NASA partners with Freelancer.com to crowdsource its latest robotic arm

nasa robotic arm international space station
Naeblys / Shutterstock
NASA is known for its crowdsourcing campaigns that it uses to find innovative solutions to its engineering problems. In recent years, the space agency has turned to the public for help in developing software to hunt asteroids that threaten the Earth and for inspiration on how to build a habitat suitable for life on Mars. Now NASA is flexing its crowdsourcing muscle again, this time using its Tournament Lab and an ongoing partnership with Freelancer.com to encourage people to design a robotic arm for one of its International Space Station projects.

NASA is seeking help for Astrobee, a free-flying robot that will assist astronauts with routine chores on the International Space Station. Astrobee is the replacement for the existing Spheres robot, which is an earlier model of a free-flying robot that’s been in service on the ISS since 2006. The Astrobee is slated for deployment in 2017 when the Sphere is retired. Astrobee is a compact cubic robot that can take direction from mission control in Houston as well as perform its tasks autonomously.

NASA and Freelancer are hosting a contest, known as the NASA System Architecture Task, to design a robotic arm for Astrobee that will be used for “perching and interacting with small objects.” NASA is looking for alternative ideas that will provide Astrobee with “complementary or enhanced capabilities.” The contest will begin with a registration that is open to all Freelancer.com members. Any member can fill out a survey, which will be reviewed by a team at NASA. Out of the pool of submissions, NASA then will choose 30 people to participate in a competition to develop the system architecture for the Astrobee robotic arm.

Registration for the NASA and Freelancer contest started on January 14 with submissions still being accepted for the task. Cash prizes include a $10 payment for the 30 participants selected for the design phase of the contest, while finalists who meet NASA requirements for the task will receive a $100 prize.

Computing

An inside look at Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx, a revolutionary laptop processor

Six years after Microsoft’s failed foray into ARM computing with Windows RT, its second effort with Always-Connected PC is now showing early signs of success. Microsoft partner Qualcomm told us how the Snapdragon 8cx might revolutionize…
Emerging Tech

Prepare for liftoff: Here are all the important upcoming SpaceX rocket launches

From ISS resupply missions to a host of communication and scientific satellite launches, SpaceX has a busy year ahead. Here's a rundown of some of the company's most important missions slated for the next year.
Emerging Tech

Intel wants its fleet of drones to monitor America’s aging, unsafe bridges

Intel has signed a deal to use its Falcon 8+ drones to carry out bridge inspections. The hope is that these drones will be useful in spotting potential problems before they become serious.
Product Review

How does the sleek MateBook X Pro hold up to the modern day competition?

Huawei impressed us with the MateBook X, a solid competitor to the 12-inch MacBook that beat Apple at its own game. Now, Huawei is taking a shot at premium 14-inchers with the MateBook X Pro, but it’s not without oddities – like a…
Deals

Take to the skies with these 5 drones on sale for under $50

On the hunt for some cool tech for under $50? We've rounded up 5 drones under $50 that you can still get before Christmas. These models are great for kids, adults, and anyone just getting started with drones.
Emerging Tech

With this robotic garage, retrieving your car is like using a vending machine

Remembering where we parked our cars can be a real pain. But what if our cars came to find us, rather than the other way around? A new automated robot parking valet system aims to help.
Emerging Tech

A lidar-equipped truck knows exactly how much de-icer to apply on roads

Lidar is best known as the laser-based technology that helps self-driving cars sense their surroundings. But the city of Knoxville has another, more seasonal use for it: De-icing roads.
Cars

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…
Emerging Tech

This unusual nature-inspired robot is equally at home on land or in the water

This intriguing, nature-inspired robot may look unusual, but it's impressively capable of moving on both land and water without problem. Heck, it can even travel on ice if necessary.
Emerging Tech

This cryptocurrency wallet for kids isn’t nearly as stupid as it sounds

So you’ve taught your 6-year-old child to read, write, and play nice with others. What’s next? Give them a base understanding of cryptocurrency, of course. This Kickstarter aims to help.
Emerging Tech

Light, speed: Lighting kit for DJI Mavic 2 lets you fly and film in the dark

Lume Cube, maker of small battery-powered LED lights for mobile photography, has announced a new lighting kit built specifically for the DJI Mavic 2 -- the first of its kind. Already our favorite drone, this makes the Mavic 2 even better.
Emerging Tech

Virgin Galactic’s latest test flight takes it to the edge of space

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic has successfully carried out its fourth powered flight in Mojave, California. It was the company's most ambitious test flight yet -- and bodes well for the future.
Emerging Tech

We’re going to the Red Planet! All the past, present, and future missions to Mars

SpaceX isn't the only organization pining to visit the Red Planet. Here's a detailed list of all operational and planned missions to Mars, along with explanations of their objectives, spacecraft details, and mission proposals.
Emerging Tech

There’s a giant EMP blaster in New Mexico. Don’t worry, it’s here to protect us

An electromagnetic pulse has the potential to disable virtually all electronics within a large area. To help protect against such a threat is a new, friendly EMP emitter. Here's how it works.