Spider Robots In Outer Space: Biomimicry, B Movie or Both?

As this is my third post about insect-like robots, regular readers may start thinking I’m a bit obsessed. I’m not (at least I don’t think I am); I’m just trying to drive home the point that great designs can be lifted from nature without too much tinkering.

I’ve previously posted about cockroach-like rescue robots, and spider robots manufactured using a 3D printer. This time, I’m focusing on the much larger Spidernaut, a NASA creation designed for constructing and maintaining large on-orbit structures in space. The robot’s eight legs help it disperse its mass over a large area without imparting any torque when it moves. The extra-vehicular robot (EVR) is under development at the Johnson Space Center.

Because these robots could move “lightly” they would be great for constructing and maintaining fragile space science platforms and vehicles. According to NASA’s website, these eight-legged robots can spread climbing loads evenly across a structure:

Such a system could carry large payloads, transporting structural materials across an extensive solar array or mirrors across a telescope without significant structural loading. This archetype could also exploit hybrid forms of locomotion such as routing and deploying a “web” of space tethers to cross structural spans where even light forces are unacceptable.

You can see a video of Spidernaut in action below:

If you still feel you haven’t had a sufficient robotic spider fix, you can watch this video of robotic spider vehicles at the Vancouver Mini Maker Faire last summer.

Source: NASA

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