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Categories: 2018, Next Generation Technology

Demonstrating Autonomous Spacecraft Assembly with the Intelligent Space Assembly Robot

Historically, larger spacecraft like the International Space Station (ISS) have been assembled over long periods of time using astronaut intensive assembly schemes. Not only does this approach add time and cost to the construction process, but it also ignores the maturity of robotic systems. Fully autonomous robots have the capability to accomplish tasks from sorting parts to assembling cars. The next step to advance in space manufacturing is to bring these autonomous robots into space to perform spacecraft assembly tasks.

The United States Naval Academy (USNA) is seeking to advance autonomous robotic assembly of spacecraft by developing the Intelligent Space Assembly Robot (ISAR). ISAR is the second generation of USNA’s RSat space rated robotic arms. ISAR is a 3U CubeSat experiment with two six degree of freedom robotic arms and advanced sensors to provide visual and tactile feedback to the system. ISAR will use this input to implement an autonomous control system that will demonstrate the ability to autonomously assemble demonstration spacecraft parts on orbit.

ISAR leverages the CubeSat form factor to test the robotic arm system through a series of demonstration launches. Due to the high availability of CubeSat launch opportunities, ISAR can be launched a number of times which allows the system to rapidly advance its autonomous capabilities. This rapid technology development will help enable fully autonomous spacecraft assembly.

This paper will discuss the autonomous robotic system which has been developed to integrate with the RSat spacecraft. The results of simulations demonstrating the feasibility of autonomous robotic functions using visual servoing and traditional trajectory planning will be included as well as the results from tests of the physical robotic system on an air bearing table. The planned operations and assembly techniques will be discussed in preparation for the system’s launch to the ISS in 2019.

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Author: Dakota Wenberg
Topic: Next Generation Technology

  • Paper: Demonstrating Autonomous Spacecraft Assembly with the Intelligent Space Assembly Robot

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  • Presentation: Demonstrating Autonomous Spacecraft Assembly with the Intelligent Space Assembly Robot

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