The Spacehand is a space qualified robotic hand, designed for long term operation in geosynchronous Orbit. It is the further development of the DLR DEXHAND. The Spacehand is currently part of the Phoenix mission led by the DARPA and targets a flight in the vicinity of 2020.
In the last decade, the number of satellites around earth had a tremendeous growth. It is pushed forward by our massive reliance of new communication technologies, as well as the increasing importance of weather forecasting and deasaster managment. Satellite manufacturer are strongly interested in technologies to inspect,maintain and ultimatly repair their equipment, in the continuous effort of maintaining cost efficiency, and optimizing the use of ressources. Although humans are still the most versatile solution, the associated costs and risks limits the viable commercial solutions. Robotic system represent a cost effective approach as they can be telemanipulated from ground or semi-autonomously. All major space agencies are and have been developing robotic solutions. In particular, the ESA started the DEXHAND project in 2011 to evaluate how performant current robotic hand technologies are. In these issues the DEXHAND was developed to use and manipulate most of the astronauts EVA-Tools. The experience of the Hand II design and the tendon driven Hand-Arm-System Hand paired with ROKVISS heritage led to the DEXHAND design. Shortly after the end of the DEXHAND project, several space agencies manifested their interest in using the DEXHAND design in their robotic missions. DLR started in 2014 the Spacehand project to develop the DEXHAND to a space qualified Spacehand.
Current status: The DARPA Phoenix project started in 2013 and aims at demonstrating the capabilities of a multi-armed satellite services with tool changing capabilities. The SPACEHAND is one of the used tools, able to solve the most delicate tasks in case the regular tool set does not provide the adequate tool. The current efforts focus on the hand redesign and testing of the system for the harsh GEO environment.
Chalon et al., "Spacehand: a multi-fingered robotic hand for space", ASTRA 2015
Chalon et al. (2011) Dexhand: a Space qualified multi-fingered robotic hand. In: Proceedings of the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 9-13 May 2011, Shanghai, China.