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Training/preparing teams for work and construction in space

Posted by: Ekkehard Augustin - Tue May 17, 2005 12:40 pm
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Training/preparing teams for work and construction in space 
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Post Training/preparing teams for work and construction in space   Posted on: Tue May 17, 2005 12:40 pm
In a few threads I mentioned the construction of objects - larger, heavier - in orbit. There are still only few experiences with this and spacecowboy is correct when he mentions that teams have to be trained to do so.

Which way could that be done? What methods or approaches could you imagine? What about cloths with a lot of sensors installed which measure each movement of arms, legs, hands, feet and the body and deliver the data to a computer? The computer could analyse the data, the movements and the medical reactions of the body and propose optimizations for example. Also this could assist the decision what kind of space-fit tools should be developed.

What about it?



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Post Re: Training/preparing teams for work and construction in sp   Posted on: Tue May 17, 2005 1:06 pm
Ekkehard Augustin wrote:
... construction of objects - larger, heavier - in orbit. ... teams have to be trained ...

... What methods or approaches could you imagine? What about cloths with a lot of sensors installed which measure each movement of arms, legs ... Also this could assist the decision what kind of space-fit tools should be developed.

So are you proposing we design spacewear appropriate for space construction? Or do you suggest the manufacture of an exoskeleton which would enable an astronaut to torque around really big bits of stuff?

Or is this just asking for training regimes? What's wrong with a big pool of water like we already use?

I need more info Ekke.

DKH

(PS I always thought the exoskeleton that Ripley wore while she did the Queen's tango in Aliens was oh so very cool)

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Post    Posted on: Tue May 17, 2005 1:52 pm
Hello, Dr_Keith_H,

I want to stimulate ideas about how a team could be trained and/or exercised in orbit in putting together objects up to large objects like a manned vehcile to Mars.

The team would have to find new ways how to move things, handle tools and so on.

It is a consequence of one of spacecowboy's posts in the thread about Delta4 Heavy - I will add a link to that post here.



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EDIT: The link to spacecowboy's post is www.xprizenews.org/forum/viewtopic.php? ... c&start=90


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Post    Posted on: Tue May 17, 2005 2:49 pm
A robot should be much more cost-effectvie for crude jobs, so designing something for that to fit a human is kinda useless imo.

To handel the more fintuning things, i think that's a bad thing to do those in space. But if its really necesairy, you should dig up you old topic of tools for astronauts.


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Post    Posted on: Tue May 17, 2005 6:56 pm
DARPA is actually spending money on powered exoskeletons, the project started 5 years ago and is about midway through. Here is the original request for submissions:

http://www.darpa.mil/baa/baa00-34.htm

Don't have anything current, but some dedicated googling would probably yield info on the progress, I seem to recall hearing that some real goals had been met.

But skip the tools and methods for a second, I remember reading that the most daunting part of construction-related EVA is hand fatigue due to the rigidity of the pressurized gloves. In the most ideal of cirumstances, I think you would want an Bigelow-style inflatable orbital shipyard.


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Post    Posted on: Wed May 18, 2005 8:51 am
Agreed to most of the answers and it should be continued that way - but it would be reasonable to look for new ways to handle existing tools too.

If a screw-driver is handled in space like it is on Earth this may be the key-problem - so how to handle a screw-driver in space? On Earth the screw-driver is turned - this may be a problem in space because gravity doesn't assist in fixing the object are screw has to be driven in. So methods may be of use that substitute gravity without new tools - don't turn the screw-driver or don't do only that.

Handling tools is a topic that has to be added - this is my thought here.



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Post    Posted on: Wed May 18, 2005 12:32 pm
Hey, why not let a tele-operated humanoid robot do all that stuff?

http://vesuvius.jsc.nasa.gov/er_er/html/robonaut/robonaut.html

DKH

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Post    Posted on: Wed May 18, 2005 1:11 pm
How much robots would be required? One only would be too few - the larger and voluminous the object - vehicle, station, satellite - the more workers are required. The larger the amount of equipment to be installed the more workers are required.

And there are no robots that a creative - plus they can't know what the humans really want to construct.

That's no argument against robots - but even robots require handling methods that are different in space than on Earth.

