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Toward the First Force-Reflection Experiment on the International Space Station

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This paper introduces the Haptics-1 ISS Payload and experiment, which has been developed by ESA's Telerobotics & Haptics Laboratory. Haptics-1 allows conducting a first extensive set of human factor measurements and measurements of variability of human motor-control capabilities of the upper extremity during extended exposure to microgravity. Haptics-1 consists of a high resolution force reflective Joystick with a single degree of freedom (a force manipulandum), a touch-screen tablet PC with the experiment interface software and all required periphery to conduct multiple experiment protocols with crew-in-the-loop. Haptics-1 has a flexible software framework allowing software up-load and experiment parameter changes from ground. Moreover, Haptics-1 followed an agile development process, which allowed developing the experiment in less than 16 months from scratch, up to delivery to ATV-5 for launch to ISS in summer 2014.
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Toward the First Force-Reflection Experiment on the International Space Station
A. Schiele*,**, M. Aiple*, F. van der Hulst*, T. Krueger*, J. Rebelo*,**, J. Smisek*,**, S. Kimmer*,**, E.
Den Exter*
*Telerobotics & Haptics Laboratory, European Space Agency, ESA
e-mail: andre.schiele@esa.int
**Faculty of Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering, Delft University of Technology, Delft, Netherlands
e-mail: a.schiele@tudelft.nl
***Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, Delft University of Technology, Delft, Netherlands
Abstract
This paper introduces the Haptics-1 ISS Payload
and experiment, which has been developed by ESA’s
Telerobotics & Haptics Laboratory. Haptics-1 allows
conducting a first extensive set of human factor
measurements and measurements of variability of human
motor-control capabilities of the upper extremity during
extended exposure to microgravity. Haptics-1 consists of
a high resolution force reflective Joystick with a single
degree of freedom (a force manipulandum), a
touch-screen tablet PC with the experiment interface
software and all required periphery to conduct multiple
experiment protocols with crew-in-the-loop. Haptics-1
has a flexible software framework allowing software
up-load and experiment parameter changes from ground.
Moreover, Haptics-1 followed an agile development
process, which allowed developing the experiment in
less than 16 months from scratch, up to delivery to
ATV-5 for launch to ISS in summer 2014.
1 Introduction
In future spaceflight and exploration scenarios,
humans will be executing tasks remotely with advanced
robotic devices. Such robotic devices can be located on
the surface of a planet or other celestial body, while
humans can perform teleoperation with such robots from
a safe and economically viable distance such as from
orbit of the celestial body. This approach allows cost
savings, increases exploration scenario feasibility and
can still significantly enhance the quality of surface
operations that can be performed w.r.t. pure robotic
probes or w.r.t. short human presence. This is why ESA
and NASA have recently started a series of projects
aimed at better understanding the requirements for such
combined human-robotic orbit-to-ground mission
scenarios [1-3].
Fig. 1: The Haptics-1 Flight-spare model as set-up for crew training
at the European Astronaut Centre in Germany. The system consists of
the 1DOF Setup (Joystick), the touch-screen Tablet PC on a bogen arm
and all periphery. Here set-up in wall-mount configuration.
Moreover, technical joint developments have been
started on international scale, to address the important
aspects of robot system interoperability [4] [5]. ESA has
shown strong competence in the field of real-time
teleoperation with force feedback [6] and will perform
related technology demonstration experiments on-board
the International Space Station in the coming months and
years. The Haptics-1 experiment is the first of this
sequence of experiments and aims at providing a first
fundamental data-set helpful for the design of haptic
devices for use inside micro-gravity environments.
It is the goal of this paper to provide the rationale for
the Haptics-1 experiment, to outline the experiment
hardware and software components and to give a brief
overview of the employed agile development process for
ISS payload development.
