Technically a specialized class of Remote type free moving microgravity robots, Carrier Pallets would used to assist in the manual handling of heavy mass objects and payloads in microgravity. Weightlessness does not eliminate mass or inertia and so the handling of heavy items represents some special challenges. A human being may able to slowly impart movement on a heavy object with little effort thanks to the lack of friction but stopping it or changing its trajectory suddenly is another matter entirely. Thus there is a threat of collisions and loss of control when manually handling these large mass items. This is an issue that, to date, seems to have been largely overlooked by space agencies because they simply do not yet do anything within their spacecraft and outposts that involves handling things of any significant size or mass. Thus astronauts have yet to accidentally do serious damage to themselves or interior structures and equipment when handling items in space. However, they have occasionally faced this issue with external objects, usually relying on group effort and robotic arms to help in stabilizing and handling such large objects. In the large Asgard habitat, this issue will become more apparent as inhabitants routinely deal with larger objects and collections of goods moved about their environment. Some dedicated robotic assistance in the form of tracked robotic arms may be employed in storage spaces and the like. But for many areas of the habitat –especially its large span spaces– another strategy will be needed.
Carrier Pallets are intended to assist in this by equipping an object with some degree of inertial compensation through active thrust and to provide sensors that provide a greater awareness of mass and relative motion and the boundaries of the surrounding space and objects in it. In effect, the Carrier Pallet affords objects their own collision avoidance system. Using this technology, a person can single-handedly handle these large items without concern for accidentally imparting more velocity on them than they can personally counter if necessary to avoid some collision or loss of control and thus be able to move these objects much more safely and easily. In addition, they would make these objects self-mobile without human effort, albeit with direct human control, and may also be employed in a telerobotic mode to allow completely hands-free motion control.
Carrier Pallets would take the form of flat panel versions of Remote robots based on electric fan and nitrogen thruster propulsion. They basic structure would consist of a high density polyethylene, carbon composite, or aluminum alloy chassis very similar to plastic fork-lift pallets of the present. They would be used singly or in pairs with spacer bars linking them. Their active components would be confined to the perimeter edge of the plastic pallet. On their facing sides would be a grid array used to support plug-in containers, tie-down straps, and cargo nets. A tethered control pallet or T-bar style control stick would be used to operate the Carrier Pallet, though they would also include a digital communications interface like other Remotes. They would be fashioned in a variety of sizes based on standard modular control and propulsion units attached to different sized pallet/chassis units. They would also be designed alternately for interior and exterior use, the interior units favoring ultrasonic and infrared sensors and electric fan propulsion and the exterior units requiring exclusively nitrogen thrust propulsion and the use of radar and infrared sensors.
Carrier Pallets would usually be used with payloads strapped to two facing sides or with two units flanking objects strapped in between them, though they may be able to compensate for asymmetrical loading with odd centers of gravity for more modest payloads. Their sophisticated chip-based inertial sensor systems would be able to judge mass and calculate center of gravity with the most imperceptible test-motion upon activation. Though intended primarily for human control, they would be capable of autonomous operation by remote computer control, though their on-board intelligence would be limited to their motion control and sensing systems and they would not have any elaborate visual sensors.
Though used primarily for materials handling, Carrier Pallets could see a great variety of applications. They would be used as PPT robots, as mobile tool boxes, or as foundations for various mobile machine tools. They may even be employed as ‘virtual anchors’ and open-space seating platforms in a station-keeping mode and, as we will discuss later, their technology would form the basis of a whole class of microgravity vehicles.
- Urban Tree Housing Concepts
- Asgard Digitial Infrastructure
- WristRocket Personal Mobility Unit
- RocShaw Personal Mobility Units
- Pallet Truck
- ZipLine Tether Transport System
- MagTrack Transport System
- SkyGarden and SkyFarm Systems
- Meat Culturing
- Microgravity Food Processors
- Pools and Baths in Orbit
- Solar Sails
- Plasma and Fusion Propulsion