NASA Awards Two Humanoid Robot Prototypes to MIT and Northeatern

Groups at both universities will work on advanced research and development.

Developed by a team of engineers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, the R5—nicknamed Valkyrie—is a humanoid robot designed to assist during human missions to Mars by completing disaster-relief maneuvers.

Now, NASA is tapping engineers at local universities to further improve autonomy of the six-foot-two robot.

The agency announced today that it’s awarding two R5 prototypes to groups at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Northeastern University for advanced research and development.

“Advances in robotics, including human-robotic collaboration, are critical to developing the capabilities required for our journey to Mars,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, in a press release. “We are excited to engage these university research groups to help NASA with this next big step in robotics technology development.”

MIT and Northeastern will both host a prototype for two years, as well as receive up to $250,000 and gain access to onsite and virtual technical support from NASA. The team’s principal investigators are Russ Tedrake at MIT and Taskin Padir at Northeastern, both experts in electrical and computer engineering.

In 2016, the two robots will participate in the Space Robotics Challenge through NASA’s Centennial Challenges Program, which includes both a virtual and physical competition.