The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Robots Aboard the International Space Station

NASA shares this video update on SPHERES and Robonaut 2 aboard the ISS

1 min read
Robots Aboard the International Space Station

NASA's doing a good job of keeping the International Space Station well-stocked with robots just in case there's a surprise alien invasion. Robonaut 2 is up there, along with a pack/fleet/swarm/assemblage of SPHERES robots. NASA's Ames Research Center, Johnson Space Center, and MIT have put together a little vid to keep us all up to date with their on-orbit robot happenings and how they plan to give Robonaut his own personal spaceship rear-attachment.

I love the idea of turning SPHERES into little space-Roombas that take sensor readings instead of snuffling up dirt, but from an outside perspective, it's a little bit frustrating that this is all taking so long to implement. I recognize that all of these robots are up in freakin' outer space so things can't be rushed, but Robonaut 2 was launched just over a year ago and SPHERES have been aboard the ISS for over five years. The astronauts are super busy, I'm sure, but as the video says, the point of having robots up there is to offload as much of the boring work as possible from the humans, and the sooner we can make that happen, the more time we'll end up saving in the long run and the more science we'll be able to accomplish overall.

Via [ NASA ]

The Conversation (0)

Economics Drives Ray-Gun Resurgence

Laser weapons, cheaper by the shot, should work well against drones and cruise missiles

4 min read
In an artist’s rendering, a truck is shown with five sets of wheels—two sets for the cab, the rest for the trailer—and a box on the top of the trailer, from which a red ray is projected on an angle, upward, ending in the silhouette of an airplane, which is being destroyed

Lockheed Martin's laser packs up to 300 kilowatts—enough to fry a drone or a plane.

Lockheed Martin

The technical challenge of missile defense has been compared with that of hitting a bullet with a bullet. Then there is the still tougher economic challenge of using an expensive interceptor to kill a cheaper target—like hitting a lead bullet with a golden one.

Maybe trouble and money could be saved by shooting down such targets with a laser. Once the system was designed, built, and paid for, the cost per shot would be low. Such considerations led planners at the Pentagon to seek a solution from Lockheed Martin, which has just delivered a 300-kilowatt laser to the U.S. Army. The new weapon combines the output of a large bundle of fiber lasers of varying frequencies to form a single beam of white light. This laser has been undergoing tests in the lab, and it should see its first field trials sometime in 2023. General Atomics, a military contractor in San Diego, is also developing a laser of this power for the Army based on what’s known as the distributed-gain design, which has a single aperture.

Keep Reading ↓Show less