2 Challenges of teleoperation from space
Before being able to develop high performance
haptic teleoperation systems for usage by astronaut crew
from space, a number of technical and fundamental
challenges need to be solved. The engineering challenges
related with bilateral control scenarios from space to
ground are related to:
- Understanding how to enable stable and
transparent bilateral control between master (in
microgravity) and slave devices (on ground) via
communication links with non-ideal
transmission characteristics and potentially
significant delay;
- Understanding of how to enable good situational
awareness of the operators during remote
operations through video, overlay or other
feedback mechanisms;
- Finding an appropriate mechatronics design
concept that is sufficiently lightweight, high
performance, compact, safe, robust and with
sufficiently low power consumption when used
on-board a space station;
- Having knowledge about the design of a system
that is sufficiently simple and robust to be used
for bilateral control by non robotic experts;
- Having no a-priori knowledge of an existing
proof-of-concept system that allows intuitive
and safe operations under uncertainties in the
communications channel and environment;
The scientific challenge that needs to be solved to be
able to design advanced haptic human-machine
interfaces for usage in space is the following:
- No human factors data currently exists, that is
related to haptic and human movement control
and perception changes in microgravity (i.e.
does human perception e.g. of the upper
extremity, improve or degrade? What are the
thresholds? What magnitudes of feedback forces
are necessary?)
It was for answering those questions that Haptics-1 has
been implemented as a first pre-cursor experiment on
ISS, before embarking on the development of a more
complete robotic control workstation for bilateral control
to teleoperate more advanced robotic systems with more
degrees of freedom.
3 Goal of Haptics-1
It is the goal of the Haptics-1 experiment, to collect
data from 3-5 ISS crew during an extensive
human-in-the-loop experiment, in order to (a) define
human physiological and proprioceptive changes in
micro-gravity related to force and motion perception and
control, to (b) validate the suitability of exclusively
crew-guided procedures (i.e. without PODF
procedures for the actual experiment conduct)
implemented on an experiment specific touch-screen PC,
to (c) validate the mechatronic hardware and safety
concept of a single-degree-of-freedom haptic Joystick, to
(d) experiment with the establishing of a new agile
development process for ISS payloads, and to define (e)
which fixation of crew to a haptic control device bears
the more optimal performance during teleoperation like
remote control tasks (wall-mount joystick or body-mount
joystick).
4 Haptics-1 Components
All sub-systems of the Haptics-1 hardware are shown on
Figure 1. It consists of the single degree of freedom
mechatronic joystick (1DOF Setup), a modified Dell
Latitude 10 tablet with touch-screen (Tablet PC), the
Seat Track I/F Assembly to connect and tighten the
1DOF Setup to the seat tracks mounted on the racks of
the ISS Columbus module, a Bogen-arm and all cabling
necessary to power the system and to exchange data via a
LAN network between the Tablet PC and the 1DOF
Setup. The sole interface to ISS is the mechanical one
towards the seat tracks (deck rack chosen) and an
electrical 28V interface to the portable power supply
(PPS).
Fig. 2: Haptics-1 FM as packed in flight pouch
Figure 2 shows the Haptics-1 hardware when packed into
its fireproof Nomex covered pyrell/minicel flight
container for launch on the Automated Transfer Vehicle
ATV-5.
4.1 The 1-DOF Setup
The 1-DOF Setup is a fully integrated haptic high
performance Joystick that contains a RoboDrive
ILM50x14 brushless DC motor, an EtherCAT based
motor controller (ELMO Gold Solo Hornet), an
embedded computer (CompuLab), a custom designed
joint output torque sensor with overload protection as
well as all necessary power supply and conditioning
electronics for the 1-DOF setup’s internal sub-systems as
well as for the connected Tablet PC. Following picture
shows the 1-DOF Setup in detail with it’s main power
switch, primary power supply and secondary power
supply output towards the Tablet PC. The Joystick is
locked in place by a locking mechanism that can be
easily removed by hand. This mechanism is used to
clamp the joint to perform a torque sensor automatic
identification.
Fig. 3: Haptics-1 1DOF Setup (Joystick) including a brushless DC
actuator, torque sensor and full embedded real-time computing.
The 1DOF Setup housing consists of a solid aluminium
casing that integrates structurally most of the electronic
components. The aluminium casings are nickel-plated in
order to ensure good conductivity. The structure of the
system is used as ground and the grounding concept
employed for all of the Haptics-1 system is
Distributed-Single-Point Ground, which is good for
low-to-high frequency disturbance rejection.
