The aim of the Arm project is to develop a robotic arm to attach to the Halo. The Arm will used to investigate the behavior and uses of a robotic arm attached to a free floating craft.
Using a robotic arm attached to a free floating vehicle presents unique challenges. Several arms have been used in space, including Canadarm and the Kibo arm, but all of these have been anchored to a much larger structure. Operating an arm on a small free-floating spacecraft is a much more difficult controls problem. As the arm moves the inertial properties of the vehicle change. Grabbing onto and manipulating objects with the arm will create reactionary forces as well. The Arm project is intended to investigate the problem of controlling a small free floating vehicle at the same time as manipulating an object with a robotic arm, using the SPHERES platform.
The potential applications of a robotic arm on a free floating spacecraft are enormous. An arm can be used in satellite repair, assist satellite docking, or serve as a helper to a human performing an EVA. The Arm project will provide a testbed to investigate these applications.
Currently, Arm is in the early design and prototype stage. A prototype has been built using Lego Mindstorms, and the software to control the arm is being developed. The hardware does not have a scheduled launch date, and the Arm project will continue into the forseeable future.
A video showing the prototype arm.