It might be possible that humans can do work in space as well as on Earth without a special set of tools if they alter the methods they handle tools by. If I look back through the history of creating algorithms for computers I recognize that a lot of algorithms could be apllied without computers too but have been developed only because there are computers - so we all have learned new methods to handle logics, mathematics, tables etc. May be that's possible too for space - space tools and robots will be and stay much more expensive than PCs. Then it will be interesting to concentrate on working out new methods of handling conventional tools - methods and algorithms are analogs to each other...

It's not meant as replacement for new tools and not as a competitor to them - it's simply meant as an alternative. Could be interesting too for those who don't have the money to buy space-fit tools but want to construct and build something in space.



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Post    Posted on: Wed May 18, 2005 2:37 pm
For starters, you might be interested in this link.

As far as using the "robonaut" goes: nobody knows how to do in-orbit construction, so how do we know how to build a robot that can do the things that a human needs to do during in-orbit construction? All commercial robots are built to emulate something that a human does, be it welding (as are used in auto manufacturing plants), plowing a field (an automated, GPS-guided tractor), flying an airplane (autopilot), or handling a financial transaction (like an ATM). The problem with building an orbital construction robot is that we don't know what actions are necessary to do the work, therefore we don't know how to make a robot that can emulate those actions. Please note that successful commercial robots look very little like people: I've yet to see an autopilot that sits in a seat and has arms to reach out and grasp the control yoke; the human form is usually fairly inefficient for most purposes. Therefore, I'm pretty certain that NASA's "robonaut" is going to amount to nothing more than a rather miserable publicity stunt.

We need to actually have people do orbital construction work before we can start building robots to make it easier. Trying to figure out what the robot has to do can be pretty dangerous: if it gets the wrong idea, a robot with an arc welder can do a lot of damage.

Ekke has the right idea: most construction methods used down groundside simply won't work in orbit. If you try to use a screwdriver, all you'll succeed in doing is make yourself sick from the gyrations (remember, vomiting is deadly in a pressure suit) and (if you're really lucky) get the station to begin gyrating itself. Which then means that fuel has to be expended to get whatever you were working on back in alignment with the rest of the project. Something with no net force, like pop rivets (if it doesn't have to be airtight) and welding (if it does), is much more practical. Or you can avoid the whole construction issue and make a snap-together or inflatable structure, although both of these have rather problematic structural (if it can snap together, it can snap apart; if it can inflate, it can deflate) and size limits (you can't send any inflatable structure, or snap-together subassembly up that exceeds launch vehicle capacity).

Also, the suit would have to be completely redesigned: the current pressure suits are primitive, at best. Something like a pressurized face mask, with spandex-like material providing pressure on the rest of the body and some sort of hard armor plating providing protection to exposed surfaces (i.e. the inside of the hand would likely be unarmored) would be much more desirable, as it would provide vastly improved mobility and -- gasp -- safety: if a hole gets punched in your leg, you're not going to die from asphyxiation.

As far as actual training goes, it would be very hard to do without actual orbital construction work. The best bet is to use the ISS or a Bigelow-type structure to the initial base -- much like an old construction crew might pitch a tent or shack "city" near their worksite -- and then complete projects of ever-increasing complexity until a full-sized station is built. Most of the workers on the bridges, dams, and skyscrapers that exist today were not trained in their jobs before they started work. It was dangerous, and a lot of good men died. But the others learned, and the projects were completed. Hopefully, a slightly less ruthless approach will be used for orbital construction, but the learn-as-you-go method seems to be the only way that's guaranteed to work.

Damn, that was a long post!

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Post    Posted on: Thu May 19, 2005 8:18 am
Hey spacecowboy ... I know that a lot of us here aren't too fond of the "no need for humans in space" idea ... but I did say that the robot was teleoperated and what the designers hope for is that someone INSIDE the space station/craft would operate the thing (it is NOT seen to be an autonomous thing).

I see no reason why a humanoid robot would be an inappropriate design for EVA purposes, particularly when humanoid-shaped and humanoid-articulated humanoids (more frequently called humans) are already sent out there ... if you can get something that moves the appropriate way and doesn't need a bulky suit of armour or life support ...

And people HAVE been doing orbital construction work for decades! Skylab needed a repair job back in the 1970's.

Please explain how using a humanoid robot with the same vision, tactile sensitivity, movements and reaction times as the human operating it with none of that human's built-in limitations (e.g. life support requirement, strength limitations, stamina limitations, etc) would be inappropriate for in orbit construction.

