NASA JSC has developed a series of Centaur rovers to carry the Robonaut upper bodies and other payloads.  Centaur 1 was developed for work with the Robonaut R1B humanoid upper torso in 2006.  Centaur 2 rover was developed in 2010 by the Human Robotics Systems (HRS) Project as part of the Exploration Technology Development and Demonstration Programs, and has now been integrated with the Robonaut R2A torso.  This combination mixes state-of-the-art robotic mobility with the world’s most advanced dexterous manipulation system.   Hybrid rover/arm systems, commonly referred to as mobile manipulation, represent a new domain of robotics research.  Mobile manipulation is an important new Space Technology with multiple applications for improving life here on Earth.  NASA’s new Centaur2/Robonaut2 system is an ideal testbed for this research and positions the agency as the  technological leader.

Centaur 2 has several advanced technologies including a new active suspension system using force control, body articulation, high performance (330V, 30 Amp) embedded motor controllers, thermal/dust isolation of embedded avionics in the legs, line replacement unit body avionics for EVA or robotic maintenance, in-hub wheel actuation, and a new configuration of crab style steering.   These Space Technologies are important for future NASA rovers, as well as terrestrial applications in electric vehicles and robotic vehicles.

Centaur 2 was delivered for a “shake out cruise” at the Desert Rats 2010 field test in August 2010.  Fitted with a digging implement developed by the HRS engineers working at GRC, Centaur 2 was shown to be a rugged and agile new rover.  The Robonaut 2 torso has now been integrated as a new payload, and integrated with the electrical and data systems of the Centaur 2 rover.  Combined, this new mobile manipulation system was integrated in time to support KSC launch activities of the Robonaut unit R2B on STS -133.  Future lower bodies for the Robonaut 2 series include zero gravity climbing legs for performing EVA tasks on the ISS.  Future payloads for Centaur 2 include prospecting sensors, deeper excavation implements and devices for converting planetary raw materials into useable products.

Centaur 2 with digging implement

Robonaut R1B on Centaur 1 at Desert RATS in 2006

Centaur 2 with digging implement

Centaur 2 at Desert RATS in 2010 fitted with a digging implement developed by HRS engineers working at GRC.

R2A on Centaur 2 at the at the Johnson Space Center Planetary Analog Test Site.

Robonaut R2A on Centaur 2 at the at the Johnson Space Center Planetary Analog Test Site.