MODKOM

Modular components as Building Blocks for application-specific configurable space robots

For service operations on satellites or the exploration of foreign planets, robotic systems will be of particular interest in the future, as they are relatively inexpensive compared to manned space flight and at the same time flexible enough to react to unforeseen events. So far, however, the solutions developed and used are highly mission-specific and therefore highly specialized. The definition of standards and modules should enable a rapid response to future exploration and service missions. In the project described here the focus is on the technological, mechatronic and software development of modular functional units for reconfigurable and mobile robot systems. The performance of the modules developed in this project will be demonstrated by the realization of a mobile manipulation system. For this purpose, existing functional units that are indispensable for exploration missions will be used within the project and further developed in such a way that an increase of the TRL will take place. If a pool of functional units is available, robotic systems can be reconfigured according to the task based on the modular system.

Duration: 01.07.2021 till 30.06.2024
Donee: German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence GmbH & University of Bremen
Sponsor: Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy
German Aerospace Center e.V.
Grant number: Grant No. 50RA2107 (DFKI), 50RA2108 (Uni Bremen)
Partner: Universit├Ąt Bremen
Application Field: Space Robotics
Related Projects: iStruct
Intelligent Structures for Mobile Robots (05.2010- 08.2013)
Q-Rock
AI-based Qualification of Deliberative Behaviour for a Robotic Construction Kit (08.2018- 07.2021)
RIMRES
Reconfigurable Integrated Multi Robot Exploration System (09.2009- 12.2012)
TransTerrA
Semi-autonomous cooperative exploration of planetary surfaces including the installation of a logistic chain as well as consideration of the terrestrial applicability of individual aspects (05.2013- 12.2017)
FT-Utah
Field Trials Utah with the TransTerrA System (06.2016- 03.2017)
Related Robots: SherpaTT
Coyote III
CREX
Crater Explorer
Charlie
iStruct Demonstrator
Related Software: Rock
Robot Construction Kit
MARS
Machina Arte Robotum Simulans
NDLCom
Node Level Data Link Communication

Project details

Exemplary representation of recurring functions in different robotic systems. (Photo: DFKI)
Schematic representation of basic functional units (graphic: R. Sonsalla, DFKI).
Schematic representation of alternative system modules (graphic: R. Sonsalla, DFKI)
Flexible use of the modular building blocks for the realization of mission-specific requirements (graphic: Annemarie Popp, DFKI)
DFKI-X joint module for space application (Photo: R. Sonsalla, DFKI)
Robotic systems are playing an increasingly important role in space travel. The focus of the project is the transfer of competence and technology between terrestrial and space applications as well as the reduction of own developments for specific applications. For this purpose, a crosslinking of hi-tech developments from all possible technology areas (including artificial intelligence (AI)) is to be taken into account.

The MODKOM project presented here will focus on the technological, mechatronic and software development of modular functional units for reconfigurable robot systems that can be used in various space missions. With the application of artificial intelligence methods, the modules should be able to act autonomously and react to unforeseen events.

The performance of the methodology and modules ( further ) developed in this project will be demonstrated by the realization of a complex mobile manipulation system.
Not only the functionality of the selected modules shall be demonstrated, but also their smooth interaction in an exemplary assembled mobile articulated chain.
These types of modules are of particular benefit and interest, for example, for performing service operations on satellites in orbit or exploring the surfaces of alien planets robotic systems are less risky and relatively inexpensive compared to manned spaceflight. So far, the solutions developed and used are highly mission-specific and thus highly specialized. With the help of the results from MODKOM as well as the definition of norms, standards and modules, solutions can be flexibly configured in the future and adapted to new or changing requirements for the overall system with little effort, without having to carry out a completely new development every time.

In MODKOM, existing functional units that are indispensable for robotic space missions are identified and further developed in such a way that a kind of plug-and-play solution can be provided via an interface in terms of both software and hardware. If existing modules do not provide a required functionality, existing entities will be modified accordingly. Once a pool of functional entities is available, robotic systems can be reconfigured according to the task based on the modular system. These entities can be formally described to enable, for example, the use of learning and optimization methods to generate and evaluate appropriate configurations, with respect to specific requirements.
Based on already gained knowledge and competences in projects carried out so far as well as available results of external developments, the project team wants to carry out the work in MODKOM and thus achieve the ambitious project goals.
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last updated 15.09.2021
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