AstroPorter is a suite of software that enables collaborative behavior between multiple robots in space, including algorithms for handling changes in mass properties of free-flying systems as they collaborate in the transport of cargo.
Once it is approved for testing on the ISS, the AstroPorter software will be uploaded onto the Astrobee free-flier robots and perform a series of tests, including some twists and turns. This “dance” will enable the AstroPorter algorithms to compare Astrobee’s expected behavior to its actual behavior to precisely calculate the mass properties of payloads or grasped objects. AstroPorter will also be utilized to enable collaboration between multiple robotic systems on the station, such as passing an object between Astrobee units or to a robotic arm for integration into an EXPRESS Rack Locker.
The addition of AstroPorter to the IPL marks a significant milestone, as it begins the process of final flight preparation. This will include assigning a NASA Payload Integration Manager (PIM), scheduling pre-flight safety reviews, and ground testing at NASA facilities. TUI expects AstroPorter could be demonstrated on orbit as soon as mid-2021.
“This is an exciting step for TUI and the in-space services industry,” stated Dr. Nathan Britton, TUI’s principal investigator for the project. “AstroPorter advances critical capabilities for enabling on-orbit robotic servicing and assembly operations, both for space station logistics in systems like Astrobee, as well as for intelligent robotic EVA systems. We are building the foundation of the next generation of robotic spacecraft.”