Spacewebs and spiderbots

Published: 29 March 2007

Researchers have developed giant spider webs for manoeuvring robots in space.

Researchers have developed giant spider webs for manoeuvring robots in space.

The project, jointly conducted by researchers at the University of Glasgow and the Advanced Concepts Team at the European Space Agency, has established ways of deploying large net-like structures made of a high strength polymer, a material similar to fishing line.

Once in space, 'spiderbots' would then be able to manoeuvre around the web for observation of stars or to build large structures such as solar power satellites or antennae.

University of Glasgow lead researcher Professor Matthew Cartmell said: 'Ultimately it is hoped that webs can be deployed and stabilised in space over which the spiderbots can travel to conduct a variety of necessary research or structural work. The web structure we have developed is deliberately adaptable so that large webs of different shapes and sizes can be evolved for individual purposes.'

Co-researcher David McKenzie added: 'The spiderbots are central to this whole concept, and it is very important to understand how their movement influences the web dynamics. As each application is different, the robots are individually suited to each case.'

Currently, large structures deployed in orbit are inherently stiff and therefore it is easy to predict how they will respond to a zero-gravity environment. However, it is more difficult to predict how flexible structures like the web would react under these conditions.

Co-investigator on the project, Dr Gianmarco Radice, added: 'The web will not contain any stiff components so will have to rely on the stiffening effect of centrifugal forces by spinning around a central facility.'

Martin Shannon (

To speak to the researchers involved in the project please contact Kate Richardson at the University's Media Relations Office on 0141 330 3683 or email

The researchers involved were Professor Matthew Cartmell and David McKenzie from the University of Glasgow's Department of Mechanical Engineering and Dr Gianmarco Radice and Dr Massimiliano Vasile from the Department of Aerospace Engineering. The project was funded and jointly researched by the Advanced Concepts Team at the European Space Agency.

The robots in the image have been designed by the Technical Insitute of Vienna, working with the ESA Advanced Concepts Team.

First published: 29 March 2007

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