Space Robotics: Design and Applications



This course explores the technologies required for the successful design of rovers and manipulators for space applications. Space robotics have applications to exploration, satellite servicing, refueling, logistics and orbital debris removal. Due to potentially long distances between operator and robot resulting in long latencies and the extreme environments of space, robotics requires special attention to redundant actuators, multi-sensor systems and advanced computer processing systems (also referred in total as mechatronics). Class discussions include a review of robotic basics emphasizing different forms of mobility, autonomous navigation, terrain mapping, path planning, arm kinematics, human-robot interfaces (HRI) and end-point control of serial appendage(s). Examples of robotics include applications of artificial intelligence, teleoperation and autonomy, and humanoids for space (for Intra-Vehicular Activities or Extra-Vehicular Activities) maintenance and repair. In addition, robots require internal state estimation, planning, and external sensing using cameras, lights, and LIDAR devices. Lectures also explore the maturation of technologies from cybernetics, to fuzzy control, to behavior-based approaches, and more recently from statistical estimation to artificial intelligence techniques.

The course includes examples of systems to demonstrate remote mapping, unknown terrain traversability, obstacle avoidance, Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM), pick and place tasks, space manufacturing, and assembly in space.  Typical examples include the shuttle Remote Manipulator System (RMS), the Robonaut, SPHERES project, the Curiosity Rover and the future Mars Helicopter Scout.


Each attendee receives extensive notes and reference materials.


The course is for engineers, scientists, business managers, and engineering managers of diverse background and with varying levels of experience, including those who are new to robotics and artificial intelligence. This class would appeal to individuals who are involved in planning robotic projects, designing systems, building, testing, and the operations of space robotics.  Technologists who wish to expand their knowledge base in telepresence, bi-lateral force feedback, hand controllers, predictive displays, exoskeletons, and voice control.  Systems engineers who need to know how to integrate multi-disciplinary engineering projects, especially those that are software intensive and where safety is a major concern.  Program managers needing more data on current developments in autonomy, hardware cost trends and business case economics.  Educators who teach related topics in coordinate transformations and SIMO/MIMO control problems.  In summary, this is a must course if you are addressing the Fourth Industrial Evolution and taking advantage of improved processing following Moore’s Law.


  • Fundamentals of manipulation and autonomous navigation
  • Examples of free-flyers, astronaut aids, robot colonies, robots on space station
  • Design approaches for communications, time delay, tooling, robot hands
  • Trends in Cobots, Robot Operating Systems (ROS) and Augmented Reality (AR) Toolkits


1.- Robotic Systems and the Role of the Human in a Human/Robot System

Sheridan, Cybernetics, Moore’s Law, Turing Test

2.- Rover Mobility

Wheels, legs, tracks

3.- Rover Navigation – local and global

Localization, Mapping, Path Planning, Obstacle Avoidance

4.- Space Hardware (including the Rocker Boggy, Drills, and End Effectors)

Terrain Interaction testbeds, Environmental Testing, Test yards

5.- Computer Vision for Satellite Inspection

Filtering, segmentation, finding corners & edges, SIFT, object identification

6.- Manipulator: Coordinate Transformations, Forward Kinematics, Inverse Kinematics, Jacobian

Position, Orientation, Matrix Operators, 6 DOF

7.- Manipulator: Dynamics, Control, Trajectories, Path Planning

PI, PD, PID, Force Control, Position Control, Hybrid Control

8.- Robot System Examples

Docking, Berthing, Multi-manipulators, mobile manipulators

9.- Human and Robot Interfaces

Hand controllers, displays, feedback, human factors, lighting




Wendell Chun is Adjunct Professor of Robotics and Systems Engineering at the University of Denver, and concurrently a lecturer/Research Professor at the University of Colorado Denver in Electrical Engineering. He is a Subject Matter Expert (SME) in robotics, mobile robots, autonomy, and artificial intelligence. Wendell has 33 years of hands-on experience in industry at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company where he was the principal investigator of various robotic R&D programs that featured Mars Rover designs, the teaming of robots, polymorphic robots, and flight manipulator designs.  He is a technical advisor to different branches of the US government such as NASA and the Department of Energy, as well as a reviewer for the National Science Foundation and a SME for DARPA.  He is an Associate Editor for the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation for 2018 and 2019.  Wendell is the author of sections in NASA’s Report to the US Congress on Satellite Servicing through NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.



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