The Future AI and Robotics for Space (FAIR-SPACE) Hub brings together leading experts from academia, industry and governments, and aims at pushing the boundary of AI robotics for future space utilization and exploration. In the immediate term, the Hub will help advance knowledge and technologies in orbital manipulation, extra-terrestrial vehicles, and robotic support for astronaut missions. These directly address technical priorities in the space sector worldwide. In the long term, the Hub will help transfer the field to a new era by achieving long-lived robotic operations in space.
The FAIR-SPACE Hub is a UK national centre of research excellence in space robotics and AI. The Hub was launched in November 2017, as part of the government’s £84m R&D funding on “robotics and AI for extreme environments” through the Industry Strategic Challenge Fund (ISCF). In its initial 3-year programme, the Hub has secured a £6.9m research grant from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the UK Space Agency (UKSA), boosted by a further £7.5m match fund from the industrial sector and a £15m business development fund.
Led by the University of Surrey with over 30 international partners, the FAIR-SPACE Hub consortium offers a unique combination of expertise and capabilities to address key challenges in space robotics and autonomous systems, as well as to influence and engage with the wider community of academia, industry, government and the public. Surrey draws on four decades of R&D heritage in spacecraft engineering to lead the FAIR-SPACE Hub. Home to the Surrey Space Centre, the University had successfully developed and launched the world first university-led micro and nano spacecraft in the 1970-1990’s, and has continued to lead future trends on space research through real-world demonstration missions. The Surrey STAR-Lab has contributed to national and international space robotics missions such as MoonLITE, Moonraker, Proba3, ExoMars and Chang’E-3. The university partners include Imperial College London, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Liverpool, the University of Salford and the University of Warwick.
While primarily aimed at solving the technical barriers faced by the global space sector, the technologies developed by FAIR-SPACE also have applications in other industries where there is a need to navigate hazardous or challenging environments, such as nuclear, underwater, mining and agriculture.
*Header Images: Courtesy of NASA and ESA
The FAIR-SPACE Hub aims to go beyond the state of the art in robotic sensing and perception, mobility and manipulation, on-board and on-ground autonomous capabilities, and human-robot interactions, to enable space robots to perform complex tasks on long-duration missions with minimal dependence on ground crew.
The core R&D programme underpins user-inspired challenges, and will see novel technologies being demonstrated via industry defined and led use cases, representing future space mission scenarios:
Orbital robots for repairing satellites, assembling large space telescopes, manufacturing in space, and removing space debris.
Planetary robots for surveying, observing, extracting resources, and deploying infrastructure for human arrival and habitation.
Interoperability between astronauts and robots aboard the International Space Station or for the future Moon Village mission, for example through wearable technologies in future generation spacesuit.
The research will merge the best available off-the-shelf hardware and software solutions with trail-blazing innovations and new standards and frameworks, leading to a constellation of space robotic prototypes and tools (the first set of prototypes due to be delivered by mid-2019). The Hub will accelerate the prototyping of autonomous solutions in a scalable way, so that the innovations and methodologies developed can be rapidly spun out for adoption across the space sector worldwide. This will accelerate the prototyping of autonomous systems in a scalable way, where the innovations and methodologies developed can be rapidly spun out for wide adoption in the space sector worldwide.
Image Courtesy of Airbus
Image Courtesy of University of Surrey
Image Courtesy of University of Edinburgh
Govermental Funding Bodies:
Core research academic partners:
Partners from industry, research, commercial and governmental organisations:
Airbus Defence and Space
Thales Alenia Space UK Ltd
Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd
NEPTEC UK Ltd
Horizon Space Technology Ltd
China Aerospace S&T Corp.
Intel Corporation UK Ltd
R U Robotics
Value Chain Technology Ltd
Gaitech Technology (HK) Ltd
Italian Institute of Technology
Chinese Academy of Sciences
International Space University
STFC-Virtual Engineering Centre
STFC-Boulby Underground Laboratory
UK Space Agency
European Space Agency
NASA Johnson Space Centre,
Satellite Applications Catapult,
UK Atomic Energy Authority
Deepbridge Captial LLP