January 19, 2012
My favorite robot has to be "Xombie", the VTOL rocket rocket vehicle I worked on at my last company, Masten Space Systems of Mojave, CA. Xombie was an unmanned vehicle that could fly preprogrammed trajectories (with the "pilot" really being the guy who pushes the start button, and holds his finger over the abort button in case something goes horribly wrong), and included the ability to do "soft aborts" if necessary where it would automatically return home. I designed the rocket propulsion systems, and a lot of the electromechanical systems (throttle valves, gimbal actuators, etc). We won a $150k NASA-sponsored prize with Xombie, and it became the first VTOL rocket to ever demonstrate an in-air relight. Masten is still flying Xombie to this day to test sensor packages for clients, and to prove out technology for their Xaero and Xogdor vehicles which are meant to take science payloads up to the edge of space (100km) and back.
My company, Altius Space Machines is currently working on two robotics projects. One is called "Sticky Boom", which is our mechanical tractor beam. Sticky Boom uses a deployable spacecraft boom (which may be able to scale up to[masked] meter lengths in space) with a "resettable adhesive" capture head on the end that can conform to any shape and stick to any material using either static electricity or artificial gecko foot technology. We did some initial development of this for NASA JPL for their Mars Sample Return mission. This technology can allow you to adhere to and manipulate anything in space, from satellites and rockets to space junk and asteroids. Our other project are is a hyper-dextrous robotic manipulator based on some of the deployable structures work we're doing for Sticky Boom. Imagine a robot arm with 9-15 degrees of freedom, and that has links whose lengths can be varied from 25cm to over 5m each. We're developing this for both space and terrestrial markets.
I work for Altius Space Machines, which I founded a year and a half ago after leaving Masten Space Systems. I'm the President, CEO, and sometimes "Chief Mad Scientist".
I'm Jonathan Goff, CEO of Altius Space Machines. We're a Louisville-based company that is building the mechanical equivalent of a tractor beam for space. My background includes building VTOL rockets and working for the "Will-it-Blend?" guy.