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Home News DARPA is building a robotic space mechanic to fix satellites in orbit

DARPA is building a robotic space mechanic to fix satellites in orbit

Northrop Grumman

DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency that’s responsible for developing emerging technologies for the U.S. military, is building a new high-tech spacecraft — and it’s armed. In an age of Space Force and burgeoning threats like hunter-killer satellites, this might not sound too surprising. But you’re misunderstanding. DARPA’s new spacecraft, currently “in the thick of it” when it comes to development, is armed. As in, it has arms. Like the ones you use for grabbing things.

Armed robots aren’t new. Mechanical robot arms are increasingly widespread here on Earth. Robot arms have been used to carry out complex surgery and flip burgers. Attached to undersea exploration vehicles, they’ve been used to probe submerged wrecks. They’ve been used to open doors, defuse bombs, and decommission nuclear power plants. They’re pretty darn versatile. But space is another matter entirely.

The trouble with satellites

To understand the problem, imagine this scenario: You buy a supercar. It’s got every possible modern luxury, from its use of premium materials like titanium and carbon fiber-reinforced epoxy composites to its top-of-the-range engine, which purrs like the world’s most expensive kitten. Only there’s a catch. Although the car has been built to last, once you’ve driven it off the sales lot, you’re no longer allowed to repair or even tinker with it. Nothing. Nada. Zip. It’s not even possible to take it to the gas station when it needs to be refueled. Crazy, right? Even the most extravagant of sports stars, rappers or international arms dealers would probably think twice about that “deal.”

This is entirely analogous to the situation we’re in with some of today’s satellites. And with price tags that can exceed a billion dollars, today’s top-of-the-line satellites make Bugattis and McLarens look like chump change.

“The current way that we operate spacecraft, they’re launched and they are [then] essentially on their own for the rest of their lives,” Joe Parrish, program manager for DARPA’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program, told Digital Trends. “If something goes wrong, or if they run out of fuel or some other consumable, there’s no other method to go and improve those spacecraft — either by way of repair or replenishment or by placing new capabilities … that perhaps may be 20 years on, where the technologies on them are no longer the best ones available.”

That’s where DARPA’s solution comes into play. “With RSGS, we have a spacecraft that looks similar to a commercial satellite, but has two robot arms on it,” Parrish said. “And those robot arms have interchangeable tools that allow a variety of different operations that include grasping onto what we call the client spacecraft [and performing repair tasks.]”

Part robot handyman, part tow truck

Should all go to plan, it will mean that, for the first time in history, it’s possible to carry out “dexterous manipulation” tasks to help fix satellites in geosynchronous orbit. The RSGS spacecraft will hang out in orbit until it is called into action. It will then navigate to the “client spacecraft” in question, latch onto it autonomously using machine vision A.I., and then set about carrying out external maintenance work to extend that satellite’s life span, enhance resilience, and improve reliability for future operations. It could even be used to install self-contained payloads.


RSGS’s two arms are each approximately 2 meters in length, around twice the length of an adult human arm. In place of a five-fingered, human-style hand, it’s kitted out with a series of interchangeable tools specialized for whichever task it is supposed to carry out. Those tasks might involve nudging a stuck solar array or antenna here or there.

It could even grip onto dying satellites and pull them, like a “sort of tow truck,” into graveyard orbit 300 kilometers above normal geostationary orbit. This could allow satellite companies to extend the life of their space assets by “another few years,” Parrish said.

“Imagine freezing, thawing, freezing, thawing, freezing, thawing, over and over again.”

“Typically what happens with geostationary spacecraft is they run out of what’s called station-keeping fuel,” he said. “This is the fuel that keeps them in position, so that a satellite that’s stationed over the United States or the Middle East or wherever it’s doing its job stays there. That requires a certain amount of fuel every year to be used as propellant. Eventually, they run out of fuel, usually 15 to 20 years into their lifetime. Then they’re supposed to be disposed of by moving into a different orbit, moving out of the way so that another spacecraft can go into that orbital slot in geosynchronous orbit.”

For this reason, satellites retain an extra bit of fuel, allowing them to make this final journey. Instead of this, Parrish said that RSGS could be used to transport the defunct satellites to their final resting place after they use up every last drop of station-keeping fuel.

The challenges of space

None of this is straightforward, of course. Parrish explained some of the challenges that exist with building and launching the first RSGS spacecraft. For one thing, space is a pretty darn inhospitable environment. Even compared to some of the more hazardous terrain on Earth, geostationary orbit comes with a slew of new challenges.

Northrop Grumman’s Mission Extension Vehicle-1’s (MEV-1) “near hold” position during a test earlier this year. In future missions, MEV-1 will be carrying DARPA’s RSGS Robotic Payload. Northtrop Grumman

“[You] go from a temperature that would boil water down to well below a temperature that would freeze water,” he said. “That happens many, many times throughout a mission. Imagine freezing, thawing, freezing, thawing, freezing, thawing, over and over again. The temperature extremes are very different than what you would encounter in a laboratory environment.”

