Spidernaut: Overcoming New Challenges
The upcoming generation of space science platforms and vehicles are too large and too fragile to launch and deploy as self-contained payloads. Constructing and maintaining these structures on orbit presents unique challenges which may be overcome by Extra-Vehicular Robotics (EVR) using gentler methods of locomotion and manipulation. New EVR robot archetypes are needed to fill this role.
An arachnid climber is a prime candidate for such operations. The multipoint stance of an arachnid's eight legs, with as many as 7 down during a step, allows simply-supported footholds that spread climbing loads more evenly across a space structure and impart no torques.
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. A spider-like robot prototype, Spidernaut, under development at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC), forms the basis for a series of new arachnid class EVR robots.