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NASA Tests Autonomy Software for Space Robots; Trey Smith Quoted

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Astrobee Flying Robot
Astrobee Flying Robot NASA

NASA has tested the performance of software that allows a spacecraft's robotic and operating systems to operate autonomously.

Bumble, an Astrobee flying robot at the International Space Station, used the Integrated System for Autonomous and Adaptive Caretaking or ISAAC to navigate through ISS and detect a simulated ventilation block in April, NASA said Wednesday.

The robot autonomously detected an “astronaut sock” that simulated a foreign object disrupting ventilation, then reported the issue for help. Bumble also autonomously surveyed Bay 6 of the Japanese Exploration Module within ISS.

The tests challenged the ISAAC-equipped Bumble to navigate and traverse through areas with obstacles, including stray cables and communication interruptions.

“Our long-term vision is that it can transform a spacecraft into an autonomous robotic system itself,” said Trey Smith, project manager for ISAAC at NASA’s California-based Ames Research Center.

The team is now working on ISAAC's second testing phase, which involves multiple robots transporting cargo between a spacecraft and a space station.