Page 23 - 2019 Mil/Aero eBook
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experience” and “something everyone should do.” The decent is where microgravity occurs. This phase lasts about 20 seconds and a typical parabolic flight test will experience this about 30 times per flight.
Designing the Face and Voice
The ability to maintain eye contact and communicate are essential skills for an assistant, so the service bot needed a face. In CIMON’s case, the face is a simple line drawing displayed on a front-facing screen. Since acceptance by the astronauts was one of the engineers’ primary challenges, the team invited Gerst to be a part of the design phase to ensure that CIMON was an assistant that the astronaut could comfortably work with. Gerst was presented with several voices and faces to choose from to ensure that he would be happy with the result and to provide him with a sense of ownership and familiarity when he and the robot finally met on the ISS.
This is a composite image of CIMON on the ISS. (Source: DLR/T.Bourry/ESA)
An integral part of CIMON’s ability to assist astronauts is the IBM Watson AI system, which provides the core speech comprehension element. When someone speaks a language to an AI-enabled robot like CIMON, the robot’s job is to identify intent. When a message arrives via audio stream, it is translated into written language so the system can understand and interpret its meaning. Once the identification of intent is complete, the AI system generates an answer based on several keywords in one sentence.
Eisenberg said that the AI will always understand words that align with its training, but that this is why a system that is working fine with a small project group can react in an unexpected way when a new person tries to interact with it. Aware of this potential problem, the team had Gerst interact with the AI for two sessions. These sessions made the AI familiar with Gerst and acclimated him to working with CIMON’s AI. Much like aeronautic radio chatter, the crew on the ISS has created a specific way of talking based on keywords that have well-defined intentions, so CIMON should not have any trouble interacting with other crew members in the future.
Designing Interconnect Systems
CIMON depends on a great deal of space-grade connector and cabling technology especially designed to provide high-reliability operation in such an extreme environment. Space-grade interconnect technologies call for extensive qualification to meet high performance standards established by governing authorities in order to ensure compliance in applications where failure would lead to catastrophic damage or losses. Reliability is of utmost priority to ensure the success of the mission, so special materials are often warranted to ensure optimal performance. While space itself is extremely cold, the internal heating of components is possible in designs that have limited conventional cooling and could potentially expose connectors and cabling to extremely wide and dynamically modulating temperature extremes. Small size and low mass are important to ensure that things fit into the limited available space and that mission objectives for overall payload size and space are maintained. Retention forces and mating connections must be ensured to avoid connection failures under even extreme conditions.

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