Robots: character - harsh, appearance - redhead, hobbies - extreme

Robots: character - harsh, appearance - redhead, hobbies - extreme
Robots: character - harsh, appearance - redhead, hobbies - extreme

The Ministry of Defense of our country has set a course for robotics. The rocket and space industry is nowhere without robots. What kind of robots are made in our country? How? For what? To answer these questions, we went to one of the largest research centers in Russia - the Central Research Institute of Robotics and Technical Cybernetics, in St. Petersburg.


The tall proud tower, similar to the crown of a queen, and the long four-story building at its "foot" are the TsNII RTK. Checkpoint - and we are inside.

- I remember once a journalist came to us and was terribly disappointed. I, he says, thought you had electronic spiders running along the walls, robots were walking around, and you had bare walls,”Alexander Zheleznyakov, Advisor to the Director-Chief Designer of the Central Research Institute of RTK, an expert in the field of cosmonautics, a writer and journalist, an author, meets us at the entrance. books: “Secret Space. Did Gagarin have any predecessors?”,“Secret space: myths and phantoms in orbit”,“The first in space. How did the USSR defeated the USA?”,“Secrets of American Astronautics”and many others.


The walls in the Central Research Institute of RTK are really naked, as on the first day of creation. Daylight shining through the giant windows makes them even more innocent. Alexander Zheleznyakov leads us down somewhere. Half a minute later, there are orange bedside tables on wheels in front of us. These are robots. They have not yet served their time, but since they are used as models in the development of new models, they miss the institute's museum. CRI RTK is not engaged in the production of household androids (humanoid robots). In our country, this is mainly the lot of private firms and educational institutions. The direction of the Central Research Institute of RTK is extreme robotics. Only a few are engaged in it in the post-Soviet space.

“That is, we are developing devices that are needed in conditions unfavorable for human activity,” explains Alexander Borisovich. - This is space and territories affected by man-made accidents and disasters.

The Institute was born in 1968. And extreme robotics at the Central Research Institute of RTK began to actively develop at the time of the liquidation of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

- Then in our country robots capable of working in conditions of radiation were not produced, and the first thing that was done was the purchase of devices in Japan and Germany. Good, let's say, machines, but as soon as they were delivered to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, a day later they were out of order. Our specialists found a simple, but non-trivial solution - they began to use not foreign robots, but ours, working on lamps. Also "smart", but with a different element base, capable of working in conditions of radiation. This turned out to be the most correct. But the most important consequence of the work at Chernobyl was the emergence of extreme robotics. It is closely intertwined with our first direction - photonic technology. This technique is a device that uses isotopic materials. Radiation radiation can also be used for the benefit of humans. It was this combination of robotics and photonic technology that gave rise to what is called radiation reconnaissance. The reconnaissance robots that we are developing are designed for reconnaissance, drawing up maps of the radiation situation in the area, identifying the sources of this radiation and neutralizing them.

The brightest page of their use is, perhaps, the operation in Grozny, when the chemical plant was destroyed, and, of course, there were clever people who stole several capsules with radioactive materials. Then, with the help of these orange "boxes" on wheels, the security forces of the Ministry of Emergency Situations found the capsules and neutralized them.

- Here you go, this is just a mobile platform, you can put various equipment on it, and it will solve the corresponding tasks: radiation reconnaissance of the area, video filming, etc., - explains Zheleznyakov. - Now it is being developed exactly as a platform, the principles of its movement and the ability to independently choose the route of movement, to bend around obstacles are being studied. It is equipped with an "autopilot" - an on-board computer, as well as a video camera that allows you to control it in teleoperator mode.


“These are our scout robots in various modifications. This is also a good platform just due to the equipment that is installed on it. Just a radiation sensor. She can move on the surface. But this is not an intelligent robot. It must be controlled by the operator either by cable or radio, if conditions permit. And with its help, the presence of a radiation source is detected, the direction and its location are determined. Further, due to this capture here, you can take this source and place it somewhere. Usually here, - points to the side of the machine, - a container with a lid is installed, where this source is loaded.


- But this is a very interesting development - DORES. We produced it for the German Aerospace Agency. This is a ground manipulator. Why is it interesting? The fact that these modular hinges here are unified. Due to this unification, it is possible to build, here it is supposed to be fixed, to grip a certain working tool, that is, it can collect various configurations of the manipulator. In this work, the manufacture of a flight copy was not intended. It was only about the creation of a ground manipulator, on which promising technologies were tested. The work did not receive further continuation, we reported with a ground manipulator, and then the Germans acted independently.


“In the 1980s, a manipulator for the Buran spacecraft was created at our institute,” Aleksandr Zheleznyakov points to a huge 15-meter “arm”.


