Future space facilities that could power our planet and expand our horizons will differ vastly from the satellites and space stations familiar today. Characterized by their immense size and the difficulties of human construction in orbit, future space facilities will be assembled in part by robots.

Skyworker, is an assembly, inspection and maintenance robot that will softly and autonomously transport and manipulate payloads of kilograms to tons over kilometer distances.

Free flying robots expend too much fuel for large scale construction. Fixed manipulators lack sufficient reach for huge facilities, and they require strong attachment points. Skyworker overcomes these problems by walking and working on the structure it is building. Skyworker can maintain a payload at a constant velocity while walking, a tremendous advantage for power efficiency.

Skyworker carries a payload much like a waiter carries a heavy tray, isolating the payload from the motions of the feet. Skyworker walks with a hand over hand biped gait. This achieves simple, agile, efficient motion appropriate for prehensile locomotion on space facilities.

When a manipulation is required, Skyworker stands on one gripper and uses another gripper to position tools and payloads. When attached to the facility in this way, Skyworker is an 11-degree of freedom manipulator.

The Skyworker prototype features rechargeable power and wireless communication. High-level commands, such as carry payload x to destination y, are parsed and implemented onboard as motion control commands. Skyworker's networked motion controllers achieve high frequency internal control leaving the computer to perform higher level functions.

Skyworker's natural domain is the freedom of micro gravity. To operate on Earth, the robot is counterbalanced like a marionette, allowing Skyworker to operate as though in orbit.

Skyworker research is evolving a class of attached mobile robots as a workforce for orbital assembly, inspection, and maintenance. These robots must become workers, not just walkers, that can, autonomously maneuver and assemble the immense and visionary facilities of our future in space.