H.2.6 ROTEX (Vision-guided grasping in Space)

SpaceLab D2 on board Space Shuttle Orbiter ‘Columbia’ (1993)

[with DLR Oberpfaffenhofen, ‘Robot Technology Experiment’, Prof. G. Hirzinger]

  • Robot arm [Hirzinger et al. 1994] with 4 sections plus a two-fingered hand (see top right of figure).

  • arm secluded in a cabin of size ~ 50x80x110 cm (see top left of figure) within the German SpaceLab D2 on board Space Shuttle orbiter ‘Columbia’.

  • In the palm of the robot hand 2 miniature cameras were mounted (K1 and K2, center right); there were many more sensors integrated in the hand and the fingers [Hirzinger et al. 1994].

  • Robot control was to be remote from “Mission control” in Oberpfaffenhofen, but autonomous (without a human in the loop); a variable time delay from image taking till control implementation on board of up to 7 seconds occurred due to complex routing through several satellites and computer centers on the ground (see bottom figure).

  • Initial pointing of the robot arm was done by a human operator so that the free-flyer was in the field of view of the cameras.

  • A transputer system was used for vision [Dickmanns D 1997].

A.7 Vision-guided grasping in Space

Video 15 ROTEX- GraspingInSpace 1993


Hirzinger G, Brunner B, Dietrich J, Heindl H (1994). Rotex – The first remotely controlled robot in Space. In: Proc. IEEE Conf. on Robotics and Automation, San Diego, CA, May 1994, pp 2604-2611

Dickmanns ED, Fagerer C, Dickmanns D (1994). Visual Grasping with Long Delay Time of a Free Floating Object in Orbit. 4th IFAC Symposium on Robot Control (SY.RO.CO.'94), Capri, Italy, pp 947-952

Fagerer C, Dickmanns D, Dickmanns ED (1994).  Visual Grasping with Long Delay Time of a Free Floating Object in Orbit. J. Autonomous Robots, Vol. 1, No. 1, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston

Fagerer C (1996). Automatische Teleoperation eines Tracking- und Greifvorgangs im Weltraum basierend auf Bilddatenauswertung. Dissertation, UniBwM / LRT

Dickmanns D (1997). Rahmensystem für visuelle Wahrnehmung veränderlicher Szenen durch Computer. Diss., UniBwM, INF.