- This is the descent vehicle of the Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft. We provided a soft landing for all other Soyuz-class ships and this particular device, and they, you see, wrote to us …


It was not possible to see the full production cycle - they were not allowed in. But something was allowed. For example, go down to the shop.

- The first stage is a preliminary design, preliminary design, when calculations are performed, models are drawn up. The general picture of the robot is drawn with rough strokes. The second is the development of design working documentation. These are drawings, electrical diagrams. Then comes the purchase of a complete set and the manufacture of a prototype. Now we will go down to the shop and see part of one of the stages - the manufacture of individual parts - our second interlocutor - the deputy chief designer of the Central Research Institute of RTK, Alexey Gradovtsev leads us out into the street to the next entrance.

In the small room where we find ourselves, there is a computer on the side and a large steel box in the middle. This is the machine. There is an image of some green thing on the computer monitor.


- You see, the designed part will now be transferred for production directly to the machine.

The "box" turns on, begins to hum and snort.

Manufacturing the part will take at least a few hours, so we go to the next room to the so-called "Flat Stand".

- It is called so because at one time a manipulator for Buran was tested there, - explains Alexey Gradovtsev. - Flat - because the floor was specially leveled there. There is zero gravity in space, powerful drives are not needed there, but with drives for space, it will not work here - on Earth.To solve this problem, you need an ideal plane on which the manipulator can slide on the supports. When the manipulator lies and moves on supports in a horizontal plane, its motors do not need to hold massive links, overcoming the effect of gravity. This way of unloading is called passive.

On a flat stand, the floor is really flawlessly smooth. There are many steel "boxes" on it. All of them are invariably filled with metal shavings and technical emulsion, obscenely similar to milk. The awl of the machine frenziedly digs into something, the "milk" flows, the next part is made.


- The next stage is the testing stage. Roughly speaking, here's the whole robot development cycle, - Alexey continues. - Now we will go up to the working laboratory. There they assemble the structure, do the installation, solder the elements.

The working laboratory is on the fifth floor. This is a small room, packed to capacity with tables, wires, computers, some kind of electronic displays, orange suitcases and, of course, robots.

- The press came to us, now they will shoot everything on a hidden camera, - Alexey introduces us to the employees. - Right now we have a robot - RTK-08, which was made by order of the Ministry of Emergencies. This is a middle-class robot designed for radiation reconnaissance. At the end of 2010, we delivered this robot to the Ministry of Emergencies, and now it came to us for a scheduled check, so you were lucky to see it with your own eyes.


This "suitcase" is the robot's radio control. It was not possible to lift it with one hand. He weighs twenty kilograms.


- And this is a light class robot. He is also part of the robotic radiation reconnaissance complex of the Ministry of Emergencies.


- Now we are developing a universal rotary platform for the ISS, which will provide very accurate positioning and orientation of the payload - various scientific equipment of the ISS. Left and right, she navigates with great precision. Not very presentable, but real.


“This is a power loader for astronauts,” Alexei continues. - The loader itself is this damn thing. Astronauts need physical activity, they sit down and do push-ups. There is a control panel that counts how many exercises the astronaut has done. And we are carrying out life tests, which will show how long the loader will work, so we just attached the drive.

Any robot as a whole consists of approximately the same functional blocks as a biological organism. These are five main subsystems: motor or executive subsystem; power supply subsystem (batteries); communication subsystem (wired or wireless) with a control panel; control subsystem (software, control devices - joysticks, exoskeletons); sensory subsystem (sensing system) - what the robot “feels” the outside world (technical vision, touch sensors and non-contact distance measurement, etc.).


- In fact, in the Central Research Institute of RTK, the concept itself is being developed, the layout, we make metal parts ourselves, and we buy many components - all electronics, television cameras, communication equipment - of course. In many ways, this is an assembly production, - says Gradovtsev.

- But robots are not used very often?

- No, they do. Feedback is constantly coming from the Ministry of Emergency Situations: fix this, make it more convenient. And now we have one more order from the Ministry of Emergency Situations - at the end of this year we will have to deliver another robot for them.

- What is the main reason for the refusals? Inconsistency of electronics, mechanics?

