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NASA robot explodes after lithium-ion battery failure

31 October 2016

A NASA mobile robot, RoboSimian, built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a hazardous area recovery system, exploded earlier this year due to a faulty lithium-ion battery. During the charging process, the battery began to overheat and was caught on camera venting smoke before exploding and catching fire.

RoboSimian explosion - Image: NASA JPL
RoboSimian explosion - Image: NASA JPL

Researchers were reportedly preparing RoboSimian for a trip which involved putting in a new li-ion battery to charge while the team went away to lunch.

According to a statement given to WIRED, the battery possibly had a damaged cell that provided incorrect information to the system that ensures the battery is not overcharged. This may have resulted in the battery overcharging and exploding.

The incident completely destroyed the robot, and, according to NASA, could have been fatal if any humans had been nearby.

The ape-like RoboSimian took fifth place in the DARPA Robotics Challenge finals in June 2015. RoboSimian squared off against 22 other robots in the international robotics competition, which promoted the development of robots that could respond to disaster scenarios too dangerous for humans.

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