Robotic Space Travel with Spidernaut

Robotic space research steps into the new age of exploration at Purdue University with Spidernaut.

Purdue University has long been associated with high-tech science-based research and currently there is nothing more out of this world than the work being conducted on the Spidernaut Project. In coordination with NASA and General Motors, Purdue researchers at the College of Engineering have been busy for the last five years with the Spidernaut robotics work and research. The hope from the research is that one day the arachnid-like Spidernaut will be able to assist astronauts with planetary construction and maintenance.

Planetary space exploration with the use of robotics normally means treads or wheels. Purdue researchers think a spider configuration on the Spidernaut can create a mobility platform where the load of the system is constantly and equally distributed. The reason why this is of great importance, to not only the researchers creating Spidernaut, but eventually the astronauts up in space, revolves around usurping as much of a weight load as possible while in a non-gravitational environment. Purdue has developed such a robot and this project is now leaping forward and going where no robot has ever gone before.

Spidernaut is a large robot designed to service spacecraft in the planetary environment. The sense of the meaning of this research, into robots and man, in outer space, is not a new concept. For decades we have been tantalized with robots working right along astronauts in deep space. The usual mode of experiencing this space age revolution was and still is, to a large degree, through media outlets. Purdue University has taken the visuals of trashcan-like robots tweeting and chirping about in space, to the second highest level.

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Spidernaut is no lightweight, weighing in at an impressive 600 pounds. All that weight would pin a human down to the ground with restricted mobility and counter-weight balancing issues. Not so with the Spidernaut. The robot can distribute weight evenly over its eight legs to avoid damaging the skin of the spacecraft or for scurrying across delicate, solar panels. Purdue is even looking into a “web” deployment system for the robot, in which case, there will not only be one or two Spidies up in space, but a host of these high tech robots.

The physical makeup of the spider-like robot at Purdue can best be described as from another world. The look of the robot is more along the lines of a mechanized arachnid. With eight legs to support the arachnid frame, the robot tends to enlist images of science fiction movies!
The devil is in the details, or so it would seem, and the technical specifications of Spidernaut can give one a headache as well! This is why most of the universities and the colleges, all throughout the United States, leave the robotics research to Purdue University. The experience and the willingness to delve into high tech specifications is what makes the College of Engineering at Purdue one of the most respected and trusted in the world today.

Currently, the College of Engineering Robotics Department is excited about the future and the continued funding and research into robotic space travel. One of the lead professors and researchers on the Spidernaut Project is Nic Radford. Radford has been the driving force behind Purdue’s push to continually research and produce robotics for NASA. “I have also had the chance to help design and build Spidernaut, a 600 pound arachnid robot used for in-space construction and maintenance.” With the departure of the manned shuttle missions at NASA, it is vastly important that Purdue keeps up with the Chinese and Russians in the science of robotic design and implementation.

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To read about the Spidernaut Program at Purdue, follow this link to the website.