- You see, the refusal is connected with a complaint. And with us, complaints come infrequently if there is something wrong with the product. What I'm talking about is some minor flaws: swap the buttons on the remote control or some contact has gone away from them, make it more reliable. Well, these are such little things. The big problem, for example, is the communication equipment. And not because we buy bad things, we buy what is in production today.And there are often problems with this, because there is a question of communication range, communication reliability. At some show, for example, one hundred robots are shown at the same time - an overlay effect is obtained. This moment is still critical. There is a big problem with batteries, because you always want to make a smaller battery, but so that it gives more energy. For example, here - points to the "redhead" - there are two batteries, each weighing about 20 kg. Enough of both of them for two hours of active work. Or now in a new sample - 4 hours. The type of batteries is acid, but now there is a transition to lithium-polymer, they are more energy-intensive. We still do not always manage to use imported equipment, especially for space or for the Ministry of Defense. It's just impossible to do it according to the rules - you need a domestic one. There is no patriotic. Recently, there has been a shift, at least something domestic has begun to appear.


Not so long ago, the Skolkovo Center announced the following data on the distribution of robots to 10 thousand working in different countries: Japan - 339 robots, China - 21, Russia - 1 robot. Why is robotics not taking root in our country?

When we talk about robotic devices, most of them mean what we call toys. Those robots that are produced in abundance in Japan, South Korea and the States are very often focused not on solving any specific tasks related to human activities, but on performing social functions. Let's take the same Japan. A lot of robots, complex and interesting in technical terms, are nevertheless developed in the form of Aiko's dog or a football player, a robot nurse. That is, a certain social orientation for people, for their life. I agree that there is no such thing in our country. This is also due to our mentality. In the same Japan, in the same States, the mentality of people is such that it presupposes some kind of isolation, its own little world. In our country, both in Soviet times and now, a person is associated with a certain collective, society. Now, if this social prioritization changes, then, of course, there will be a need for us to produce these robots. Now, when creating robots, we still focus on what we love very much: extreme robotics. Why did household robots appear in the West? Because a crisis has arisen between people - computers, television. We also have this, but it has not manifested itself so strongly.

What problems do domestic robotics have in general?

There are problems, of course. This is due to the lack of finances, and to the fact that in the 1990s it was very bad with subsidies, which led to a shortage of personnel and to the aging of equipment. We are still experiencing all these consequences, and these problems cannot be eliminated overnight. But all the same, it is impossible to say that we continue to fall into the pit. First, the state has designated robotics as one of the priority tasks of our economic development. This presupposes appropriate attention and funding. Let's hope that this will give some results in the near future.

In principle, we are now able to carry out a project similar in its parameters to Curiosity?

I'm afraid not. If you have followed the latest developments in the rocket and space industry at least a little, then you know that our Phobos-Grunt flew not to the right place, but to the Pacific Ocean due to the corresponding element base. This time. Second, what I have already mentioned is the crisis of the 1990s, which greatly thinned the number of specialists. Third - whatever one may say, the equipment on which the same rocket and space technology is produced is aging. Significant financial resources are needed to renew the machine park. We now have quite good technical developments, but sometimes we cannot ensure the production of products of the appropriate quality - there is not enough equipment. We switched to computers, but forgot that we needed both turning and milling machines.And the accuracy they now need is not the same as it was twenty years ago. Although now they are just puzzled by the renewal of the machine park at the enterprises of the rocket and space industry, because one of the consequences of equipment aging is the frequent fall of rockets in the wrong place. The mistakes were fantastic. For example, during welding, a droplet got into the pipeline. As a result, when the fuel was supplied, a plug formed, the engine turned off. The rocket fell. The general production culture declined, and quality control suffered. That is, with sufficient equipment and funding, we could create a rover similar to Curiosity, there is nothing supernatural there. But so far we cannot create something similar. In general, there are Russian devices on it, which work quite effectively. Back in the early 1970s, we had lunar rovers running on the Moon, which were both larger and heavier than Curiosity. We ran very well, and the conditions there are even worse than on Mars. Fortunately, we have our heads. Not everyone has left, and there are still enough old people.


You once said that in 2012, a sketch of a nuclear-powered tugboat was to be created as part of the project for a manned flight to Mars. Created?

We can fly to Mars no earlier than 2035. The draft design has been developed and analyzed by specialists. Probably, in the second half of this year, the defense of this project will take place, after which a decision will be made on further work. That is, this project has not gone anywhere, it is underway. And if you remember, the start of flight tests of this nuclear powered interorbital tug is planned for the end of the 2010s.

Generally speaking, are we far behind the United States in terms of a manned flight to Mars?

Well no. Now the flight to Mars for the Americans is not listed as a priority task. They have shifted their focus and are going to fly to asteroids in the first place. It is both closer and faster, and with energy it is easier. We, too, are not yet actively talking about the Mars flight. Our government never approved the Mars program. All these works are rather proactive. But who will be the first on Mars is still an open question. They won't necessarily be Americans. This should be decided not by the rocket and space industry, but by the state. If he says to fly, we will fly. In principle, the year 2035, which I announced, is still a realistic date by which it is possible to have time to develop a corresponding heavy rocket, an interorbital tug, an interplanetary spacecraft.