The 1DOF Setup output consists of a handle-bar with a
safety switch (Fig. 3, yellow), which enables or cuts the
power supply to the brushless RoboDrive motor. The
motor shaft is connected via a Capstan reducer to the
joint output torque sensor. All output mechanics of the
1DOF are covered in FDM molded polycarbonate cover
plates with an internal silver coating for good EMC/EMI
compatibility. The output torque sensor is over load
protected. The 1DOF System can generate an output
torque larger than 13 Nm and a torque resolution of 40
mNm can be measured on the output torque sensor. The
sensor acquisition and the motor control is performed via
an high-speed EtherCAT bus. The entire experiment
control software runs on the embedded computer (Intel
Atom Z530 1.6 GHz) with control cycle rates as high as
4kHz. The thermal design of the 1DOFsetup is a passive
one.
Fig. 4: Flight integrated computer board and periphery in the
side-walls of the 1DOF setup housing. Cable harness integrated in
flight quality.
4.2 The Touch Screen Tablet PC
Following an extensive search for a suitable Tablet
PC for usage on ISS, a Dell Latitude 10 model has been
chosen. In order to qualify it for flight, a screen
protection was applied, the primary lithium polymer
battery was removed and the Tablet was tested for
vacuum, offgassing and mechanical loads compatibility.
A fracture test performed on the Gorilla GlassTM
screen revealed that with a three-fold repetition of
kick-load test (1.15 kN applied on a steel-pin with
surface area of 12.7 mm2) did not result in a screen
fracture. A fourth repetition with 556 N applied on a
steel pin with only 1.5 mm2 contact area (inadvertent tool
impact) finally cracked the screen. Following the
cracking and inspection, no particles had been released.
Following pictures show the application of the screen
protection with a protective foil and ScotchWeld 2216
before and during the screen impact test campaign.
Fig. 5: Detail of application of screen protective foil to the Dell
Latitude 10 tablet for flight qualification.
Fig. 6: Dell Latitude 10 Tablet PC surviving a 1.15 kN screen
fracture test.
4.3 Wall-mount and Body-mount attachment
In order to attach the 1DOF Setup (Joystick) to either
a wall-mount configuration or to a body-mount
configuration an interface mechanism has been designed
and implemented. The Seat-track interface assembly
allows to attach the 1DOF setup to any pair of adjacent
seat track strips. The 1DOF setup then attaches to a
photographic adapter plate. In order to perform the
experiments also in a body-mounted configuration, a
user vest has been developed that also accommodates
two adjacent pairs of seat-tracks in the front for attaching
the joystick.
Fig. 7: Seat track interface assembly to tighten the Joystick in a
backlash-free manner to adjacent seat track strips.
Following figure depicts the body-vest of the
Haptics-1 system, which can also accommodate the
bogen-arm, to which the Tablet PC is attached.
Fig. 8: Body-vest of the Haptics-1 system for experimentation in a
body-grounded setup.
5 Experiment Interface for Crew
The sole interface for crew during actual experiment
conduct is the software App running on the touch screen
Tablet. The Haptics-1 GUI is designed to automatically
guide crew through the entire experiment conduct.
Moreover, the Haptics-1 GUI manages the user input
required by the experiments, the logging of all data
including the naming of output log files and also allows
to select the experiment conditions (wall-mount versus
body-mount). Figure 9 illustrates the main experiments
screen on the Haptics-1 GUI App. Crew can select which
protocol to perform and icons relate in a simple fashion
to the scopes of the experiments. Each experiment then
opens a dedicated experiment menu, which guides the
operator through the correct conduct.
Workspace
Primary Button Panel
Title Bar
SOFTWARE VERSION FIELD
USER ID FIELD
Fig. 9: Experiment screen of the Haptics-1 GUI App to select the
various experiments (protocols) that can be performed by crew.
6 Software Implementation
All control software (i.e. motor control, experiment
state control) of the experiment is deployed on a
real-time Linux on the Intel Atom PC within the 1DOF
setup. This software controls all inputs and outputs
from/to the motor, the torque sensor and the joint output
encoders. All safety critical features are implemented in
hardware, such as power management through safety
switches and joint end-stop switches.
The real-time control software on the 1DOF system
communicates with the Haptics-1 GUI App, in order to
integrate the conduct of all protocols in a seamless
fashion. Communication between the GUI on the Tablet
PC and the Joystick is implemented using Data
Distribution Services (RTI DDS).
The real-time control software is implemented in
C/C++ and the GUI App is implemented using
web-technologies such as html and javascript.
