Manufacturing in space, the final frontier 

Manufacturing in space, the final frontier 

April 19, 2024
Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) is redefining the future of robotics with its research on in-space servicing, assembly and manufacturing (ISAM).

The field of robotics has limitless potential. Robots are enhancing our everyday lives in countless ways, whether they’re improving workplace efficiency, cooking our favorite meals, or helping us pack and stack boxes for delivery. The final frontier for advanced robotics may be space. It might sound like science fiction, but in-space manufacturing has the potential to help deal with unforeseen challenges in potentially dangerous situations. Additionally, cosmic manufacturing may decrease or eliminate the need to launch as many components upfront.  

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) is redefining the future of robotics with its research on in-space servicing, assembly and manufacturing (ISAM). According to NASA, robots are on the cusp of making the unimaginable possible, and mastering these foundational ISAM capabilities will allow robots to accomplish a range of in-space tasks, like extending the lifespan of satellites, assembling telescopes in space, and refueling and repairing spacecraft.

Research conducted at SwRI centers around high-fidelity simulation, advanced perception, robotic manipulation in space and extraterrestrial automated driving. The organization’s Space Robotics Center is equipped with the latest technologies to help researchers achieve their goals, including an air-bearing table, motion capture system, a seven degree-of-freedom robot arm, test fixtures and more. Among SwRI’s achievements is its software and modeling tools to help robots plan motion for complex, on-orbit conditions. The researchers latest endeavor includes developing efficient low-power vision for lunar rovers or small aerial systems.

SwRI recently demonstrated its technology at the 39th Space Symposium, which was held April 8-11, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The event brought together space leaders from around the world to discuss, address, and plan for the future of space. 

In a recent quote, Meera Towler, an SwRI engineer who leads SwRI’s Space Robotics initiative, said, “SwRI is developing solutions to leverage Earth-based industrial robotics with advanced automation and simulation so we can help clients develop new capabilities for the complex conditions of space.”  

The Lighter Side of Manufacturing

Created by the editors of Plant Services and New Equipment Digest, The Lighter Side of Manufacturing is a feel-good blog that showcases how advances in science, math, engineering, and technology are making our world more whimsical. Here’s another post that is guaranteed to brighten your day.

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About the Author

Alexis Gajewski | Senior Content Strategist

Alexis Gajewski has over 15 years of experience in the maintenance, reliability, operations, and manufacturing space. She joined Plant Services in 2008 and works to bring readers the news, insight, and information they need to make the right decisions for their plants. Alexis also authors “The Lighter Side of Manufacturing,” a blog that highlights the fun and innovative advances in the industrial sector. 

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