Inchworms: Unlocking the Potential of Telerobotics with MUOL’s Modular Unmanned Orbital Laboratory

Inchworms – Demonstration concept that I developed at the turn of century for The Millennial project
The same name was used by both.


Inchworm telerobots, developed as part of the Modular Unmanned Orbital Laboratory (MUOL) program in the Asgard Phase early on, are likely to be the most popular form of utility robots throughout TMP. The simple robotic arms used by orbital outposts and spacecraft of later generations are the inspiration for the Inchworm. They have a simple architecture that allows them to be flexible in their multi-purpose use. Inchworms are simple robots consisting of one mechanical arm with three electric powered joints. Two are located at the end-effector unit and other at intervals between. The end-effectors at the Inchworm’s two ends are equipped with small stereo cameras and LED lights. They also have a modular interface that includes bus interfaces for communication and power. Inchworm does not require an internal power supply, but relies on the end-effector connectors, which plug into a grid of anchor points. Mobile anchor units could also carry their own power source. The end effectors are designed to be used as both tool heads and anchor points. This allows the robot to travel end-over end while carrying a pallet with modular tools. Inchworm arm sections can also be fitted with telescoping linear motors that allow them to extend or contract their length. However, this will depend on the load-bearing capacity of these mechanisms. They can also be linked end-to-end, creating composite robots that are longer. Their joints may include a lock-pin to rigidify them in a certain position. The robots, originally designed for remote control and teleoperation, could also be controlled by centralized computers to provide a fully automated system. This would allow them to be used as part of coordinated groups, task/production lines, or to offload some control in order to overcome the limitations of manual communication latency. The computers would be able to increase their autonomy in proportion to the centralized computer intelligence, but they could still use manual control when needed.