Robonaut is a humanoid robotic development project conducted by the Dextrous Robotics Laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas. Robonaut differs from other current space-faring robots in that, while most current space robotic systems (such as robotic arms, cranes and exploration rovers) are designed to move large objects, Robonaut’s tasks require more dexterity.
The core idea behind the Robonaut series is to have a humanoid machine work alongside astronauts. Its form factor and dexterity are designed such that Robonaut can use space tools and work in similar environments suited to astronauts.
The latest Robonaut version, R2, the first US-built robot on the ISS, delivered by STS-133 in Feb 2011, is a robotic torso designed to assist with crew EVA’s and can hold tools used by the crew. However, Robonaut 2 does not have adequate protection needed to exist outside the space station and enhancements and modifications would be required to allow it to move around the station’s interior. NASA states “Robonauts are essential to NASA’s future as we go beyond low earth orbit”, and R2 will provide performance data about how a robot may work side-by-side with astronauts.