If it wasn't NASA that was involved with the humanoid would you be happier?

DKH

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Post    Posted on: Thu May 19, 2005 3:15 pm
First: I'm not worried about a Hal-type AI-going-nuts-and-killing-everybody-in-sight type of thing. I'm more concerned about a teleoperated machine getting hit with a stray signal and getting its sensors/comm equipment jammed or confused (either one is just as dangerous). The more complex a machine is, the more likely it is to break down; the more failsafes you install in the machine, the more complex it is. A two-piece machine -- a "master" control unit inside the station/vehicle and a "slave" or "drone" outside the station/vehicle -- has its most glaring weakness at the communications line between the drone and the master.

Second: The human form isn't inappropriate, it's inefficient. There's no sensible reason for a robot to have a head: it provides a weak point and takes up valuable surface area that could be used for appendages or sensors. On the other hand, these critters are much more efficiently designed to actually do work. The "brain" is held safely in the center of the robot, with the surface area taken up by armor on the outside, sensors on the inside, and appendages around the perimeter. Why bother to give a robot hands (which are complex to implement) when you can give him a plug-and-play "docking port" that can connect and lock into any number of tools, will need less power to use (every time you open or close a hand, it costs energy), and isn't as awkward (no skinned knuckles)?

Building a robot that looks like a human is idiotic, because it builds in so many inefficiencies that it's simply not cost-effective to build and use. The whole point of automation/waldoing is that the work can be done cheaper, faster, and better with the aid of a mechanical system, not to build a machine with the same design limitations as the people using it -- those are the very limitations that you're trying to overcome.

I should be offended at your "if NASA wasn't building it" remark, but I'll let it slide. The Robonaut is no more than a publicity stunt, partially to try to say that "we've got better toys than those damned Asimo machines" -- which A) are a lot smarter and B) actually do something.

Third: And, as I believe I already pointed out, there's no need for the pressure suit to be bulky, clumsy, uncomfortable, or non-user-friendly. The suit which I described would have a mass of not much more than, say, 50-60kg; and would be at least one order of magnitude more robust and safe than the best current NASA design, not to mention much easier to use.

Let's start applying the principles of the personal computer industry -- make it efficient, make it user-friendly, make it cost-effective -- towards aerospace. It's the only way we'll ever see a thriving personal spaceflight industry.

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Post    Posted on: Thu May 19, 2005 4:30 pm
spacecowboy wrote:
First: I'm not worried about a Hal-type AI-going-nuts-and-killing-everybody-in-sight type of thing. I'm more concerned about a teleoperated machine getting hit with a stray signal and getting its sensors/comm equipment jammed or confused (either one is just as dangerous).

Huh? That doesn't sound amazingly probable, or even remotely possible. But I'm sure you have examples to cite. Please do.

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Second: The human form isn't inappropriate, it's inefficient. There's no sensible reason for a robot to have a head: it provides a weak point and takes up valuable surface area that could be used for appendages or sensors.

So your magic suit design doesn't include a helmet then? That a humanoid robot has a head doesn't make it less efficient than a human (with a head, although presumably a human without a head is less efficient than a robot without one). You weaken your argument for making humans do EVA construction.

However .... fine by me, ultimately I don't care if it's humanoid or not as long as it can do the job. In any case, humanoid robots are expected to be more versatile in humanoid environments for the benefits I already mentioned. Currently, EVAs are performed with the current humanoid in mind and the environments encountered (excluding space of course) is engineered to suit the high probability that a humanoid will be doing the EVA-ing.

However, I don't care about the shape of the robot as long as it's appropriate. I just think it would be more appropriate, safer and more resource efficient to use robotic tools (humanoid or not) for the construction.

Quote:
Building a robot that looks like a human is idiotic, because it builds in so many inefficiencies that it's simply not cost-effective to build and use. The whole point of automation/waldoing is that the work can be done cheaper, faster, and better with the aid of a mechanical system, not to build a machine with the same design limitations as the people using it -- those are the very limitations that you're trying to overcome.

These are your opinions, I disagree, however they bare little on the whole question.

