Extend Robotics Demonstrates Potential for Use of VR in Space

Updated: Sep 20

Extend Robotics has recently demonstrated the potential use of its robotics solutions in space, thanks to a new feasibility study.

We teamed up with the STAR LAB at the University of Surrey in an experimental project funded by the UK Space Agency (UKSA), to show how human assisted robotic docking could work.

The changing face of space

The increasing commercialisation of space and growth of space infrastructure within Low Earth Orbit has seen docking become a relatively common occurrence. The International Space Station already counts on assistance from multiple robotic arms for missions involving in-orbit servicing, such as refuelling or repairing of space craft and satellites.

In instance like this, autonomous robotic docking is often used. However, this approach can lack reliability and the flexibility to respond to complex situations in the real world. We believe that people teleoperating robotics remotely is the best way to mitigate risks and prevent potential mission failures. Our aim is to also reduce hardware and training costs and improve efficiency.

The space docking experiment

Two robotic arms were used in the recent experiment, which took place in the Star Lab Orbital Robotics Testbed Facility within the University of Surrey. Each was fitted with a SIROM adapter – a standardised, multi-functional docking mechanism. An untrained operator then controlled the robotic docking arm using our VR interface, enabling them to see the environment in full 3D, while using grab and pull gestures to control the robot end effector naturally.

Both robotic arms were tracked using motion capture to measure the accuracy of their movements, with the experiment repeated 12 times with a range of variables. The results were unequivocal, with a docking success rate of 95% and an average time of just 44 seconds to complete the manoeuvre. Impressively, the average docking error was only 1.9mm.

Dr Chang Liu, founder and CEO of Extend Robotics, said:

“This experiment demonstrates the immense potential of this technology. At Extend Robotics, we believe VR teleoperation will one day enable complex structures to be assembled in space through human-robotic collaboration. We’re here to provide the next generation of human-robotic interfaces.”

Prof. Yang Gao, founding head of STAR LAB at the University of Surrey, added:

“It is a pleasure to support this UKSA project and collaborate with Extend Robotics to help validate their VR technologies appliable in future space mission scenarios”.

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