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01-04-2013, 08:39 PM
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Navy working on sugar-fueled space robots

Sure, the Navy usually works to keep the world's waterways open for business. But for decades, the Spacecraft Engineering Department at the Naval Research Laboratory has been the outlet for its more celestial ambitions. The 1958 Vanguard satellite -- the fourth object mankind launched into space -- was one of theirs.

These days, the Spacecraft Engineering Department works closely with NASA and the Pentagon futurists at Darpa on the grabbier end of outer-space science projects. As in literally grabby: "Ninety-nine percent of our focus is robotic arms," says space roboticist Greg Scott.

Those mechanized arms are designed to perform maintenance tasks on space hardware, and even help the Navy down here on earth. But some of Scott's other space projects involve "some pretty ridiculous science," Scott tells Danger Room -- like these robotic astronauts.

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