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T0127-P

Reduced Gravity Flight Demo of Synchronized Position Hold Engage Reorient Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) Universal Docking Ports

PI: Alvar Saenz Otero, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

In 2015, the DARPA Phoenix mission will demonstrate robotic servicing and assembly for the purposes of harvesting retired communications satellites. To provide a testing environment for these new technologies, the Phoenix team has paired with the MIT Space Systems Lab to utilize the Synchronized Position Hold Engage Reorient Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) testbed onboard the International Space Station (ISS). As part of this partnership, MIT has developed a Universal Docking Port (UDP) designed to enable multiple (SPHERES) to rigidly dock and undock. To maximize the ISS test session productivity, a parabolic flight campaign is used to bridge the gap between 2D and 3D docking and undocking operations. The parabolic flight campaign will validate the design of the UDP in a full 6-DOF environment, prior to ISS operations.

3 Questions: Lennon Rodgers on docking in space
With NASA’s help, AeroAstro students work in a space-like environment

Technology Areas (?)
  • TA04 Robotics, Tele-Robotics and Autonomous Systems
Problem Statement

Reusing assets from existing satellites has the potential to greatly reduce the cost of new missions. To provide a testing environment for these new technologies, the Phoenix team has paired with the MIT Space Systems Lab to utilize the Synchronized Position Hold Engage Reorient Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) testbed onboard the International Space Station (ISS). As part of this partnership, MIT has developed a Universal Docking Port (UDP) designed to enable multiple (SPHERES) to rigidly dock and undock. With this capability, spacecraft reconfiguration and modularity technical challenges can be addressed, including performing relative sensing and characterization for docking, reconfiguring the system controller to account for the new dynamics of the docked vehicles, and reconfiguring the actuation and sensing subsystems of the new system.

Technology Maturation

A parabolic flight campaign will validate the design of the UDP in a full 6-DOF environment, prior to ISS operations. While the UDPs have been successful in 2D ground testing, only 3 of the 6 degrees of freedom are tested. Additionally, the 2D environment removes 3D effects which need to be tested prior to launch, such as clocking angles and relative offsets in the other degrees of freedom.

Technology Details

  • Selection Date
    AFO8 (April 2014)
  • Program Status
    Completed
  • Current TRL (?)
    Unknown
    Successful FOP Flights
  • 1 Parabolic

Development Team

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