7 Haptics-1 Protocols
All Haptics-1 protocols will be performed on ground
(Baseline Data Collection) and in space. Moreover, all of
the seven protocols will be performed in two different
mounting configurations. Once the 1DOF joystick will
be externally grounded, like a normal desk-top joystick
as we know it (wall-mount condition). Once the 1DOF
joystick will be grounded on the operator body through
the user-vest with the seat track strips. This simulates a
wearable haptic device (body-mount condition).
Following figure illustrates the experiment setup for the
body-mount sessions.
Fig. 10: Body-mount configuration test with the Haptics-1
engineering model.
7.1 System Self Test
During the system self test, a full identification of the
mechatronic behavior and performance of the 1DOF
setup is performed. The self test is first performed in
‘locked’ position, with the output handle-bar clamped
(current input to torque output identification) and then
with the output handle-bar loose (current input to
position output identification). These two identifications
are used to calibrate the sensors, to check the correct
functioning of the joint impedance and joint position
controllers and allow to verify the dynamic properties of
the 1DOF system when exposed to microgravity.
7.2 Human Impedance Identification
The second protocol aims at identifying the
admittance of the upper extremity under a variety of
voluntarily applied neuromuscular control tunings, being
(relax, pursuit and compensate). This protocol will allow
analyzing the changes of human neuromuscular control
activity and performance between ground (1-G) and
microgravity, since it is currently not understood how the
environment affects such parameters.
7.3 Position / Force Control Bandwidth Tasks
In the third protocol, users are tasked to track a
multisine input signal on the Tablet PC screen by
performing a motion on the 1DOF setup Joystick. The
target signal is random and has a varying frequency
content. The bandwidth of maximum human voluntary
upper extremity movement will be identified in a large
frequency spectrum that covers the range of velocities
that a human hand can exert in free motion.
For the fourth protocol, crew has to track a target
signal by performing a pure force input to the then static
(in position control) 1DOF setup joystick. This protocol
measures the maximum voluntarily controllable force of
the human arm on ground and in micro-gravity.
7.4 Force / Stiffness Discrimination Tasks
In order to get a first set of design data related to
difference thresholds in space, the fifth and sixth
protocols will perform JND (just noticeable difference)
tests.
The fifth protocol presents a series of 200 force
stimuli on the crew’s hand and the Haptics-1 GUI then
requests to rate the more profound stimulus. In the sixth
protocol, stiffness stimuli are presented and the crew
needs to probe two stiffness pairs and then rate the stiffer
one on the GUI App.
7.5 Crisp Contact Detection Task
In this seventh protocol, engineering parameters are
optimized, based on a similar test than for the above JND
tests. Here, multiple parameters of a simulated ‘crisp’
contact are varied, in order to determine which maximum
torque, stiffness and damping (i.e. contact model
parameters) parameters are still distinguishable from
within microgravity for the various mounting
configurations. This test will provide insight in the
required performances for a more extensive haptic device
for usage in a space environment.
8 The Haptics-1 development process
The Haptics-1 development followed the full system
engineering processes to ensure payload safety,
operational safety, medical acceptance and full
transparency of the development process required for
safety relevant quality assurance. All Haptics-1 hardware
was assembled and integrated by experts certified to
perform flight integration of payloads for ISS.
This means that commercial of the shelf components
have been used as much as possible, while at the same
time doing modifications and tests to ensure safe
operation by astronaut crew. It turned out that reliability
is likely higher for COTS units than for custom designed
parts and components, which is why this was deemed a
less important aspect in the development.
Moreover, the documentation process for Haptics-1
has been streamlined to those documents as needed for
acceptance by the appropriate flight certification bodies.
As such, full documentation was produced for flight
safety, medical approval, research ethics, operational
products, flight acceptance data and all records necessary
to demonstrate acceptable product assurance related to
safety aspects. Formal project management
documentation has been reduced to a system engineering
management plan and to a lab. Internal monitoring and
requirements tracking system. Further management
documentation has been created only within the project
team, making use of appropriate engineering tools.
