Robot bee "Bumble" - the first test flight inside the ISS

    The Astrobee autonomous flying wireless small-sized robot cube "Bumble" began to undergo flight tests onboard the ISS.

    2019 is the year of robots on the ISS. FEDOR hasn’t arrived yet, but already the combat tests of the robots of the Astrobee project have already begun.

    Two robots are already at the station - these are Bumble and Honey, and in July the third robot, Queen, is expected to arrive on the ISS.

    Their names are not so easily associated with miniature and have a "bee" disposition.

    These are service small autonomous robots specially designed to work in zero gravity inside the ISS modules, designed and created by NASA at the Ames research center , which should bee as part of routine space tasks and free the ISS crew from simple but frequent actions.

    Thus, the Astrobee project is a free-flying system of a complex of robots, the main purpose of which is to test small-sized automated platforms in zero gravity conditions with the receipt and analysis of data in real conditions and the possibility of further upgrading and improving the software and functions of robots to perform current and new tasks on the ISS.

    Characteristics of the robots of the Astrobee project:

    - the size of one robot is 30x30x30 centimeters (1x1x1 foot);

    - the robot body is covered with soft material to minimize possible damage when it hits an object or element on the ISS;

    - part of the faces of the robot is designed to work with small loads, there is even a system for capturing and fixing objects with a folding manipulator so that the robot can hold and safely move an object from one end of the station to the other, with the help of this capture the robot can fix its position when necessary, catching on handrails or other elements of the ISS;

    - robots have a separate external charging station, which serves to charge the batteries of robots and to take telemetry data;

    - robots can only move inside the ISS in zero gravity conditions only if there is an atmosphere in the working module with the robot, their reactive system uses the station’s air to move;

    - each robot has its own computer control system for the on-board fan system, which allows you to capture and discharge air through 12 nozzles in the direction opposite to the intended motion vector, which makes it possible for the robot to move in any direction and fly freely around the ISS in zero gravity;

    - the robot fans are located behind a special protective wall on the faces of its cube;

    - the computer system of the robot runs on Linux, and the module that is responsible for working with objects and their movement works on the basis of Android, which allows you to quickly expand the functionality of the system if necessary;

    - link to the github repository with Astrobee project software.

    - each robot has on board: the main navigation camera with a field of view of 116 °, several HD cameras with autofocus that are capable of transmitting information from the ISS to Earth in real time, and its on-board CamBoard Pico Flexx camera allows the robot to recognize objects and obstacles from a distance of four meters;

    - each robot has an optical detector to determine the speed and emergency stop procedure;

    - operating modes of robots: autonomous, they can also be controlled remotely, safely picked up, put on charge if necessary, turn them off.

    Functions of the robots of the Astrobee project:

    - the main task of the robots is to help the crew on the ISS, perform a number of routine tasks so that the staff can focus on more important tasks (conducting experiments and various studies);

    - carry out an inventory, document experiments, check the ISS systems and move loads, objects and tools through the narrow corridors of the station and between modules;

    - perform maintenance of the ISS modules when there are no personnel in them or in places where the crew cannot quickly reach;

    - monitor the operation of the ISS systems and sensors;

    - monitor air quality, analyze the level of carbon dioxide concentration in different places of the ISS as often as required.

    The history of the appearance of robots of the Astrobee project on the ISS:

    - a charging station was delivered aboard the ISS on November 17, 2018 and was installed on February 15, 2019;

    The ABB circuit breaker is used:

    - Bumble and Honey robots were launched from the Earth on the ISS on April 17, 2019;

    - On April 30, 2019, Ann McClain (ISS astronaut) unpacked the Bumble robot box and, with the support of the NASA development team of the Astrobee project located at the Ames Research Center, tested all the robot’s auxiliary systems - avionics, video cameras, propulsive systems, and data transfer and charging its batteries;

    - On June 14, 2019, flight tests with the Bumble robot began;

    - July 2019 - the third Queen robot is expected to arrive on the ISS.

    About the first flight of the Astrobee Bumble Robot to the ISS:

    On June 14, 2019, the Bumble Robot became the first Astrobee Robot to make its first test flight in zero gravity.

    Before the first flight of the Bumble robot, the Astrobee project team at Ames Research Center remotely checked all its on-board systems, received confirmation from the Earth that the robot can identify its location and is ready to navigate inside the ISS.

    Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques provided hands-on assistance with preflight tests by manually moving the Bumble robot inside the ISS science lab in the Kibo module to allow the robot navigation system to calibrate in the new environment after the fact.

    The navigation system of the Bumble robot uses full-time cameras to observe and monitor the external space and then compares the images obtained with the ISS interior map previously loaded into the robot.

    The robots of the Astrobe project are designed to move in any direction and rotate around their axes in space on board the ISS.

    Next, tests began on the operation of the flight systems of the Bumble robot in automatic mode and controlled mode (remotely from the Earth).

    During its first test flight of the Bumble robot, the operation of its main onboard components was checked and a complex of basic movements was performed, such as “flying 11.8 inches (30 centimeters) forward” or “turning 45 degrees to the right”, orientation in space ISS and so on.

    NASA plans to continue to test the flight capabilities of the Bumble robot with a series of increasingly complex maneuvers to determine how well its elements can work in zero gravity and what software adjustments need to be made for its further use.

    Based on the results of the complex of these flight tests, basic settings for the propulsion system of robots of the Astrobee project will be created, with the help of which it is planned to help the Bumble, Honey and Queen robots prepare to take on the roles of new ISS crew members.

    The first flight of the robot "Bumble"

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