Technical Talk on ‘Service-Oriented Robotic Architecture for Space Robotics’

By Dr. Lorenzo Fluckiger on 27 March, 2014


Dr. Lorenzo Fluckiger is a Senior Systems Scientist at Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley, working on robotic projects for the NASA Ames Research Center. He currently leads the K-Rex rover project for the Intelligent Robotics Group (IRG) and is a collaborator for the “Mars Science Laboratory” (MSL) mission. Dr. Fluckiger earned his Master in Micro- Engineering (1994) and his Ph.D. in Robotics (1998) from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne. During his Ph.D. he created a new virtual reality based user interface for robot manipulators, including a novel haptic device. Next, Dr. Fluckiger pursued a postdoctoral research fellowship at the NASA Ames Research Center, where he integrated his haptic device with the visualization software developed for the Mars Polar Lander Mission. Since 2001 Dr. Fluckiger has been working for the NASA Ames Research Center. He started as the lead architect of the Mission Simulation Facility (MSF). MSF has been used to develop, integrate and demonstrate autonomous software for the “Intelligent Systems” program. Then he joined IRG focusing his work on autonomous mobile robots. He participated in the Peer-to-Peer Human-Robot Interaction and took part in multiple robotic field tests performed in Moon/Mars analog environments .

Advanced software development tools and practices are necessary to cope efficiently with the complexity of the software powering any modern robotics system. This need is amplified for robots designed for the exploration of uncharted environments since the tasks involved require a high level of autonomy combined with a rich set of interactions with a control team. To address this challenge, the Intelligent Robotics Group (IRG) at the NASA Ames Research Center developed a Service Oriented Robotic Architecture (SORA) to control its exploration robot prototypes. SORA has enabled complex exploration scenarios in realistic environments to be tested while allowing IRG’s research in human-robot exploration to smoothly evolve. Based on a Service Oriented Architecture and robust middleware, SORA encompasses on- board robot control and a full suite of software tools necessary for remotely operated exploration missions. Lorenzo Fluckiger will present the lessons learned from more than six years of experiments with the SORA software system. Examples of robotic field tests conducted with the K10 and K-Rex rovers will be used to illustrate the SORA concepts. More specifically, the recent “Surface Telerobotics” experiment where astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) controlled K10 rovers at NASA Ames will be used to show how SORA can support space missions

Dr. Fluckiger has led the rover software team for four years. He was responsible for the software architecture and the continuous navigation system of the K10 rovers, with an emphasis on robot software architecture to support distributed control and human interactions. Dr. Fluckiger involvement with the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) project includes developing a 3D user interface to create command sequences for the Curiosity rover and a dynamic simulation of the rover mobility system and robotic arm. Currently Dr. Fluckiger is also in charge of the second generation of K-Rex, a wheeled robot designed to support IRG’s field tests by providing high terrain capabilities, easy integration with science instruments and excellent maintainability.

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