Honeybee Robotics acquired by Ensign-Bickford Industries

Specialist robotic spacecraft developer will maintain its course through the galaxy, say new owners

Honeybee Robotics has been acquired by Ensign-Bickford Industries, a 181-year-old privately held corporation with headquarters in Simsbury, Connecticut. 

Honeybee builds robotic spacecraft for Nasa and has delivered systems for the past three Mars landers, and is developing a mining robot which could extract precious resources from asteroids.

Following the acquisition, Honeybee Robotics will be a stand-alone, wholly-owned subsidiary of EBI and will complement EBI’s current aerospace and defense subsidiary, Eba-d.

Honeybee will continue to operate from its current facilities in Brooklyn, New York, Longmont, Colorado, and Pasadena, California.  Continue reading Honeybee Robotics acquired by Ensign-Bickford Industries

Competition to mine outer space could change mining industry on Earth

For the past eight years, Nasa has been running a competition to find the team that can develop the best robotic systems to mine the moon. 

This year’s winners were announced recently, and Nasa gave out prizes and commendations for about 10 teams.

The discoveries made those 10 teams and all the others that entered the competition may end up in the mining industry here on Earth, long before they even take off for the moon.  Continue reading Competition to mine outer space could change mining industry on Earth

WTWH Media buys The Robot Report

therobotreport homepage

Business-to-business publisher WTWH Media has bought The Robot Report for an undisclosed sum.

TheRobotReport.com was founded in 2008 by Frank Tobe, and is one of the leading websites in this growing sector of publishing.

The website covers robotics in a variety of business segments, including transportation, agriculture, manufacturing and even outer space.  It has an international perspective, covering many countries around the globe.  Continue reading WTWH Media buys The Robot Report

Chinese robotic spacecraft completes second refuelling test, as Russia launches robotic cargo ship to International Space Station

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The Progress spacecraft

China and Russia have both launched robotic spacecraft on cargo missions recently, according to reports in the media. 

Chinese state news agency Xinhua says the Tiangong-2 space lab and Tianzhou-1 completed a second refuelling test which “cemented technical results from the first refuelling”.

According to Space.com, the refuelling procedure requires 29 steps to complete and lasts for several days.  Continue reading Chinese robotic spacecraft completes second refuelling test, as Russia launches robotic cargo ship to International Space Station

Video: Fanuc open to building manufacturing plant in outer space

The world’s largest industrial robot manufacturer could build a facility in space.

In a wide-ranging interview with RoboticsAndAutomationNews.com, recorded at Hannover Messe, Neil Dueweke – who was competing to be heard over a loud musical band in the background – says the company has big ambitions.

“Anywhere there’s robotics involved, Fanuc will be there,” says Dueweke. “Space robotics? Why not?”

As far-fetched as it might sound, there are many projects involving robots in space – that’s in addition to the robotic rovers which are already widely known.

In one project, the European Space Agency is building a robot holiday resort on the Moon.

And Nasa has a large number of projects involving robots in space, and has even installed an outer space additive manufacturing facility which targets the alien marketContinue reading Video: Fanuc open to building manufacturing plant in outer space

MDA recognized by Nasa for robotic servicing of International Space Station

nasa ssl robotic spacecraft to fix satellites
Artist’s illustration of the robotic spacecraft which will float around in space, fixing satellites. Picture courtesy of SSL

MDA US Systems, a division of MDA managed by SSL, has been recognized by Nasa’s Johnson Space Center for its “outstanding support” of a robotic upgrade to the International Space Station’s power system which took place in January.

The MDA team based in Houston played a critical role in planning and validating the robotic maneuvering both before and during the mission.

Nasa JSC ground controllers used the 15-degrees-of-freedom Special Purpose Dextrous Manipulator (Dextre) arm to install six new 430-pound lithium-ion batteries in two power channel integrated electronics assembly pallets.

Dextre first removed 12 older and depleted 740-pound nickel-hydrogen batteries from the pallets, nine of which were put on the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle’s external pallet to burn up on re-entry with it.  Continue reading MDA recognized by Nasa for robotic servicing of International Space Station

This time, it’s rocket science: Harmonic Drive gears used in space rover project

Space rover
Harmonic Drive’s strain wave gears are used on spacecraft

Graham Mackrell, managing director of precision gearing specialist Harmonic Drive UK, explains why its strain wave gears have been the top choice in space for over 40 years

Anything that goes into space is seen as the pinnacle of human creation. Astronauts are highly trained and are at the peak of physical fitness, space shuttles are crafted by large teams of expert engineers and all the technology used is so high-tech it’s as if it belongs to science fiction.

Many decades ago, the first Harmonic Drive gears were sent into space during the Apollo 15 mission. Even from the beginnings of the space race, the expectations for the technology used were high.

The equipment used in space had to be reliable, compact and lightweight and given the increasing demands on equipment in today’s space missions, it must also now be highly accurate with zero backlash and have high torque capacity.

When aerospace engineers were recently designing a new space rover, they looked to Harmonic Drive gears for reliability. Due to the obvious difficulties of performing repairs in space, a high mean time between equipment failures is a high priority. Continue reading This time, it’s rocket science: Harmonic Drive gears used in space rover project

Digital chemistry to be performed in space

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Picture credit: MaxPixel

Cronin Group, the AIM listed company with a business activity of the digitization of chemical space is pleased to note that an experiment designed by its scientific founder is to be carried out on a DIDO2 nano-satellite, successfully launched yesterday on an Indian Space Research Organisation rocket.