All mechanical and electrical designs and all
Haptics-1 software has been developed under strict
configuration control and design information was only
released to third parties once the design was sufficiently
mature in CDR stage. This avoided lengthy review loops
and helped to cut the development time in the beginning
of the project significiantly, without loosing quality or
focus on the project. Requirements tracing has been
performed from the start of the process to the end, within
the project team. A small and agile development team
that was fully co-located supported this agile approach.
In this way, the entire Haptics-1 payload was developed
in the time-frame from December 2012 until March
2014.
9 Conclusions
The Haptics-1 payload has been developed entirely
within the ESA/ESTEC engineering laboratories. A fast
development cycle has been employed which allowed
developing the payload from scratch within only 16
months. The Haptics-1 payload has passed successful
flight acceptance review in May 2014 and has been
delivered for launch to ISS with the ATV-5 in summer
2014. First experiments with ESA astronauts on-board
the International Space Station are expected to take place
in increments 40/41.
References
[1] A. Schiele, METERON Validating
Orbit-To-Ground Telerobotics Operations
Technologies”, proceedings of ASTRA 2011,
Noordwijk, Netherlands, 2011
[2] M. Bualat, W. Carey, T. Fong, K. Neergaard, C.
Provencher, A. Schiele, P. Schoonejans, E. Smith,
“Preparing for Crew-Control of Surface Robots from
Orbit”, IAA-SEC2014-0X-XX, 2014
[3] T.W. Fong, R. Berka, M. Bualat, M. Diftler, M.
Micire, D. Mittman, V. SunSpiral, C. Provencher,
“The Human Exploration Telerobotics Project”,
Global Space Exploration Conference, May, 2012,
GLEX-2012.01.2.4x12180
[4] T. Krueger, A. Schiele, K. Hambuchen, “Exoskeleton
Control of the Robonaut through RAPID and ROS”,
proceedings of ASTRA 2013, Noordwijk,
Netherlands, 2013
[5] J. Torres, M. Allen, R. Hirsh, M.N. Wallick,
RAPID: Collaboration results from three NASA
centers in commanding/monitoring lunar assets,
IEEE Aerospace conference, 2009, pp. 111
[6] A. Schiele, “METERON and its related Robotics
Technologies at ESA Telerobotics & Haptics Lab
Part 2”, Future-In-Space Operations (FISO) Working
Group Presentation, May 29, available online, 2013
[2] N.Y. Lii, Z. Chen, B. Pleintinger, C. Borst, G.
Hirzinger, A. Schiele, “Toward understanding the
effects of visual- and force-feedback on robotic hand
grasping performance for space teleoperation”,
IEEE/RSJ Int. Conf. on Intell. Robotics, Taipei,
Taiwan, 2010, pp. 3745 3752
... On-board the International Space Station, the Haptics-1 experiment [6] has been conducted for the first time in Dec. 2014. Haptics-1 protocols allowed determining important design criteria, which are necessary for development of haptic devices for space. ...
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METERON and its related Robotics Technologies at ESA Telerobotics & Haptics Lab – Part 2 " , Future-In-Space Operations (FISO) Working Group Presentation
  • A Schiele
A. Schiele, " METERON and its related Robotics Technologies at ESA Telerobotics & Haptics Lab – Part 2 ", Future-In-Space Operations (FISO) Working Group Presentation, May 29, available online, 2013
Preparing for Crew-Control of Surface Robots from Orbit
  • M Bualat
  • W Carey
  • T Fong
  • K Neergaard
  • C Provencher
  • A Schiele
  • P Schoonejans
  • E Smith
M. Bualat, W. Carey, T. Fong, K. Neergaard, C. Provencher, A. Schiele, P. Schoonejans, E. Smith, "Preparing for Crew-Control of Surface Robots from Orbit", IAA-SEC2014-0X-XX, 2014
RAPID: Collaboration results from three NASA centers in commanding/monitoring lunar assets
  • J Torres
  • M Allen
  • R Hirsh
  • M N Wallick
J. Torres, M. Allen, R. Hirsh, M.N. Wallick, "RAPID: Collaboration results from three NASA centers in commanding/monitoring lunar assets", IEEE Aerospace conference, 2009, pp. 1-11
Toward understanding the effects of visual-and force-feedback on robotic hand grasping performance for space teleoperation
  • N Y Lii
  • Z Chen
  • B Pleintinger
  • C Borst
  • G Hirzinger
  • A Schiele
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