Robotic Software Used by NASA

Aug 18, 2013

NASA is using some of the innovative software from the robotic industry to help with their missions. NASA is able to coordinate with the research and development efforts within the industrial robot field.


Cut­ting-edge soft­ware tech­nol­o­gy is essen­tial to the suc­cess of NASA’s mis­sions. As a result, NASA draws on coop­er­a­tive research and devel­op­ment efforts with lead­ers in acad­e­mia and indus­try to solve its most press­ing soft­ware issues.

Recent joint efforts between NASA’s Jet Propul­sion Lab­o­ra­to­ry and Carnegie Mel­lon lead to an upgrade of NASA’s Mars Rover, Oppor­tu­ni­ty. The rover, which was designed for only a few months of explo­ration, has proven extreme­ly resilient. Ten years after its launch, Oppor­tu­ni­ty con­tin­ues to tra­verse the com­plex ter­rain of Mars. With out­dat­ed soft­ware, the rover was only able to think one step in advance. It was able to turn to avoid obsta­cles, but if a sec­ond obsta­cle was pre­sent­ed, it would turn again. This became par­tic­u­lar­ly prob­lem­at­ic when the rover was dri­ven into dead-end or cul-de-sac areas. The rover would con­tin­u­ous­ly loop back on itself until human oper­a­tors helped it escape. To solve the prob­lem, NASA turned to Carnegie Mel­lon for autonomous indus­tri­al indus­tri­al nav­i­ga­tion soft­ware. Tech­nol­o­gy that had been devel­oped and used to con­trol a num­ber of mobile robots at Carnegie Mel­lon was tai­lored for the old­er proces­sors onboard Oppor­tu­ni­ty and was then inte­grat­ed into the Mars Explo­ration Rover soft­ware. The new soft­ware allows the rover to build a large-scale map of the ter­rain it encoun­ters. In addi­tion, the robot has a mem­o­ry of how it got where it is and the abil­i­ty to retrace steps or plot new paths.

Anoth­er such part­ner­ship is an agree­ment between NASA’s Ames Research Cen­ter and M2Mi Corp to advance auto­mat­ed machine-to-machine intel­li­gence’ for space mis­sions. M2Mi Corp has devel­oped tech­nol­o­gy that inter­con­nects machines and pro­vides a stan­dard way for them to exchange infor­ma­tion. NASA hopes that the coop­er­a­tive effort will enable NASA’s com­put­ers, space­craft, and robots to be aware of their sur­round­ings, make their own deci­sions, and effec­tive­ly com­mu­ni­cate with one anoth­er. In return, NASA’s part­ner­ship and cul­ti­va­tion of M2Mi Corp’s tech­nol­o­gy is intend­ed to lead to a spin off that will ben­e­fit indus­try. In the future, such M2M tech­nol­o­gy could enable the com­po­nents of an auto­mat­ed fac­to­ry to com­mu­ni­cate and make nec­es­sary adjust­ments to increase efficiency.

Robots​.com is sup­port­ive of space explo­ration and is excit­ed to see how robot­ics con­tin­ue to be used for space mis­sions. Robot­ic soft­ware is used for a wide vari­ety of indus­tri­al automa­tion also. If you would like more infor­ma­tion on inte­grat­ing robot­ic soft­ware, con­tact Robots​.com online or at 8777626881.

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