How do you feel about the development of a cluster of suborbital flights?

All developments for the creation of suborbital spacecraft are concentrated in the hands of Western private business. These are Space X, XCOR Aerospace and other Western firms. All of them are developing them only for space tourism purposes. From the point of view of manned astronautics, suborbital flights are of no interest. They were made at an early stage and only in America - only two flights. Through these flights, the Americans wanted to win priority in manned space exploration. After we started immediately with orbital flights, the Americans also gave up on this. In terms of money, it is a very costly event, and the effect is very small. Being in zero gravity for five minutes cannot be compared with being in zero gravity for many hours and days. Experiments can be carried out to a limited extent, for example, on microgravity. We do not have this program now. We carry out only rare launches of meteorological rockets to study the upper layers of the earth's atmosphere. We also do not have a demand for this type of tourism - after all, it is 100-200 thousand dollars for one ticket - there is not so many people who can afford it. Therefore, there is no offer either. In America, people are richer, more in demand. In general, this is indeed an attraction.Although, in a small volume, these aircraft under development are supposed to be used for scientific purposes - for studying the upper layers of the earth's atmosphere, etc. My attitude to this type of tourism is not very good, because I think everyone will quickly "fill up" with these flights. And also, God forbid, there will be at least one accident with one of these aircraft, and then we will again be thrown back 10-15 years.

What specific robots are currently helping astronauts in orbit?

Now the American android Robonaut-2 has been delivered to the ISS and is being tested. It is a robotic device designed to help astronauts work inside the station, such as moving loads. He can still not so much and can only be inside the station. Represents a human torso with head and limbs. This form is given so that the astronauts do not feel, so to speak, lonely in the universe. And from the point of view of robotics, the appearance of any robotic device is determined by the tasks that it must solve. Rectangle solves the same tasks as this large-footed and armored robot. But the domestic Kaliningrad development - CAP-401 - will be practically the same as the American robot. Only the developers want it to be able to be used not only inside the station, but also outside - when making cosmonauts into outer space. The Japanese are also developing something similar. In the second half of this year, they also intend to send their robot into space. It will not be a humanoid robot, but a kind of spider that will run along the outer surface of the station. At the institute we also have a project of a similar development. It is called the MLC, the space transport and handling system. The press has already flashed that this is a spider robot. Let it be a spider. Its functions will be the same - to help astronauts when working in outer space on the outer surface of the station. Moreover, we have experience in creating such devices. In the 1990s, the "Compass" space robot was developed, which consisted of several joints-limbs that moved along a certain surface and were fixed in certain places.

Were the Americans still on the moon?

No matter what conferences I took part in, no matter what audience I spoke - among students, journalists, academicians - this question sounded invariably. The Americans were 100% on the moon. We tracked this back in 1969-1972 with our technical means. But there is one more argument for me. After all, the first rumors that the Americans did not land on the Moon, and all this was filmed in Hollywood pavilions, did not appear with us, but in the American press in 1970, when the first landing took place. You remember that there was the Cold War back then. And, of course, as soon as we at the top learned about such publications, at the level of the Politburo, the KGB was instructed through its own channels, to clarify this issue with its own methods. It conducted an investigation, and Andropov presented the conclusion of this report: "According to the work carried out, the KGB unequivocally asserted that the Americans were on the moon." I believe that in those conditions and at that time, this argument was more than weighty.


In light of the collision of Russian and American satellites, the topic of space debris has become popular recently. Is anything being done in this direction?

This space debris is being scrupulously tracked both in our country, in the United States and in other countries. Knowing the orbits of all these fragments, we can to some extent avoid such excesses. The ISS conducts so-called evasion maneuvers about six times a year. When it is detected that any object is approaching the station at a dangerous distance, a warning is given, the engines are turned on, and the station moves to another orbit. Since last year, the Americans have begun to deploy a tracking system for space objects not only on Earth, but also in near-Earth orbit.That is, now all we can do with space debris is to track it. Although the problem exists, and every year it becomes more and more acute. Only tracked large debris larger than 10 cm is already 16 thousand. And the amount of less garbage goes off scale, perhaps, for 100-200 thousand fragments. But these small pieces can very often be just as dangerous as a large object. They fly at a tremendous speed - eight kilometers per second. Of course, this problem must be solved. What methods is still unknown. Probably the most optimal so far is the following: those spacecraft that can potentially someday collapse, after they have worked out their life, be deorbited and burned in the dense layers of the atmosphere. And also, probably, launch an automatic tug that will help them to de-orbit. This is the only thing that is actually being done now. All other projects are still from the realm of fantasy.

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