Open Robotics develops Space ROS with Blue Origin, NASA

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Open robotics work with blue origin, the sub-orbital spaceflight company founded by Jeff Bezos, and NASA on Space ROS. Space ROS is a version of ROS 2 intended to meet the verification and validation requirements that aerospace software must meet before being used in a mission.

The Robot Operating System (ROS) has been used in space activities for over a decade now. Its use began at ROSCon 2012, where NASA showcased its use of ROS in the Robonaut 2 (R2) humanoid robot. NASA switched software from R2 to ROS and used Gazebo, Open Robotics’ 3D robotics simulator, to build a model of the robot and the International Space Station (ISS).

In 2014, R2 and its ROS-based software were operational on the ISS. This was the first confirmed use of ROS in space.

When NASA started working on its next robot, Robonaut 5 (R5), also called Valkyrie, it used ROS from the start. He also continued to use Gazebo for robot testing and development. R5 then participated in the DARPA Robotics Challenge.

In 2015, NASA hosted the first Space Robotics Challenge (SRC), a virtual competition aimed at advancing robotic software and autonomous capabilities for space exploration missions. For the SRC, teams were challenged to simulate R5 performing habitat preparation tasks. The winner of the competition, Coordinated Robotics, was able to transfer its code from simulation to real robotic hardware in one day.

Astrobee aboard the ISS. | Source: NASA

Brian Gerkey, co-founder and CEO of Open Robotics, introduces our Robotics Summit and Expo, which takes place on May 10 and 11 in Boston. His talk, titled “Robotics Needs a Babelfish: The Lean on Robot Interoperability,” will discuss how companies approach interoperability and the options available to vendors, end users, and integrators. Attendees will learn about the history of Open-RMF (Robotics Middleware Framework), best practices for interoperating robots from multiple vendors, and future trends in interoperability.

NASA uses ROS in other space robots such as Astrobee, the free-flying successor to SPHERES. Several Astrobees are at work inside the ISS.

Currently, NASA and Open Robotics are working on the VIPER program. VIPER’s goal is to send a mobile robot to the south pole of the Moon in 2023. ROS 2 will be in the rover’s control loop.

Blue Origin recently acquired Honeybee Robotics for an undisclosed amount. The deal is expected to close in mid-February and Honeybee Robotics will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Blue Origin.

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