NASA crowdsourcing design of robotic arm

The community of 17 million users of the crowdsourcing market place​ have a unique chance to help design part of a NASA robot for the International Space Station, the site announced this week.

The 17 million users of the crowdsourcing market place have a unique chance to help design part of a NASA robot for the International Space Station, the site announced this week.

Under the direction of NASA’s Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation, the space agency will select 30 freelancers to submit designs for a robotic arm that will allow its Astrobee free-flyer robot to maneuver around the station, handle a variety of tools, and even act as cameraman to record astronauts’ experiments and interactions with civilians via webcam.

“NASA has grown in the multiple ways we engage the crowd to provide solutions to challenges we face when advancing complex space systems,” CoECI lead Jason Crusan, who also serves as NASA’s Director of Advanced Exploration Systems, said in a release. “This challenge continues that expansion and will help to create novel designs but also allow us to learn about sophisticated system design through the use of open innovation.”

The Astrobee is the successor to the SPHERES, a free-flying robot currently deployed on the ISS to perform basic tests and diagnostics, allowing astronauts to dedicate their time to more delicate operations. The Astrobee is expected to possess numerous advantages over its predecessor, including the ability to move around inside the space station without interfacing.


All freelancers are invited to enter a competition for a coveted spot in the group of 30 that will submit thorough breakdown options for the system architecture. NASA will analyze the submissions and potentially hybridize them with their own designs in the hopes of maximizing performance and versatility.

CoECI is a White House Office of Science and Technology Policy initiative to assist NASA in solving mission-critical problems by means of crowdsourcing and other open innovation challenges.

“We continue to explore the many ways to engage external innovators,” Crusan said.

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