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PickNik Robotics Wins Space Force Contract for On-Orbit Capture


A PickNik space robot concept called Tridex. Credit: PickNik Robotics

Ibadan, 26 October 2022. – PickNik Robotics, a robotics software and engineering service company, has won a SpaceWERX contract to work on robotics for the US Space Force. The company recently won a NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I contract for continued work on supervised autonomy for space robotics and a Colorado Advanced Industries Accelerator (AIA) grant for space robotics.

Speaking on the wins, Dr. Dave Coleman, CEO of PickNik Robotics, said, “these three wins provide additional validation of our work in space robotics, a major focus area for our company. We look forward to working with Space Force, NASA, and other organizations in the space economy to help them navigate the complexity and potential of robotics, specifically robotic arms, in that realm.”

The SpaceWERX contract will help PickNik Robotics develop enhanced control for on-orbit capture of space assets and to increase the overall efficiency and safety of US Space Force operations. The work will focus on capturing and manipulating objects in orbit using robotic arms for In-space Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing (ISAM). The Nuclear and Applied Robotics Group at the University of Texas, Austin, is collaborating with PickNik on the project.

PickNik Robotics will use its MoveIt™ Space software, which makes it easy for Earth-based operators to coordinate autonomous robots in IVA (intravehicular activity) and EVA (extravehicular activity) applications. The software, which PickNik evolved working alongside NASA’s Robonaut team, integrates best-in-class motion planning and control software with an intuitive user interface.

Likewise, the NASA SBIR Phase I contract is for PickNik Robotics to advance its work with NASA on supervised autonomy. As a result, the company will develop machine learning models that enable operators to use high-level instructions to direct a robot to perform several tasks, including opening station module doors, cabinets, and drawers, as well as interacting with other objects such as valves, buttons, and switches.

In addition, PickNik Robotics won a NASA SBIR Phase II contract for advanced planning capabilities for robots in microgravity environments in 2021. The work resulted in a general infrastructure for planning and executing motions in a static environment. Insights and experience from that project have largely shaped MoveIt Space, PickNik’s supervised autonomy software.

PickNik Robotics also recently won a major Advanced Industries Accelerator (AIA) grant for its work in space robotics from the Colorado Office of Economic and International Trade. The AIA Program was created in 2013 to promote growth and sustainability in Colorado’s advanced industries by driving innovation, accelerating commercialization, encouraging public-private partnerships, increasing access to early-stage capital, and creating a strong ecosystem that increases the state’s global competitiveness.

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