The robotic arm is a flight spare left over from NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. Both of those rovers landed on the Red Planet back in 2004, and the mission was brought to a close this February.
Seattle-based Olis Robotics says it has received a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Air Force to lay out a plan for using its AI-driven software platform to control satellite-servicing robots in orbit.
The initial Small Business Innovative Research grant could set the stage for as much as $1.5 million in future Air Force funding, depending on how the plan is received.
Olis, formerly known as Bluhaptics, is a five-year-old spinout from the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory. It specializes in the development of semi-autonomous control software that’s suitable for underwater remotely operated vehicles as well as space robots.
It takes a village to raise an space outpost, and NanoRacks’ array of villagers includes Stratolaunch as well as Olis Robotics, the startup formerly known as BluHaptics.
NanoRacks, which is headquartered in Texas, today listed those two Seattle-based companies among its partners for a NASA-funded study focusing on the future of commercial human spaceflight in low Earth orbit.
The study is one of 13 that were commissioned by NASA in August as part of its drive to commercialize orbital operations by 2025. That drive could involve handing over the U.S. segment of the International Space Station to private-sector management, or developing brand-new orbital platforms.
NanoRacks has proposed retrofitting the spent upper stages from United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rockets and its yet-to-be-built Vulcan rockets to create habitable outposts. The company unveiled its plan for the first outpost, dubbed Independence-1, in April.
For five years, a University of Washington spin-out called BluHaptics has been building up a business focusing on robotic control software for underwater robots — and now the Seattle startup is stepping things up a notch under a new name: Olis Robotics.
Olis is also acquiring another Seattle startup, White Marsh Forests, which is expected add new machine learning capabilities to the company’s control system for remotely operated robots undersea, out in space and in other challenging environments.
“With the acquisition of leading-edge machine learning technology, we seized the opportunity to sharpen our vision of disrupting the emerging robotics operating system lindustry,” Olis CEO Don Pickering said today in a news release.
Space projects led by two small businesses headquartered in Washington state — Seattle-based BluHaptics and Bothell-based Tethers Unlimited — are among 128 proposals selected by NASA to receive grants of up to $750,000.
SBIR Phase II contracts provide maximum funding of $750,000 over 24 months for the further development of projects that support NASA’s future space exploration missions while also benefiting the U.S. economy.
BluHaptics has received a $747,197 grant from the National Science Foundation to work on a virtual-reality robotic control system that could transform underwater operations as much as drones have transformed aerial operations.
The project, which includes a subcontract to the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory, will use 3-D data fusion and machine learning to develop safer, more intuitive ways to pilot remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs. Such vehlcles can capture imagery and manipulate objects miles beneath the sea surface.
“Our technology will make subsea and underwater operations safer,” BluHaptics’ chief technology officer, Fredrik Ryden, said today in a blog posting announcing the NSF’s Phase II Small Business Innovative Research grant. “Divers can be replaced in hazardous situations by telerobots with improved control based on our products. The rate of untoward incidents, and their severity, will be mitigated for a large range of subsea activities.”