Bosch in North America and Astrobotic Technology Inc. announced a research partnership to send experimental sensor technology to the International Space Station (ISS) as early as May 2019. Bosch’s SoundSee technology is a deep audio analytics capability that uses a custom array of microphones and machine learning to analyze information contained in emitted noises. SoundSee’s analytics will investigate whether audio data from equipment could be learned and understood using advanced software, such that it could be used to improve the operations of the ISS.

“Machines, such as motors and pumps, emit noise signatures while they operate,” said Dr. Samarjit Das, Principal Researcher at Bosch Research and Technology Center in Pittsburgh. “Our SoundSee AI (artificial intelligence) algorithm uses machine learning to analyze these subtle acoustic clues and determine whether a machine, or even a single component of a machine, needs to be repaired or replaced.”

The SoundSee payload will ride on NASA’s Astrobee Robot, an autonomous free-flying vehicle capable of navigating throughout the ISS. The NASA Ames Research Center’s Astrobee team has also provided support for ground testing.

On the ISS, researchers will collect data and send it to Earth for Bosch to study. As research progresses, the team expects to update the software or adjust operational routines to improve data-collection results.

“This data should allow us to gain insights into the state of the space station,” said Jon Macoskey, Research Engineer at Bosch and Lead Payload Designer for the project. “Our long-term goal is to show that we can detect anomalies in the operation of the station and return that intelligence to crewmembers or ground control.”

The research has promise for numerous terrestrial applications and other crewed spacecraft, including missions to the Moon and Mars.

“For some time, Bosch has been interested in using audio analytics to monitor critical machines and equipment, such as car engines or HVAC systems,” said Dr. Joseph Szurley, a Bosch Research Scientist on the project. “The ISS will allow us to study how these techniques can extend to even more challenging and unique environments.”

Astrobotic’s Future Missions and Technology team, a space robotics research group, is developing the flight version of the sensor, known as the SoundSee payload. The team will also lead ground testing and preparation for flight.

The SoundSee project has been in development since the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) approved funding for launch costs and astronaut time aboard the space station earlier this year. CASIS is the organization tasked by NASA with managing the ISS U.S. National Laboratory. Recently, Bosch and Astrobotic researchers began testing engineering units of the SoundSee payload and added former ISS Commander Dr. Colin “Mike” Foale to the team.

The SoundSee payload will launch to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Astrobee robot, and will be delivered on a future commercial resupply services mission.