All of the control station projects are inspired by the need to control a particular system. Knowledge of these robots, and other projects within Space Systems Laboratory, help the development of software to assist engineers in designing, training, and operating these systems.

Space Systems Laboratory Neutral Buoyancy Research Facility 

Space Systems Laboratory

This building located on the University of Maryland College Park campus holds a 25 foot deep, 50 foot diameter tank filled with water. Using the water's buoyancy effect and additional weights astronauts in spacesuits, robot vehicles, and task elements can become neutrally buoyant. They will not float or sink. When done properly this underwater environment can simulate the zero gravity in space. Neutrally buoyant items drift, rotate and move underwater like they would in space.


Ranger Telerobotic Shuttle Experiment

This remote operated vehicle uses four robotic arms to perform maintenance tasks. Task include visual inspection using stereo cameras, allowing a remote operator to see in 3D what the robot sees. Ranger uses two arms to perform many activities like opening/securing access doors, removing/installing Space Station boxes, and assisting astronauts. This projects has several design prototypes, an underwater model for testing in the tank at Space System Laboratory, an engineering training model for learning and testing for the Shuttle, and the flight model which is planned to fly on the Space Shuttle in the year 2000.


Supplemental Camera And Maneuvering Platform

Essentially a flying eyeball, this remote controlled vehicle flies underwater and sends back live video pictures. This robot eliminates the need for a SCUBA diver to take video pictures. SCAMP, which is only two feet in diameter, can fly into tight locations which may be dangerous for a diver. Many operational advantageous could also be used in space. A free-flying robot which can be mobilized quickly to view anywhere outside the Space Shuttle or a Space Station would be invaluable.

Ground Control Station

Since the robotic vehicles are controlled remotely, the Space Systems Laboratory utilizes a centralized command station. The ground control station uses several Silicon Graphics workstations, a bank of video monitors, and a diverse group of input and output devices including a virtual reality chair with head mounted display to control the different robotic projects. The Ranger Telerobotic Shuttle Experiment will also be control from the ground at Johnson Space Flight Center. A section of the ground control station will be used to control that vehicle.

Flight Control Station

The Ranger Telerobotic Shuttle Experiment will be controlled from the mid deck on the Space Shuttle. A control station is being developed which will allow the astronauts to control Ranger. The requirement for a control station are different on the Shuttle. A smaller control station with oriented design for zero gravity is necessary.