsion – This system consists of two pressure-fed hypergolic, bi-propellant reaction jets, each capable of delivering 200 pounds of thrust.
Attitude Control Propulsion – The attitude control system utilizes the same propellants as the propulsion units. It has 16 thrusters clustered in groups of four which provide the attitude and control. Their levels range from 1/2 to 1 pound.
Control – The control system for SCHMOO is comprised of two independent but cooperative subsystems. One is a computer-controlled guidance and attitude control system. It used a precision narrow beam (1 degree) radar in conjunction with the three-dimensional television monitor for locating the target vehicle, determining closure trajectory, closing, and attaching SCHMOO to the target vehicle. The computer is located on-board to reduce the number of communication channels required to operate SCHMOO.

 The other control subsystem, which uses the same computer as used in guidance, is concerned with the operation of the manipulators. The manipulator control is a digital position differential system with a position control and monitoring accuracy of 0.1 percent. It has a rate application, within mechanical system limits, proportional to the error differential.

Actuator Subsystem

 The vehicle is equipped with four articulated manipulator arms. Two arms are located on the lower  portion of the vehicle and are used for docking and stabilizing the vehicle at the worksite. The other two provide the manipulative capability. The SCHMOO arms are patterned after the General Mills Model 500 manipulators. A description of the arms is given in Table 5-5.

Visual Comminications Video

 The SCHMOO is equipped with two complete, independent television systems which provide both visual monitoring of the final stages of approach to a target and observation of the tasks performed by the manipulators. One has three-dimensional color transmission with two camera pods mounted on opposite sides of the radar tracking antenna and interconnected so that adjustment of focal length automatically adjusts parallax.
The second system employs two independent two-dimensional black-and-white camera pods located on the "backs" of the manipulator hands for direct monitoring of the hands; this system also can be used as a backup for the three-dimensional color system without automatic parallax control.

See other early Teleoperators here.

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1961 – Orbital Space Tug – General Electric (American)

GE Orbital Space Tug

The General Electric Company has been active in the manipulator and remote-handling equipment fields for several years. primarily in connection with its nuclear laboratories and test facilities. The application of remote-handling equipment to operations in space and lunar situations is a logical extension the work in remote handling. Remote handling will play a definite role in the exploration of space. Investigations of remote-handling equipment for space operations have indicated that considerable research and development work will be required to produce functional remote-handling systems capable of performing the necessary tasks in space.
A great deal of material has been written about the hazardous nature of the space environment, which precludes the necessity of discussing the reason for remote handling in space. Remote-handling equipment should and will be used wherever possible to eliminate the necessity for directly exposing man to space. Normally, the first approach to design for remote handling for earthbound situations is to avoid it whenever possible. The opposite approach, to make maximum use of remote-handling design principles in designing space vehicles and equipment, may well be required.
The remote-handling equipment still require new design approaches of a revolutionary rather than evolutionary nature.
Many tasks in space may have to be performed by remote-handling equipment. In the near earth orbital region, which ranges roughly from 400 to 600 miles above the earth, there are many proposed programs for satellites, manned vehicles, and space stations which will require utilization of manipulators and remote-handling equipment. Such tasks as assembling and disassembling, loading and unloading. inspecting, testing, handling, checkout, and servicing can be performed by remote means. Remote equipment will undoubtedly play an an part in the maintenance of satellites and space stations (see figure 1). Manipulators might be used as a device for grappling, docking, and mating between vehicles or subassembly sections. Several conceptual vehicles for orbital operations, such as the popular space tug have included manipulators as an integral part of their design.

The broad area of lunar missions will include many applications for remote-handling equipment. In addition to the tasks already mentioned, exploration, sampling,  and experimentation might be performed remotely. The construction and servicing of lunar base facilities,  particularly nuclear power systems, may well be handled by remote equipment. A simple, compact, highty dextrous manipulator may be required as an integral part of a space suit to overcome the problem of the gloved hand and to provide a space-suited man with some semblance of manual dexterity. Wheeled or tracked vehicles capable of lunar surface mobility will use remote-handling equipment to perform a variety of functions (see figure 2). As the conquest of space moves from exploration through economic development to mature economic operation, the projected advances in the state-of-the-art of remote-handling equipment dictate that much equipment will be used to an ever-increasing extent in space.
There are, of course, many problem areas associated with the design and development of remote-handling systems for space applications. A rather detailed analysis of the remote-handling tasks for each specific mission will be required. The problems of force feedback and tactile perception are important in terms of the information furnished to the operator of remote-handling equipment and manipulators, as well as the "body image" and "frame of reference" problems. The competent operation of remote-handling equipment is heavily dependent upon visual access. Should this access be remote or direct using optical or television techniques? The areas of output control, control transducers, and control actuation requires considerable study. Present control actuation methods for manipulators do not appear operable in the space environment. Pneumatic or hot gas actuation systems seem to hold promise for application to manipulators. Similarly, the results of concurrent work in the fields of materials, structures, mechanisms, bearings, and seals for space vehicles and equipment will have to be implemented. Special effort may be required in these areas to solve problems peculiar to remote-handling equipment. Early recognition and definition of all these problem areas are instrumental to development work for space remote-handling systems. Basic research will undoubtedly be required in many of these areas.

Many general design characteristics of manipulators and associated equipment are already apparent. Early space manipulators are expected to be simple with somewhat limited dexterity and force reflection capability. They will be capable of simple, basic movements and operations. The relative simplicity of these early models will necessarily be due to problems with such items as materials, bearings, seals, and control actuation. Also, the size and weight of equipment associated with manipulators, particularly electrically controlled manipulators, limit the complexity and dexterity of these early systems since there is a limit to early booster payload capability. Early remote manipulators will probably be used to position, locate, and place in operation special, self self-contained automatic mechanisms or programmed machines capable of specific operations as required by the specific mission in order to provide the overall remote-handling ssytem capabilitys A new approach to the design of this equipment is required using previous designs and configurations are guide lines rather than as first approximations. The established philosophy of designing vehicles and equipment to be handled or operated on by remote means so as to augment the remote-handling equipment itself will have to be used to a very great extent. This includes consideration of such things as grasping points, register points, orientation indicators, and pilot pins.
As advances are made in the many technologies used in remote handling, equipment will become more complex and capable of a greater variety of operations. The role which remote handling plays in space can be a large and vital one. Just how large depends upon how much timely develupment work can be started to make equipment available when the need for it arises. Careful planning and study, along with the early initiation of development programs, will insure the future of remote-handling equipment in space.

Source: "Survey of Remote Handling in Space", D. Frederick Baker,  USAF, 1962

See other early Teleoperators here.

See other early Lunar and Space Robots here.