There is also the issue of damage from atmospheric radiation, while the vacuum of space means that traditional methods of lubricating components such as motors and gears simply won’t work. Any lubricants used on conventional robot arms would be boiled off in an instant.

“It turns out in practice that humans have great difficulty teleoperating robots with that amount of time delay.”

Then there’s the challenge of maneuvering the RSGS spacecraft in orbit. Satellites are a lot of things, but one thing they are not is particularly nimble and capable of zipping around like cars on a freeway. RSGS is no ordinary satellite, however. “We carry additional thrusters and additional fuel that makes us much more maneuverable than a typical spacecraft,” Parrish explained.

The robot is controlled using a combination of autonomous technology and step-by-step, human-programmed instructions. Plans to employ remote-control were torpedoed by the time delay in sending instructions 37,000 kilometers above Earth.

“It turns out in practice that humans have great difficulty teleoperating robots with that amount of time delay,” Parrish said. “They can handle a quarter of a second of time delay from the time they input something to the time they see the robot moving in that direction to perform the command. Two seconds kind of takes us out of being able to joystick the robot.”

Launch is just around the corner

At present, the team is hard at work building the robot arms, in addition to developing other project components like the various gripper tools and onboard cameras. Testing is planned to take place late next year or early in 2022. After that, the plan is to launch the robot mechanic into orbit in 2023. “That may sound far away to some, but to me as the project manager, it’s right around the corner,” Parrish said.

Don’t expect it to remain lonely, though. We are hoping that if the first RSGS is successful, that will spawn numerous additional ones, he said.

With no shortage of satellites currently in orbit, and lots more to launch in the near future, this is likely to be one robot that’s got no shortage of work available.


Hoverwatch keylogger for Android

A keylogger Android application is basically any software or program that allows you to monitor or watch the keystrokes of someone else by recording these keystrokes while they use their Android smartphones. The application then allows you access to the recorded information. Since the whole point of a keylogger Android app is to be able to monitor someone without their knowledge, keylogger applications have enhanced features that ensure that the monitoring process is carried out in a stealthy manner. We shall go into full details of the features and particularly those of the Hoverwatch keylogger for Android later on in the article.When it comes to the legality of using hacking software programs such as the keylogger Android application, such programs are for one legal to own or possess. However, when a keylogger App is used for criminal purposes such as identity theft or stealing then the use of such application is illegal and thus punishable under federal law as well as state laws. It is an offense to secretly install a keylogger on another person’s phone.Using information that has been illicitly obtained from a keylogger application is also an offense on its own. It is however important to take note that in some states the surreptitious use of keylogger apps is legal and especially so in an employer-employee relationship.About the Hoverwatch keylogger Android applicationKeylogger programs can sound so intimidating particularly because a lot of computer lingua is associated with programs of this kind. It would not therefore come as a shock to wonder whether the use of a keylogger Android application and in this case Hoverwatch, requires any special knowledge whatsoever in the installation and use of such apps.If you have a similar question or doubts as to the same then the answer is simply that no special know how or skills is required for one to install and use Hoverwatch. Hoverwatch is a completely user-friendly application and just about anyone from a guru down to a lay man can make their way through the Hoverwatch app.Navigation through the Hoverwatch application is also particularly made easier with the step by step guide on the process of installation as well as use that is available in Hoverwatch.com website.There is so much ease with how you can get data from any Android phone with Hoverwatch keylogger for Android. All you have to do after installing Hoverwatch in any phone you would like to monitor is to log in to your Hoverwatch online account.This could be from any device and the result is that you will get access to all the information that has been recorded from the phone you are monitoring. And just like that you will have all the data without breaking a sweat. Isn’t that very easy?Now that some basic information about Hoverwatch has been established it is time to get into the details of some of the features that have been integrated into the Hoverwatch keylogger application for Android . These features include:The invisibility featureThis is the most essential feature of Hoverwatch keylogger Android App. This particular feature ensures that the Hoverwatch app stays hidden so that your monitoring activities stay hidden from those being monitored. This in turn means that accurate information is obtained and especially for parental control purposes.Tracking of text messages and callsWith this feature you can track all the outgoing as well as incoming calls and text messages. It also allows you to view any images sent via MMS from your personal Hoverwatch account.Geolocation featureThe specialty of this feature is in physical tracking; that is, you can get the geographical location of the monitored Android device just from your account.SIM card replacementThe SIM replacement feature proves helpful by allowing you to still be able to monitor an Android device even after a SIM card is replaced or even removed by the user of the monitored device.Whatsapp, Facebook and viber trackingConversations held through these mobile applications including all the images, videos and audios shared are recorded and made accessible to your online account thanks to this feature.Tracking of up to five devicesAn installation of the Hoverwatch parental control gives you the opportunity to monitor a maximum of five devices.Other features of the Hoverwatch keylogger app include;Front camera photoSnapchat spyContacts trackingAndroid screenshotsTodo list trackingPhone internet history trackingSupport and pricing policy of the Hoverwatch keylogger Android applicationThe Hoverwatch support application provided for in the Hoverwatch website goes a long way in promoting the user friendliness of both the website and the app. Here is where the step by step guide on the installation process for the Hoverwatch keylogger Android app is contained.It is also at this section that any inquiries from the users can be made. Removal instructions are also contained in this section in the event someone would like to uninstall the Hoverwatch application.The pricing policy of the Hoverwatch keylogger Android application is categorized into three plans that is; the personal, business as well as professional plans. Each of these plans then has subcategories of a one month plan, three months plan and lastly a twelve months plan. It is absolutely up to each individual user to evaluate and choose a plan that best suits them.In conclusion, knowing the activities and whereabouts of our loved ones is very vital if at all we are to ensure that they are safe and protected at all times. One way of doing this is through keylogger Android applications such as Hoverwatch.Great care should however be exercised by users in terms of understanding the scope of the privacy laws in one’s state. Use of the Hoverwatch app for ulterior motives should be refrained and if not the liability of such use falls entirely on the user. If you are searching for a keylogger app for Android then you should definitely give the Hoverwatch keylogger Android application a try.

