ESA title
Enabling & Support

Research and Development

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ESA / Enabling & Support / Space Engineering & Technology / Automation and Robotics

The technology domain of Automation & Robotics covers the specification, development, verification, operation and utilisation of space automation systems. Such systems include

  1. space robot systems (comprising both arm based systems for inspection, servicing and assembly of space system infrastructure or payloads and mobile robots for surface exploration on celestial bodies) and
  2. Space laboratory automation and payload control systems in manned and unmanned missions.

The Technology Tree

ESA's Technology Tree for Automation and Robotics
ESA's Technology Tree for Automation and Robotics

ESA uses technology trees to define a taxonomy for research and development activities. Each Technology Domain has its own Technology Tree. The A&R Technology Tree is organised in Technology Subdomains (layers) which are further split in Technology Groups (braches):

  1. Applications and Concepts: Covers system aspects and innovative robotic concepts for missions.
    1. Planetary Exploration: Includes novel concepts for handling/assembly of surface infrastructure elements, novel aerobot concepts, novel robot concepts for exploration (including asteroids), micro and nano rover concepts and swarms.
    2. Orbital Systems: Includes automation of orbital infrastructure, or non-cooperative satellites, satellite design for robotic servicing, compound operations of arms on free-flying platforms, assembly and servicing of space structures in orbit, multi-robot cooperation.
    1. Manipulation systems: Includes robot arms, end-effectors and tools.
    2. Mobility Systems: Includes Rovers, Aerobots, underground and underwater explorers.
    3. Payload Automation Systems: It covers all automation aspects of space laboratories.
  2. Automation & Robotics Systems: Covers the detailed definition of robotic systems and subsystems, including technology developments dedicated to specific applications.
  3. Automation & Robotics components and Technologies: Includes general purpose and specific A&R components and methods.
    1. Perception: Includes sensors and sensing methods (e.g. computer vision) which allow robots to perceive their environment and the state of the process they control.
    2. Control, Autonomy and Intelligence: It covers methods that allow robot systems to perform perception processing, understanding of the operating environment, motion planning and control, attention allocation, anticipation, activity planning, and reasoning about their own state and the state of other agents.
    3. Motion and Actuation: It covers the means that allow a robot to physically interact with its environment (e.g. limbs, joints, chassis, wheel units, balloon envelopes, propulsion units).
    4. Robot-User Interfacing: Includes commanding and programming means (e.g.immersive systems, haptic devices) and methods that allow users to interact with an automation and robotics system. Includes Teleoperation, Telepresence, Telescience.
    5. Robot Ground Testing: Includes tools, methods and facilities that allow on-ground characterisation and verification of A&R systems.

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