WVU Robotic Technology Center to play crucial role in the future of in-space assembly

Monongalia

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University Robotic Technology Center (RTC) is playing a role in the space race that is underway throughout the globe.

This is according to a WVU press release, which stated that Maxar Technologies, a trusted partner and innovator in earth intelligence and space infrastructure, has announced more than $2 million in funding for the RTC, from a $142 million NASA funded project. The project is performing the first in-space assembly demonstration of a satellite using a lightweight robotic arm. RTC will be building that robotic arm called the Space Infrastructure Dexterous Robot (SPIDER) and it will be attached to the satellite servicing spacecraft bus being built by Maxar.

Giacomo Marani

Well myself and all of the team, we all are extremely happy and very excited to be part of this effort. We are very passionate to our work and we really like to be part of an effort which promotes the development of space robotics for the future.

Giacomo Marani – Program Manager and Research Engineer, RTC

Giacomo said a big problem with space travel is that it is difficult to get big objects from Earth to space, so there is a great demand to have the ability to assemble objects in space.

During the demonstration, SPIDER will assemble multiple antenna reflector elements into one large antenna reflector, according to the release. This revolutionary process allows satellites, telescopes and other systems to use larger and more powerful components that might not fit into a standard rocket fairing when fully assembled. 

Maxar Technologies, a trusted partner and innovator in earth intelligence and space infrastructure, has announced more than $2 million in funding for the Robotic Technology Center at West Virginia University. (WVU Photo)

“This mission is very important for us to establish the data for this metric and allows us to increase the path and open the door to more important things to do, like building a base on the moon and moving toward Mars and doing everything that humans can accomplish,” Marani said.

Building in space is something very important, Marani said, but also making sure that the work can be done with robotics because that is a far more efficient strategy. This mission, he said, moves space exploration one step closer toward having robotic systems being able to do the work humans currently do in space.

“This is something very important,” Marani said. “The more we can trust the robots to do a job for us, the more this field will go well.”

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