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Angermann, Barbara; Hoffland, Shelly (ed.) / Wisconsin engineer
Volume 93, No. 2 (December 1988)

Denissen, Nicholas C.
Advanced simulation for space automation,   pp. 22-23

Page 22

by Nicholas C. Denissen
Many hazards must be overcome
if man is to conquer space. Most hazards
are caused by the extremely harsh
environment of outer space. It is already
accepted that robotics can distance
humans from these dangers.
The development of robotics for
use in space, however, presents many
problems. First, the requirements for
robots in space are unique; they are
unlike any that have so far been encoun-
tered on earth. For example, it is not
feasible to use an industrial robot, such
as an Asea IRB2000, to unload the space
shuttle; even if the kinematic require-
ments were met by the robot for this task.
The physical construction of the robot
It is not enough to merely posses this
advanced technology; it is important for
us to effectively apply this technology to
various areas.
does not permit it to function in space.
Thus, it is necessary for us to design
completely new robots that are suited for
our space applications. Secondly, the
conventional programming of robots
brings various detrimental factors into
play; the time and costs involved in on-
line programming of a robot in space
would be astronomical. Time and cost
effectiveness could be achieved through
off-line programming the robots from
earth. The main basic asset that over-
comes all these problems is technology.
Working in this space environ-
ment demands the most of our technol-
ogy. It is not enough to merely possess
this advanced technology: it is important
for us to effectively apply it to various
McDonnell Douglas is one
company which has effectively applied
its technological resources to create a
product that can help us overcome the
hazards of space by overcoming the
problems of robotics. The product,
PLACE, has been a leader in the dynamic
subset of the CAD/CAM market:
robotics simulation systems. Graphical
simulation systems, such as McDonnell
Douglas' PLACE, are a large step toward
conquering these hazards.
For demonstration purposes let
us examine a project that is currently
being undertaken by the United States;
the development and implementation of
an orbiting space station. By examining
the work that is involved in bringing this
project to fruition and by analyzing
problems that might arise during its
execution and implementation we can
demonstrate that simulation is an
invaluable tool.
Analyzing the complete project
would be beyond the scope of the article,
so for demonstration purposes divide the
project into small key groups; design,
construction, implementation, and
support. These four groups will be
briefly studied and the application of
simulation will be evaluated.
To simplify the analyzation and
thus make it more effective, I will draw
an analogy to a manufacturing process
here on earth; the manufacturing of an
automobile. This process involves the
same four key groups mentioned above;
design, construction, implementation,
and support. Since many automobile
manufacturers use a simulation system to
assist them in manufacturing, it will
prove effective to draw analogies to the
"manufacturing" of the space station.
We will see how automobile manufactur-
ers overcome problems in the four areas
and thus will be able to predict how we
can overcome the similar problems that
arise with the space station.
The first step is designing the
space station. The design process is
The larger the project and the more
groups involved, the more important
effective and efficient communication
tedious and lengthy. It is further
complicated by the fact that NASA is
working with companies, such as
McDonnell Douglas and Astronautics, as
well as with universities and institutions,
including the Wisconsin Center for Space
Automation and Robotics (WCSAR) at
the University of Wisconsin. The classic
problem that arises is the lack of suffi-
cient communication. The larger the
project and the more groups involved,
the more important effective and efficient
communication becomes.
Let us say, for example, that a
certain concept of the space station exists.
Various groups and teams have worked
together to create a theoretical model of
the space station- what it is and how it
will work. The model consists of a
complex array of information; mechani-
cal, kinematic, material, and so on. It is
represented by various formulas and
parameters that were combined from the
various groups and teams. Now let us
Wisconsin Engineer, December 1988

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