Mechanical & Materials Engineering, Department of


Date of this Version

Spring 5-2014


K. M. Lackas, "Design and Assembly of Parabolic Flight Payload to Evaluate Miniature in vivo Surgical Robots in Microgravity, MS thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2014


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Mechanical Engineering & Applied Mechanics, Under the Supervision of Professor Shane M. Farritor. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2014

Copyright 2014 Kearney Mathew Lackas


Laparoscopic surgery, also known as minimally invasive surgery (MIS), changed the face of surgery in the 1990s. With these procedures, surgeons use long, slender tools which pass through several small incisions. Performing surgery in this fashion has shown many benefits including reduced pain and recovery times, lower costs, and less scarring post-recovery.

The use of surgical robotics has shown several key advantages over MIS techniques. Minimally invasive surgeries typically require unnatural movements, have limited visibility, greatly reduce dexterity, and provide little tactile feedback. Through robot kinematics and specialized sensors, surgical robots can resolve many of these limitations, especially in terms of creating intuitive controls that can be mastered quickly, without losing many of the benefits of MIS. Because of these properties and their relatively small size, surgical robots could be viable options for use during space flight emergencies.

This thesis presents the design and assembly of a parabolic flight payload to evaluate these robots in microgravity where the robot performance and the operator capability is unknown. The structure supports all required hardware and is compliant with all NASA requirements and guidelines for microgravity research. Through future experiments using the payload, completion metrics such as experimental time-to-completion and robot positioning accuracy will be used to define the challenges with working in microgravity as well as propose possible solutions to create a surgical system for space.

Advisor: Shane Farritor