Robotic Space Spiders To Crawl Sub-Orbital Web

Space 'spiders', small robots able to crawl along mesh webbing, will be tested during a joint mission with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, the European Space Agency and the Vienna University of Technology. The Furoshiki satellite is scheduled to launch on January 18, 2006. To save on mission costs, the rocket carrying the satellite will have a sub-orbital trajectory; only about ten minutes of microgravity will be available before the satellite begins its descent.


(RobySpace Junior Robot)

The first part of the mission involves the deployment of three small satellites, which will stretch out a triangular net with a side length of about twenty meters. The mother ship is positioned at the center of the net; onboard cameras will confirm that the web remains steady and untangled. Each daughter satellite will know the locations of the others by exchanging radio signals. Using this information, they will line themselves up with tiny jets.

Next, two small spider bots, RobySpace Junior 1 and 2, will climb out of the mother satellite and crawl along the net towards the daughter satellites. The robots are able to cling to both sides of the mesh net to keep from floating off into space. Microgravity tests aboard planes have verified that the technique works. The prototype space spiders were built by ESA and Vienna University of Technology engineers.


(RobySpace Robot Test)

A variety of uses for space spiders have been imagined by engineers:

  • Vast solar panels could be built to beam solar energy back to Earth (one square kilometer of panel could generate a billion watts of electricity).
  • Large communications satellites and other structures could be built by ground control on an initial lattice structure.
  • Space spiders could build shields to protect existing satellites from orbiting space junk.
Science fiction writers imagined space spiders and their uses a quarter-century ago. In 1978, Arthur C. Clarke wrote about a spider used to test the cables of a space elevator in The Fountains of Paradise. Spinnerettes were used to handle and dispense continuous pseudo one-dimensional diamond crystal in building the cables.

Author Charles Sheffield also wrote about a machine he called a Spider in his 1979 novel The Web Between the Worlds; these devices were able to extrude cable in a manner similar to the way real spiders spin their webs.

Read more about spider robots and their space web mission at the ESA site (here and here); the Institute for Handling Devices and Robotics has more materials on the robots. Thanks to Fred at The Eternal Golden Braid for the tip and author references.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 12/14/2005)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 2 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

Will A Steel Umbrella Stop Russia?
'Everyone was aware that the damned platform was wandering around in its own orbit...' - EB White, 1950.

NASA Wants To Make Oxygen On Mars
'They plop down on the Red and if the dust is deep enough ... they burrow in...' - Greg Bear, 2014.

A Look Into The Future Of Spacecraft!
Ever wonder how you look when you enter a new part of a spacecraft?

Breakthrough Starshot Sprites Yearn For Alpha Centauri
'Whoever launched it fired a laser cannon...' - Niven and Pournelle, 1971.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Will A Steel Umbrella Stop Russia?
'Everyone was aware that the damned platform was wandering around in its own orbit...'

EVE Artificial Womb For Lambs (For Now)
'In the crimson darkness, stewing warm on their cushion of peritoneum and gorged with blood-surrogate and hormones...'

TIKAD Armed Drone Ready To Fight
'Each a television eye and a sonic stunner...'

Bees Royal Jelly Helps Wounds Heal Faster
'An alien drug... used by an insect race.'

NASA Wants To Make Oxygen On Mars
'They plop down on the Red and if the dust is deep enough ... they burrow in...'

Hackers Insert Malware Into DNA
'They tied the memory to the bloodline and that was their record!'

X2-VelociRoACH Cooperates To Launch Tiny Drones
Little robots cooperating can do big tasks. Eventually.

'Do Not Pay' Chatbots To Replace Law Firm Associates?
'I want my lawyer program.'

MULTI Model Of Star Trek Turbolift
Cool prototype video!

A Look Into The Future Of Spacecraft!
Ever wonder how you look when you enter a new part of a spacecraft?

An 'Ethical Black Box' For Robots?
Explored by science fiction authors.

Dadbot Digital Immortality
'A hardwired ROM cassette replicating a dead man's skills...'

Should We Permit Computers To Create Their Own Language?
'Talk Between Robots radio...'

Breakthrough Starshot Sprites Yearn For Alpha Centauri
'Whoever launched it fired a laser cannon...'

Kino Project Roaming Personal Fashion Robots
'Most of the crew have the tiny imp ride on their shoulder...'

Astronaut Exercise Video, Predicted By SF Writers
'Joe got out the gravity-simulator harnesses.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.