PickNik Inc. yesterday said it is working with Sierra Space Corp. to explore the implementation of autonomous robots and controls for maintaining space habitats. The companies said they expect to develop systems that will improve support for low-Earth orbit, lunar, and deep-space missions.
PickNik Robotics said its expertise in robotic manipulation with Sierra Space's LIFE (Large Integrated Flexible Environment) product lines will help enable extended mission durations that benefit from remote-controlled tools.
“Sierra Space’s vision and progress toward creating a commercial platform for space manufacturing and other applications is really exciting, and we look forward to contributing to those meaningfully with our robotics expertise and software,” said Dr. Dave Coleman, CEO of PickNik Robotics.
Founded in 2015, PickNik said it helps organizations such as NASA, Google, Amazon, and Samsung address the technical, cost, and time challenges associated with the development of advanced robotics applications. The Boulder, Colo.-based company also supports and collaborates with the worldwide open-source robotics movement and is the lead developer of the MoveIt motion-planning framework.
Sierra Space works on Dream Chaser
“At Sierra Space, our mission is to build a platform in space to benefit life here on Earth,” said Steve Lindsey, chief strategy officer at Sierra Space and a former astronaut who has flown five missions for NASA. “To fulfill that mission, we wanted to collaborate with a leading robotics company that has deep expertise working in complex environments. PickNik Robotics fits those criteria.”
Louisville, Colo.-based Sierra Space said it has more than 30 years and 500 missions of space-flight heritage, experience that it is looking to apply to transportation, growing the commercal space economy.
The company plans to launch the Dream Chaser, which it claimed is “the world's only winged commercial space vehicle,” early next year. It is designed for the low-Earth orbit (LEO) market. The spaceplane is reusable and capable of a smooth,1.5 g (low-gravity) re-entry, said Sierra Space.
The Dream Chaser is designed to transport crew and cargo, as well as to land on existing commercial airport runways. It and the LIFE platform are central components of the planned “Orbital Reef” commercial space station and mixed-use business park, which Sierra Space is developing with Blue Origin LLC.
PickNik to support LIFE on Mars
LIFE is a modular, three-story commercial habitation and science platform for LEO, Mars transport, and lunar and Mars surface habitation. It will provide opportunities for industries including manufacturing and pharmaceuticals to optimize the zero-gravity benefits of space, said PickNik Robotics.
The company plans to provide technical expertise to Sierra Space for further development of supervised autonomy technology, including requirements gathering, workspace analysis, and hardware selection. PickNik will also support Sierra Space in developing concept simulations of robots for use on Space Stations.
In addition, PickNik said it will provide software engineering to implement Space ROS (a version of ROS 2, the Robot Operating System) and MoveIt Studio to support Sierra Space’s needs for flight-hardened software.