Robotic Habitat Technologies for Minimizing Crew Maintenance Requirements


NASA’s Lunar Gateway aims to be deployed later in the decade and will serve as an outpost orbiting the moon. This habitat will be utilized as a base for lunar operations as well as future missions to Mars. Unlike the International Space Station (ISS), which maintains three to six astronauts at any given time, the Lunar Gateway will be uncrewed for eleven months out of the year. Over 80% of crew time onboard the ISS is dedicated to logistics, repair, and maintenance, leaving minimal time for scientific research and experimentation. In order to maintain Gateway, robotic systems must be implemented to accomplish maintenance and operational tasks. This paper discusses our team’s proposed dexterous robotic system, which will address routine and contingency operational and maintenance tasks on Gateway. The project is experimentally-based, and split into three approaches: cataloging robotic capabilities via robot/taskboard interactions, logistics management of Cargo Transfer Bags (CTBs), and software development of an AprilTag situational development system. This research project utilizes the unique capabilities of the University of Maryland (UMD) Space Systems Laboratory (SSL), which houses various dexterous robotic manipulators, mock-ups of space habitats, and the Neutral Buoyancy Research Facility (NBRF), a 50-foot diameter, 25-foot deep water tank used to simulate microgravity conditions. By incorporating robotic systems into the architecture of the Lunar Gateway, it will allow for the lunar outpost to be continually operated and maintained while uncrewed, and will allow for astronauts, when present, to focus on maximizing scientific discoveries.