Laboratory Experimentation of Guidance and Control of Spacecraft During On-orbit Proximity Maneuvers
Hall, Jason S.
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The traditional spacecraft system is a monolithic structure with a single mission focused design and lengthy production and qualification schedules coupled with enormous cost. Additionally, there rarely, if ever, is any designed preventive maintenance plan or re-fueling capability. There has been much research in recent years into alternative options. One alternative option involves autonomous on-orbit servicing of current or future monolithic spacecraft systems. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) embarked on a highly successful venture to prove out such a concept with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA’s) Orbital Express program. Orbital Express demonstrated all of the enabling technologies required for autonomous on-orbit servicing to include refueling, component transfer, autonomous satellite grappling and berthing, rendezvous, inspection, proximity operations, docking and undocking, and autonomous fault recognition and anomaly handling (Kennedy, 2008). Another potential option involves a paradigm shift from the monolithic spacecraft system to one involving multiple interacting spacecraft that can autonomously assemble and reconfigure. Numerous benefits are associated with autonomous spacecraft assemblies, ranging from a removal of significant intra-modular reliance that provides for parallel design, fabrication, assembly and validation processes to the inherent smaller nature of fractionated systems which allows for each module to be placed into orbit separately on more affordable launch platforms (Mathieu, 2005).
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