University and Reach Robotics to collaborate on space robotics

3 August 2022
Collaboration to develop robotic arm for space
Dr Xiaofeng Wu and his team in the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering will work with Australian company Reach Robotics to develop solutions to complex space challenges.

Dr Xiaofeng Wu (third from right) with the Reach Robotics Team. Credit: Reach Robotics.

Reach Robotics and the University of Sydney's School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering (AMME) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The two organisations will together develop solutions to complex space control challenges in the field of on-orbit servicing, assembly and manufacturing (OSAM).

Reach Robotics and researchers within the School’s Space Systems Engineering Laboratory have expertise in in space-related robotic technology, including the development and implementation of control algorithms on space-ready robotic arms (‘manipulators’) that are used to carry out tasks in space.

Equipped with manipulators, spacecraft can conduct intervention missions including correcting for adverse scenarios (such as a deploying a malfunctioned solar panel) and carry out modifications (such as adding structures to a platform in space).

Interactions between satellites and manipulators require intelligent navigation and control software that can account for changes in inertia.

Under the collaboration between the University’s space team and Reach Robotics, Dr Xiaofeng Wu and his team will focus on solving complex space challenges with manipulators.

Reach Robotics will provide the robotic technology for integration, collaborative bench-level demonstrations, and for working on strategic opportunities to launch satellite missions, with the potential to develop novel CubeSat (miniaturised satellite) missions that demonstrate intervention capabilities.

Dr Wu’s work at the University of Sydney specialises in small satellites and in-orbit autonomous vision-based navigation and control.

“We’re excited to work with Reach Robotics to build the capabilities in this emerging industry for Australia,” said Dr Wu, who leads the Space Systems Engineering Laboratory.

“It's really exciting to see a new entrant like Reach Robotics bringing its niche, world-leading robotic capabilities into this burgeoning industry.

"Through this collaboration, we hope the University of Sydney will continue to make a name for itself as a top research institute in the on-orbit servicing, assembly and manufacturing sector.

"In addition, the collaboration will provide real-life learning for students – enabling us to train the next generation of professionals ready to work in Australia's growing space sector.”

Anders Ridley-Smith, Business Development Manager at Reach Robotics said: "We're excited to partner with Dr Xiaofeng Wu and his team at the University of Sydney. Their space expertise and interests include solving complex space control problems which aligns well with Reach Robotics.

"Specifically, we are looking forward to supporting the University with our technology to further examine and address interactions between spacecraft and manipulator motion."

Reach Robotics creates advanced robotic arm solutions for harsh environments which enable complex inspection and intervention in maritime infrastructure management, military/police operations, marine science, autonomous robotics research applications, and more.

Luisa Low

Media and PR Adviser (Engineering & IT)

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