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Japanese Firm to Test Robotic Arm on the ISS

Gitai, a Japanese aerospace-components company with an office in Torrance, is developing a robotic arm that will be tested next year on the International Space Station.
Gitai USA, a subsidiary of the parent company, will have its base at 2255 Dominguez Way in Torrance for developing, manufacturing, and developing general-purpose work robots for space in the U.S.

The S2 robotic arm will be among the products produced by Gitai that will be made in the Torrance location.
Aki Asahara, vice president of operations, said that Gitai just opened the Torrance office, and added that it’s still empty.

“We plan to set up everything, including the working robots, by the end of September,” Asahara wrote in an email to the Business Journal.
The S2 will be demonstrated outside the International Space Station next year. Its predecessor robotic arm, the S1, has already been used inside the station.

Gitai demonstrated the S1 on the space station in October in partnership with Nanoracks, a Houston company that provides commercial access to space for small research payloads. Nano racks is developing its own space stations.

In the demonstration, the S1 was installed inside the Nanoracks Bishop Airlock and completed two tasks: assembling panels for in-space assembly and operating switches and cables for intra-vehicular activity, according to a release from Gitai.

For next year’s demonstration, the S2 will be positioned outside the Bishop Airlock and the 1.5-meter-long autonomous dual robotic arm system will execute in-space servicing, assembly and manufacturing.

Gitai had already successfully tested the S2 robot in February in the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s thermal vacuum chamber, the company release said.
Following this ground-system test, the robot reached NASA’s Technical Readiness Level (TRL) 6.

“By demonstrating this technology in space, Gitai aims to achieve TRL Level 7 (confirmation of the feasibility of the technology as a system in space),” the Gitai release added. “Gitai will establish the in-space servicing, assembly and manufacturing capabilities cultivated through this technology demonstration with the goal to provide it to U.S. private space stations and orbital services providers.”

Sho Nakanose, founder and chief executive of Gitai, said there were a number of application in space that the company’s robotic arm can be used for, including on-orbit servicing and lunar exploration, and added that Gitai is thrilled to partner with Nanoracks again on this newest demonstation.

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