Nrl Space Robotics Support

The PTR Group has designed and developed solutions in the emerging field of space robotics  We have applied our space robotic software systems and expertise to projects at NRL including: multiple cooperative robot arms in a satellite servicing role; a highly dextrous robot arm working in a constrained work site; rapid integration with another vendor's custom robotic system to demonstrate autonomous refueling; and integration with robotic skin to better enable sensing in an unknown, highly constrained environment.


The PTR Group is currently supporting robotics software development and system engineering of the DARPA Phoenix Program. Leveraging experience and knowledge from FREND and other previous NRL projects, PTR engineers are providing leadership and guidance to both the flight software and test software teams.  PTR engineers are responsible for the full range of control software for the FREND robot arms, from the low-level interface to the arm electronics to high-level algorithms including compliance control and trajectory planning with obstacle avoidance.  We are supporting the development of configurable tool drive control to support position-based and torque-based control of the variety of disparate tools which will be required to accomplish the Phoenix mission.  We are involved in the development of autonomous and tele-operations robot control software, including the design and implementation of machine vision and visual servoing algorithms, as well as the integration of hardware and software from multiple third-party BAA vendors.  PTR engineers have supported laboratory testing and system requirements validation by designing and implementing 3D graphical simulation software to visualize command and telemetry data streams as well as a low-cost tele-operations testbed to provide Cartesian control via commercial hand controllers.

PTR is also playing a key role in the systems arena where we are working with the NRL team to develop the key performance requirements for the Phoenix Payload which not only involves the robotics systems but also the Rendezvous and Proximity sensors and all the structure and electronics that are needed to support the payload.  Phoenix has multiple contributors throughout industry and we support the review of their contribution to and integration into the mission.  We are involved in the development of the Concept of operations for the satellite and Fault Detection, Isolation and Recovery for the robotic operations, which involves identifying the different faults that can occur and associated responses identifying which are critical and require autonomous response from the spacecraft versus those which can be responded to by the operator.

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The PTR Group is developing embedded software, implementing machine vision and control algorithms, and writing ground control software for the DARPA InSPIRE II program. Under InSPIRE II, NRL is developing small robot arms, integrating them with MIT SPHERES vehicles, and flying them to the ISS. The platforms and tools being used include an embedded Linux OS for the embedded system, with Orocos running on top of it.


Working with the NRL, PTR group engineers led the flight software group to design and develop a new 7DOF robotic arm prototype as part of DARPA's Front-end Robotics Enabling Near-term Demonstration (FREND) program.  Our embedded real-time software met or exceeded all of the performance and reliability requirements.  The PTR Group also developed a graphical simulator used to plan optimal mission trajectories at the ground station and to support algorithmic development when hardware was not available.

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PTR Engineers had full lifecycle responsibility for software development on a US Navy autonomous robotic vehicle. This embedded, distributed, real-time software system involved integrating new computing capability and multiple external sensors, to an existing vendor-supplied vehicle. Said vehicle is currently operational, and intended as a testbed for future deployment in extremely hazardous environments.  The robotics experience includes detailed use of C/C++, Java and ORCOCOS robotics framework.

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The PTR Group supported the specification, design, development, integration, test, and operation of Bi-dexterous Coordinated Estimation of Pose (BICEP) program. The BICEP robotics program is being developed as a means to provide critical feature imaging during close-proximity operations without bus maneuvering, tailored imaging over a wide operating range without bus maneuvering, and allows a master robotic arm to focus on its primary task of grapple, repair, and/or assembly.

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PTR engineers supported development of the Low Impact Inspection Vehicle that demonstrated inspection of a realistic host on an air-bearing table, under realistic orbital lighting conditions. PTR engineers were responsible for system integration of hardware and software from multiple vendors, were the sole developers of the autonomous systems that realized machine vision, orbital dynamics, and host inspection, developed the operator user interface, and were responsible for system testing and evaluation. Software development used the Orocos robotics framework, the OpenCV vision library, and occurred on an embedded Linux platform.

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