10 can’t-miss deals for the Fourth of July weekend

Believe it or not, the first half of 2020 is finally over. It’s July and we’re ready to tackle the rest of the year. It’s time for hot days and hotter deals.The 4th of July is the perfect time to save on new gadgets, gear, and gizmos. If you’re on the hunt to pick up something new for yourself, a loved one, or a friend, consider the following offers.While these deals are already worth your attention, we’re here to sweeten things up even more. For a limited time you can save an extra 15% on your purchase by entering coupon code JULYFOURTH15 at checkout on purchases of $50 or more.Jam Audio Tune In Neckband Style Bluetooth HeadphonesDon’t change the channel — Tune In’s ergonomically designed collar rests on your neck for up to 12 hours of playtime. These earphones let you play music from your device via Bluetooth technology. Use it during workouts, jogging, or commute. The neckband style makes sure that you won’t lose your earphones no matter what you do. $30MOZA Mini-Mi Wireless Charging Smartphone GimbalCapable of stabilizing your phone for stunningly smooth shots, gimbals are already pretty impressive, but the MOZA Mini-MI goes one step further. Engineered with wireless charging tech, this smartphone gimbal keeps your device energized while you record. $95VILTA-M Pro 3-Axis Handheld Smartphone Stabilizer GimbalTake your video shoots to the next level with this VILTA-M Pro 3-Axis Handheld Smartphone Stabilizer Gimbal. Made for creative, adventurous production, the VILTA-M Pro features various focus and zoom settings choices for cinematic quality footage. $119Robo 360° Rotation Smart AI Object Tracking GimbalThe Robo Smart Gimbal lets you film yourself totally hands-free. Using AI technology, Robo automatically recognizes your face and follows you wherever you go. It proceeds to intelligent shooting with infinite 360° rotation — once your face is detected, it starts taking pictures or videos automatically. $40LOFT Battery Base for Google HomeGoogle Home has great voice-controlled features and quality audio but falls short when it comes to portability, as it must remain plugged-in to work. LOFT is a portable battery base that solves this problem by making Google Home cordless, thus portable, so you can move your device from room to room with ease. $17JOT Battery Base for Google Home MiniThe JOT is a portable, battery base for your Google Home Mini designed to provide rechargeable, cord-free mobility at your fingertips. Simply nest the Google Home Mini securely into JOT to untether and enjoy cordless use anywhere in your home. $17datAshur PRO² 256-bit Encrypted USB 3.2 Flash DriveWe usually use flash drives for on-the-go storing and transferring of files whether for school, work, or business. But sometimes these very ordinary drives are prone to malware as well as easy targets to hacking. Never compromise your data again! datAshur® PRO² is a fully-encrypted flash drive that gives advanced security to your portable data. $80CleanTray UV Light Sterilization CaseLet’s face it. Your phone and other daily items are 10 times dirtier than most toilet seats…and you touch it about 47 times a day. Get rid of all the nasties with this CleanTray UV Light Sterilization Case. Using 4 UV-C LED lights, this case kills 99.99% of germs and bacteria in just 5 minutes — 2 times faster than other UV devices. $70Bluetooth Smart WatchAdd some intelligence to your everyday accessories with this sleek, modern smartwatch. Just add in your own SIM card, and this watch allows you to make phone calls, send text messages and much more right from your wrist. It’s also optimized as a fitness watch with a pedometer, calorie calculator, distance meter, and more integrated into the watch. $30BENTOSTACK POWERHUB 5000Less is more. The BentoStack PowerHub 5000 is a compact accessory organizer combining a charge cover, Type-C hub, and a storage compartment, all in one minimalistic stackable case. $100

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