Advanced science.  Applied technology.


Space Robotics Engineering

Southwest Research Institute offers space robotics engineering solutions to transform Earth-based robotics capabilities to meet the current and future needs for the space industry.

SwRI’s multidisciplinary approach to advanced science and applied engineering technology enables our clients in government and industry to draw upon our hardware and software expertise in Industrial Robotics & Automation and Space Science & Engineering.

Space Robotics & Robots for Space Exploration

Robotics and autonomy for microgravity and planetary exploration enables more complex missions farther from Earth and will make space missions less expensive and more accessible. Advancements in industrial robotics will assist terrestrial manufacturing for space through increased autonomy for assembly and manufacturing tasks.

robotic inkjet printer

SwRI has patented a large-scale robotic technique for inkjet printing intricate graphics on aircraft and other complicated surfaces, shown here in a laboratory-scale demonstration.

Software for Space Robots

  • SwRI’s experience with Robot Operating System (ROS) enables dynamic path planning and integration with numerous sensors. Motion planning includes free-space and Cartesian toolpaths, as well as the capability for online path planning adjustments.
  • Scan-N-Plan approaches can be used for 3D model reconstruction, which can then be used for obstacle avoidance and part manipulation.
  • Machine vision can be used for image segmentation and feature detection. SwRI also has experience with vision systems in low light environments.
  • SwRI has extensive experience with modeling robots, including using Gazebo and other physics-based simulations.
  • SwRI also has significant experience with space flight software and UAS flight software, as well as navigating UGVs on off-road environments.
  • SwRI has experience with using force feedback-based control and task verification for precision assembly tasks. SwRI has developed software for both teleoperated and collaborative robots, as well as completely custom robotic systems.

Hardware for Space Robots

  • SwRI has extensive experience working with unstructured processes and in difficult environments, including large workspaces.
  • SwRI has prior experience with autonomous mobile robots and unmanned ground systems, which can be used for planetary exploration.
  • SwRI has enabled robots to interact with delicate substrates with specific environmental considerations. SwRI has worked with radiation-hardened robotic systems.
  • SwRI has numerous environmental test facilities, enabling on-site testing.
  • SwRI has experience designing custom robots, including customized end-of-arm-tooling for challenging processes.
  • SwRI regularly works with commercially available robots and takes a robot-agnostic approach to component selection.

Related Services

SwRI offers multidisciplinary solutions in Industrial Robotics & Automation and Space Science & Engineering, including: