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2010/1 Module Catalogue
 Module Code: EEEM029 Module Title: SPACE ROBOTICS
Module Provider: Electronic Engineering Short Name: EEM.ROB
Level: M Module Co-ordinator: SAAJ CM Dr (Elec Eng)
Number of credits: 15 Number of ECTS credits: 7.5
Module Availability

Autumn Semester

Assessment Pattern

Unit(s) of Assessment
Weighting Towards Module Mark( %)
Written examination (2-hour unseen paper)
Course work (Matlab/C coding assignment and 2000-3000 word technical report)
Qualifying Condition(s) 
A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module (same for part-time students).

Module Overview

This module covers the techniques and challenges involved in space robotic missions for on-orbit servicing and planetary exploration. A detailed mathematical analysis of the robotic arms will be provided. Control of robotic arm and traction control of planetary rovers will be taught. Various aspects and techniques of improving autonomy of space robotic systems will be introduced, including sensing, perception, localization, mapping, autonomous planning and navigation.


Completion of the progress requirements of Level HE3. To study this subject successfully requires an interest in mechatronics and robotic space exploration. A good mathematical background and an adequate grasp of control engineering would be very helpful. Programming skill in either Matlab or C language is required to successfully complete the coding assignment.

Module Aims

To introduce the student to the key principles and techniques of spacecraft robotics.

Learning Outcomes
Upon sucessful completion of the module students should be able to: 
  • Describe the principles and techniques involved in the mechanical and electrical design of space robotic systems. 
  • analyse the kinematics and dynamics of robot manipulators and design control systems for manipulators.
  • describe the key aspects and techniques involved in autonomy of space robots.
  • demonstrate the implementation of traction control systems for planetary rovers.
  • discuss various space robotic missions and describe the inevitable role played by robots for space exploration.
Module Content


Robotic Missions (3 hrs): Introduction to robotics, Space robotic vs terrestrial robotics, Robotic applications for On-orbit servicing and international space station, Robotic planetary exploration missions, Future robotic missions to Mars & Moon.


Robotic Manipulator Kinematics (3 hrs): Fundamentals of robot manipulator, Introduction to Space Freeflyer, Homogeneous transformation, Denavit-Hartenburg (DH) transformation, Lab demonstration of robot arm.

Manipulator Inverse Kinematics (3 hrs): PUMA 560 configurations, DH matrix for PUMA, Analytic solution to inverse kinematics, Introduction to programming in Matlab.


AI Control Architectures (3 hrs): introduction to autonomous robotics, major control architectures (hieratical, reactive and hybrid).

Sensing & Perception: Classification of sensors (e.g. proprioceptive vs. exteroceptive; and passive vs. active), sensor properties, motor sensors, heading sensors, ranging sensors, vision sensors, stereovision, vision processing techniques.

Autonomous Navigation (3 hrs): major functions, localization challenges & strategies, map making and representation, metric path planning, topological path planning, planning algorithms such as A*/D*.


Manipulator Differential Kinematics and Space Freeflyer Kinematics (3 hours): Manipulator redundancy, Singularity avoidance, Forward & inverse differential kinematics, Introduction to Space Freeflyer Kinematics.

Manipulator Dynamics (3 hrs): Mass distribution, Inertia tensor, Parallel axis theorem, Holonomic & non-holonomic systems, Introduction to Lagrange-Euler method and Newton-Euler method.

Manipulator Motion Control (3 hrs): Robot control system, DC motor control of single joint, Proportional-Derivative control, Computed torque control.

Traction Control of Planetary Rovers (3 hrs): Planetary rover systems, Introduction to rover chassis, Ackermann steering, Bekker theory, Lab demonstration of mobile robot.

Methods of Teaching/Learning

Lectures will be followed by problem solving sessions (30 hours: 3 hours lecture/tutorial per week for 10 weeks). Lecture notes will be provided and students are expected to do independent learning in addition to attending lectures and tutorials. 

Course work: Brief technical report writing (2000-3000 words) and software coding – set after Week 3 and due in Week 10.

Labs: No labs



Selected Texts/Journals

1. C. Saaj, Lecture Notes (A)
2. Y. Gao, Lecture Notes (A)
3. A. Ellery, An Introduction to Space Robotics, Springer-Verlag, 2000, ISBN 1-85233-164-X (B)
4. K.S. Fu, R.C. Gonzalez and C.S. Lee, Robotics, Control, Sensing, Vision and Intelligence, 1987, McGraw-Hill, ISBN 0-07-100421-1 (B)
5. R. Siegwart and I. R. Nourbakhsh, Introduction to Autonomous Mobile Robots, 2004, ISBN-10:0-262-19502-X (B)
6. R. R. Murphy, Introduction to AI Robotics, MIT, 2000, ISBN 0262133830 (B)
7. J. J. Craig, Introduction to Robotics Mechanics and Control, 1986 (C)

Last Updated

22nd September 2009