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New methods are found for arranging force actuators around a rigid body so that the system has locally decoupled and optimal manipulation characteristics. The closed-form solution leads directly to simple analytic formulas for the singular values of the manipulator Jacobian in terms of geometric design parameters. This makes it possible to easily design the local kinematics so that they meet desired specifications. Explicit formulas for designing the wrench/twist capabilities, achieving isotropy, maximizing the volume of achievable motions, and maximizing the minimum singular values are derived. Applications include design of generalized Gough-Stewart platforms (GSPs) and other parallel machines. To illustrate the power of the theory, the new methods are used to redesign an actual manipulator currently in use on the International Space Station (ISS). Unlike the existing manipulator, the new design is kinematically decoupled, isotropic, and fault tolerant - all highly desirable properties, especially in aerospace applications.