Quote:
I should be offended at your "if NASA wasn't building it" remark, but I'll let it slide. The Robonaut is no more than a publicity stunt, partially to try to say that "we've got better toys than those damned Asimo machines" -- which A) are a lot smarter and B) actually do something.

Again this (the idea that NASAs robonaut is a publicity stunt) is merely your opinion, I see no evidence of such small-mindedness on the relevant websites. What I do note is that my assessment of what you think of NASA is probably spot on the money.

Quote:
Third: And, as I believe I already pointed out, there's no need for the pressure suit to be bulky, clumsy, uncomfortable, or non-user-friendly. The suit which I described would have a mass of not much more than, say, 50-60kg; and would be at least one order of magnitude more robust and safe than the best current NASA design, not to mention much easier to use.

EVAs are still regarded as quite dangerous environments. I imagine in serious construction, with heavy bits and pieces floating around, there could be occasional and unfortunate encounters between the human and the big-ass-mass-which-is hard-to-stop-moving.

Can you give me some information to back up the suit you have described, strangely I find it difficult to just take your word that such a suit (which would have to be an incredibly amazing thing if it could armour a human against massive moving objects in a micro-g construction yard) could be designed to your guesswork specification.

DKH

EDIT: Here, go read the "Robots to Replace Humans on EVA" section of THIS paper, presented at a conference on human space exploration in Alberquerque in 2003.

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Post    Posted on: Mon May 23, 2005 1:00 pm
EM communications are subject to EM interference. (D'oh) Therefore, in times of higher-than-normal solar activity (or even if somebody else's transmitter is out of alignment), a ROV controlled by radio transmissions can be confused or jammed by radio noise. The communications are the weak point.

The "magic suit design" is made of some kind of elastic material, (think spandex), designed to compress the body at about 1 atm. The next layers are the standard cooling/heating layers, with the climate-control unit as a backpack. These also serve as a limited sort radiation shielding (as the coolant is probably water -- duals as drinking water). Third is likely a layer of kevlar or something similar. Next are the outer, hard materials -- inside, lead radiation shielding; outside, tungsten or similar impact armor, painted with a white enamel for heat reflection. If you went really high-tech and included a magnetic-activated "stiffener", the suit could become a single solid object in case of collision -- think of the "magnetic assisted suspension" in newer cars (such as some Cadillacs and European imports).

As far as breathing is concerned, two approaches are possible. Either you can use a fireman-type facemask, strapped on to the head and pressurized (although I'm not sure how well that would work), or you can use a more traditional helmet that locks onto the suit -- the elastic would provide counter-pressure, and would slow any leaks down greatly.

The main thought with this suit is that current pressure suits, if punctured, have no way to keep from losing all of their air -- which is a Bad Thing. An active counter-pressure suit, on the other hand, almost forms a seal between the elastic material and the body, which helps to keep air in in case of a puncture. This also allows for armor to be attached to the outside, giving far greater protection against micrometeorite damage (and yes, even against collision with a large object) than a traditional balloon-style suit.

ROV research is indeed an exciting field. However, humans still need to take part in the process.

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Post    Posted on: Mon May 23, 2005 1:11 pm
I'm prepared to believe you cowboy (about the EM interference), but not without some sort of evidence of this being a problem in a noted and previous instance. I asked for a cite or two in my previous message. Cough 'em up.

Your suit sounds great for zero G olympics ... but you don't give me any reason to believe you actually know what you are talking about in so far as it's design is concerned. Just gimme a link man! A second opinion which backs you up dude, that's all I ask.

Quote:
ROV research is indeed an exciting field. However, humans still need to take part in the process.


ROV = remotely operated vehicle. I know you know, I just thought I would point out the silliness of juxtaposing your last two sentences. Of course humans are involved in ROVs ... otherwise they would be called something else!

Come on man. I gave YOU a credible source of information to back my case. Can't you do the decent thing and return the favour?

DKH

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Post    Posted on: Mon May 23, 2005 1:44 pm
Argh (as to the ROV remark). I shoulda seen that one coming.

Solar activity has caused multiple commsats to fail in the past: Look here and here.

As far as the suit idea, it is taken from Marshall Savage's Millenial Project book. Mostly complete crap -- however, I've yet to find anybody to tell me why the suit won't work.

Astronauts have complained time and time again about how hard it was (and still is) to handle a thick-walled balloon -- why not change the design altogether?

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