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Walking Robot Designed for in-Space Maintenance Missions

The E-Walker had successful trials on Earth, but has yet to be deployed in space

Scarlett Evans

October 18, 2022

2 Min Read
Hubble telescope on orbit of Earth. Space observatory. Telescope in outer space near surface of blue planet. Stars and sun. Elements of this image furnished by NASA (url:https://science.nasa.gov/science-red/s3fs-public/styles/large/public/thumbnails/image/Hubble-sm.png https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/styles/full_width_feature/public/thumbnails/image/iss063e074377.jpg)

A new walking robot could change the way in-space assembly and maintenance missions are completed.

The novel design – dubbed the E-Walker – was developed by a team of researchers from the University of Lincoln and is heralded as the most dexterous robot of its kind, featuring seven degrees of motion capabilities to make it as versatile as possible. 

The autonomous walking robot can move across a surface, performing tasks at any stage of its journey, and is hoped to provide novel opportunities in in-orbit infrastructure assembly and space station maintenance. 

The design has already been tested on Earth for the assembly of an 82 foot Large Aperture Space Telescope – something it is hoped to ultimately be able to achieve in-space, while a smaller version of the design has also been tested for large-scale construction purposes back on Earth, such as construction and maintenance of energy infrastructure such as wind turbines.

The team’s findings were presented in the journal “Frontiers in Robotics and AI.”

In-space construction is something of the next frontier for extraterrestrial exploration, with the harsh conditions of space and the rapid degradation of man-made materials proving to be a challenge.. Yet with large-scale devices such as telescopes proving difficult to launch into space in their fully constructed forms, it has become necessary to establish a means of assembling these tools in-orbit. This is where the E-Walker comes in. 

“As the scale of space missions grows, there is a need for more extensive infrastructures in orbit,” the team wrote. “In the forthcoming decades, newer infrastructures in the Earth’s orbits, which are much more advanced than the International Space Station, are needed for in-situ manufacturing, servicing, and astronomical and observational stations.” 

With the design process and successful trails complete, next steps for the team include testing the design in space. Prototyping work for the robot is also currently underway at the University of Lincoln.

About the Author(s)

Scarlett Evans

Assistant Editor, IoT World Today

Scarlett Evans is the assistant editor for IoT World Today, with a particular focus on robotics and smart city technologies. Scarlett has previous experience in minerals and resources with Mine Australia, Mine Technology and Power Technology. She joined Informa in April 2022.

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