Tethers Unlimited Aims to Put SPIDERs on Mars

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

During the 1970’s, David Bowie sang about Ziggy Stardust and the spiders from Mars. If Tethers Unlimited has its way, the Red Planet will be crawling with them.

Earlier this month, NASA selected the Bothell, Washington-based company for a small business award to work on its Sensing and Positioning in Deep Environments with Retrieval (SPIDER) surface exploration system.


Look, No Hands! NASA’s First Astrobee Robot “Bumble” Starts Flying in Space

NASA’s Astrobee robot, named Bumble, demonstrates a baby step of free flight by rotating in space. Astronaut David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency watches over while flight controllers at NASA’s Ames Research Center command Bumble. NASA astronaut Nick Hague photographs the occasion. (Credits: NASA)

ABOARD THE ISS (NASA PR) — On June 14, a robot named Bumble became the first Astrobee robot to fly under its own power in space. Astrobee is a free-flying robot system that will help researchers test new technologies in zero gravity and perform routine work alongside astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Robots that can operate on their own in space, such as Astrobee, can be caretakers for NASA’s lunar gateway and will play a significant part in NASA’s future missions to explore the Moon and Mars.


Tethers Unlimited to Develop Collaborative Robotics Platform with NASA Funding

Tethers Unlimited (TUI) will develop a collaborative robotics platform for use aboard the International Space Station with the assistance of NASA funding.

The space agency has selected the company’s AstroPorter proposal for funding under its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I program. The contract is worth up to $125,000 over 13 months.

‘TUI will develop an AstroPorter payload for Astrobee to perform collaborative robotics tasks with TUI’s MANTIS – an EXPRESS Rack payload with a robotic arm for telerobotic operation of experiments on the ISS,” the proposal summary states. “AstroPorter will interface with Astrobee through the dedicated payload bay and function as a platform for transporting equipment and other stowed material around the ISS.”


SPHERES: From Class Project to Droids in Space

The three on-orbit SPHERES satellites fly in formation through the International Space Station, appearing like a squadron star fighters from the Star Wars universe. (Credit: NASA/ISS)
The three on-orbit SPHERES satellites fly in formation through the International Space Station, appearing like a squadron star fighters from the Star Wars universe. (Credit: NASA/ISS)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Imagine you’re sitting in class watching a scene from “Star Wars” and your professor assigns a project meant to fly in space.

In 1999, that is exactly what happened for engineering students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


NASA, Freelancer.com Team for Design of New Free-flying Robot

Artist's concept of the Astrobee robotic free-flyer. (Credit: Freelancer.com)
Artist’s concept of the Astrobee robotic free-flyer. (Credit: Freelancer.com)

SYDNEY, January 19, 2016 (Freelancer.com PR) — Have you got what it takes to help NASA design a free-flying robot for the International Space Station?

NASA’s Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI), through the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL), partners with Freelancer.com to design concepts for a robotic arm for the Astrobee free-flying robot that will succeed the SPHERES robot on the International Space Station (ISS) by crowdsourcing parts from over 17 million freelancers from around the world.

NASA is recruiting freelancers from Freelancer.com to design a concept for a robotic arm as part of a next generation free-flying robot that NASA is developing as a follow-on to the SPHERES autonomous free-flying robot on the ISS. The Astrobee free-flyer robot will have the capability to move around inside the space station on its own without interfacing or interfering with the space station.