Prof Lee Cronin, the University of Glasgow Regius Chair of Chemistry and Founding Scientific Director of the Company, designed the experiment in partnership with SpacePharma, a company which specialises in providing scientists with access to microgravity environments.

The Company owns the commercial rights to intellectual property from the University of Glasgow to develop the Chemputer, which intends to open up chemistry to a wide user-base via digitization. Continue reading Digital chemistry to be performed in space

MassRobotics opens shared robotics innovation space

massrobotics

Emerging robotics startups now have a space to call their own in Massachusetts.

MassRobotics, an independent, non-profit hub serving to inspire and bring robotics startups, initiatives and investments to life, is opening its initial office, laboratory and test space.

The collaborative workspace includes the labs and equipment needed to help young robotics companies develop and scale their concepts and prototypes.  Continue reading MassRobotics opens shared robotics innovation space

Woodside Energy to train Nasa’s Robonaut to work in oil and gas industry

nasa robonaut

Woodside Energy and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration have launched a new collaboration program under which the Australian independent oil and gas company will develop applications for Nasa’s Robonaut in its own operations. 

Under the partnership Nasa will loan Woodside an Anthropomorphic Robonaut System for a 60-month deployment in Perth. Together the two organisations will explore how the robotic technology could be used to improve safety, reliability and efficiency in the high-risk and remote environments where Woodside operates.

Woodside will contribute its advanced cognitive science technology, being developed in its Western Australian operations, and Nasa will share its expertise in Robonauts that are already being used for simple, repetitive, or especially dangerous tasks in places such as the International Space Station.  Continue reading Woodside Energy to train Nasa’s Robonaut to work in oil and gas industry

Solar storms could cost USA tens of billions of dollars

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The daily economic cost to the USA from solar storm-induced electricity blackouts could be in the tens of billions of dollars, with more than half the loss from indirect costs outside the blackout zone, according to a new study led by University of Cambridge researchers.

Previous studies have focused on direct economic costs within the blackout zone, failing to take account of indirect domestic and international supply chain loss from extreme space weather.

According to the study, published in the journal Space Weather, on average the direct economic cost incurred from disruption to electricity represents just under a half of the total potential macroeconomic cost. Continue reading Solar storms could cost USA tens of billions of dollars

Nasa places order with SSL for robotic spacecraft which will fix satellites in orbit

New craft will be used to service satellites out in space 

Nasa has placed an order with Space Systems Loral for a robotic spacecraft which will go and fix satellites while in orbit. 

Nasa calls it the Restore-L servicing mission, and it is designed to demonstrate the ability to extend the life of a satellite in Low Earth Orbit. Scheduled launch is in 2020.

The Restore-L spacecraft will use robotics to grasp, refuel and relocate an existing US government satellite already in LEO orbit with the goal of demonstrating tools, technologies and techniques that can be implemented on future government and commercial missions.  Continue reading Nasa places order with SSL for robotic spacecraft which will fix satellites in orbit

Additive manufacturing or 3D printing? What’s the difference?

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A 3D-printed ball. Picture credit: Pixabay.com

“Additive manufacturing” is increasingly used interchangeably with “3D printing”, so they essentially mean the same thing. The only difference seems to be that “3D printing” is used more by maker communities – hobbyists and inventors – and still retains some sort of novelty value, whereas “additive manufacturing” – despite being the newer term – is more likely to be preferred in industry circles, perhaps because it has the sound of an established technology. 

But it’s not really an “established” technology in the sense that it’s only been around for a relatively short time. According to 3DPrintingIndustry.com, it was only in 2007 that a 3D printer was available for less than $10,000 – from a company called 3D Systems, which is today one of the most well-known providers of the technology.

The most advanced 3D printers still cost quite a lot of money, especially those used by high-end manufacturers, but there are good-quality, entry-level machines available today for as little as a few hundred dollars.  Continue reading Additive manufacturing or 3D printing? What’s the difference?

Fugitive robot found holed up on comet. Scientists demand the truth

philae esa

An escaped space robot has been found holed up inside a cave on a comet after going on the run for more than a year. 

Philae, a tiny robotic spacecraft, was sent by the European Space Agency as part of the Rosetta mission.

Philae was designed to autonomously explore and send back data to the main Rosetta spacecraft, but it apparently ran off and scientists have not been able to find it until now.

Matt Taylor, ESA’s Rosetta project scientist, is quoted by CNN as saying: “This wonderful news means that we now have the missing ‘ground-truth’ information needed to put Philae’s three days of science into proper context, now that we know where that ground actually is.”

Full story on CNN

Nasa selects ideas for space robotics, 3D printing and alien technologies

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Nasa has selected 21 research and technology proposals from American small businesses and research institutions that will enable Nasa’s future missions into the solar system and alien worlds further out in space. 

The agency says its selections also consider America’s technology-driven economy here on Earth.

The Phase II selectees of Nasa’s Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program are permitted to enter negotiations for possible contract awards worth a combined total of approximately $15.8 million.

The program selected 21 innovative technology and projects from 41 US firms and research institutions in 20 different states.  Continue reading Nasa selects ideas for space robotics, 3D printing and alien technologies