Tag Archives: Cube

Adorable NASA robocube will float and do the housekeeping aboard the ISS

The Intelligent Robotics Group at NASA’s Ames Research Center has designed a new cube robot destined for the ISS later this year. The one-foot box-bot is named Astrobee and will follow astronauts around, helping with housekeeping and other tasks.

Astrobee vs Spheres.

Image modified after NASA / JPL.

It’s adorable, it’s cubic, it’s gonna hang out with astronauts — what’s not to like about the Astrobee? The little bot was designed to replace the aging SPHERES robots currently buzzing around the ISS, and has several improvements over them. Astrobee can either be operated from the ground by personnel at the Johnson Space Center in Houston or left to its own devices in autonomous operations mode. It’s equipped with radio-frequency identification (RFDI) scanners which allow it to ‘see’ the myriad tools and supply boxed aboard the ISS and keep track of inventories so astronauts can focus on more important work — like quantum physics.

Astrobee will also keep constant watch over the environmental factors aboard the space station, and its cameras will allow Houston to observe and record the astronauts and the experiments they perform — something for which the crew currently has to mount stationary cameras.

Thee of these bots will be sent to the ISS, where two will be kept operational at any one time and the other in standby. They should free up the schedule of astronauts by taking on housekeeping and monitoring tasks — because, as it turns out, sending people to space is really expensive, so NASA wants them to focus on the important bits instead of counting packets of microwaveable chicken.

Astrobee will trundle along the ISS propelled by a tiny fan-powered thruster but plans are already underway to test a magnetic propulsion system for the bots, which could allow swarms of Astrobees to fly in formation even without an atmosphere to fan. For delicate maneuvers, the box-bot comes equipped with a robotic arm to latch onto handholds in 0 g.




Parasitic wooden cubes level up 1970s Parisian building with more space, more energy efficiency

“Parasite” wooden cubes may help extend the livelihood of old buildings by increasing available space and improving energy efficiency. The cubes were designed by architect Stéphane Malka as part of the Plug-in City 75 project and will be attached to the facade of a 1970s-era Parisian building slashing its annual energy consumption by roughly 75 percent.

Faced with gloomy, cramped apartments and poor energy efficiency of a by-gone era of building, the co-owners of a Parisian building in the city’s 16th arrondissement asked Malka to spruce up their property. It’s just one of many buildings facing these issues in Paris, but since the city’s building laws are quite restrictive and do not allow for the building to be raised to make way for better, more efficient space, he couldn’t just tear it down and replace it.

So he decided to level it up. And what better way to do that than with a class of modular add-ons that also look really cool?

Companion Cubes

Malka designed a type of “parasitic architecture” to solve both problems at the same time. The design calls for a series of bio-sourced wooden cubes to be mounted onto the structure — extending the useful space horizontally through openings in the exterior.

This extension would also reduce the total energy consumption of the building by a factor of four — its current consumption of 190KWh/sq. meter would drop significantly, to 45KWh/sq. meter.

These cubes will be made from a lightweight-but-strong mix of wood particles and chips which can be easily transported and assembled on site by workers.

Once affixed to the building, they will not only increase living space and allow more light to enter the building, but also allow for an inner garden courtyard on the first floor. The new facade will also be draped with hanging plants, which will make it even prettier.