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NASA Incorporates AR Technology Into Spacecraft Assembly

NASA Incorporates AR Technology Into Spacecraft Assembly

NASA Revolutionises Spacecraft Assembly with Augmented Reality

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is pioneering the use of augmented reality (AR) technology and robotics in spacecraft engineering, dramatically enhancing the assembly process of the Roman Space Telescope. This innovative approach is setting new standards for precision and efficiency in space technology development. 

The integration of AR tools has enabled technicians to significantly improve accuracy and reduce time spent on fit checks for the telescope. In a notable instance, engineers discovered that the planned design for Roman’s propulsion system would not fit around existing wiring by manipulating a digital model within the real telescope structure. This early detection prevented the need for costly component rebuilds. 

NASA Goddard engineer Ron Glenn emphasized the potential impact of this technology, stating that it could offer substantial benefits to programme costs and schedules across the agency. The AR system allows technicians to project digital models onto physical spaces, facilitating precise alignment of parts and the identification of potential interference issues. This heads-up display technology enables the positioning of flight hardware with remarkable accuracy, down to thousandths of an inch. 

The project, funded through NASA’s Internal Research and Development programme, has exceeded initial expectations. Originally aimed at developing enhanced assembly solutions using AR, the team has discovered numerous additional applications for the technology. 

Complementing the AR system, engineers have employed an automated arm for precise measurements and three-dimensional laser scanning. This combination allowed for the mapping of Roman’s intricate system’s wiring and the available space within the spacecraft structure. Earlier this year, the team successfully integrated the propulsion system, saving significant time and resources.

Looking ahead, the technology shows promise for remote collaboration, enabling partners at different locations to work together as seen through the eyes of the experts. Another degree of efficiency is added by using QR codes for document transmission and metadata storage. This allows for rapid access to essential information. 

The team anticipates future applications, including virtual dry runs for moving and installing structures, precise post-construction measurements, and even ergonomic assessments for technician accessibility during assembly. These advancements are expected to eliminate the need for elaborate physical templates and streamline the overall construction process. 

As NASA continues to push the boundaries of space exploration, this AR-driven approach to spacecraft assembly represents a significant leap forward. The technology is poised to accelerate the production of spacecraft and instruments, potentially saving weeks of construction time and hundreds of thousands of dollars per project. This efficiency boost could free up resources for the development of new missions, further advancing NASA’s exploration goals. 

The Roman Space Telescope, benefiting from these innovative assembly techniques, is scheduled to launch in May 2027. It will explore dark energy, exoplanets, and infrared astrophysics, contributing to our understanding of cosmic phenomena and unravelling the mysteries of the universe.

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