Enabling Large-body Active Debris Removal

Award Information
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Branch: N/A
Contract: NNX13CJ47C
Agency Tracking Number: 110120
Amount: $699,997.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: STTR
Awards Year: 2013
Solicitation Year: 2011
Solicitation Topic Code: T6.02
Solicitation Number: N/A
Small Business Information
TX, Richardson, TX, 75081-2897
DUNS: 831976944
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 John Hurtado Hurtado
 Principal Investigator
 (979) 845-1659
Business Contact
 Jeremy Davis
Title: Business Official
Phone: (512) 772-3615
Email: davis@vectornav.com
Research Institution
 Texas Engineering Experiment Station / Texas A&M University
 John Junkins
 3141 TAMU
College Station, TX, 77845-77845
 () -
 Domestic nonprofit research organization
Research suggests that: (1) orbital debris has reached the point that, even with no future launches, collisions among large-body debris will lead to unstable growth in debris, and (2) removing as few as five large objects each year can stabilize debris growth. For large-body active debris removal (LB-ADR), new technologies are required to safely capture the target debris. The interactions of these complex electromechanical systems (eg. imaging systems, robotic arms and grippers) and controllers pose challenges best addressed by hardware-in-the-loop (HWIL) testing. Given the risks inherent in non-cooperative spacecraft proximity operations and the firm requirement that ADR missions do not themselves produce additional debris, realistic ground-based testing is required for risk reduction.Our approach to HWIL contains two major advancements: (1) novel robotic technologies that overcome the limitations of existing test facilities, and (2) carefully designed spacecraft models capable of thoroughly evaluating every aspect of a capture system. The LASR Lab was built around HOMER, an omnidirectional robot designed and built specifically to emulate the 6-DOF relative-motion trajectories of spacecraft. The Phase I effort validated HOMER's capabilities and reduced to hardware the Dynamic Payload Pendulum (DPP), an actively controlled pendulum that provides the equivalent of a 5-DOF air-bearing. Together, they permit large-scale motion with accurate contact dynamics. Having identified rocket boosters as ideal LB-ADR targets, we investigated the model features necessary for realistic testing of grappling and sensing systems and for accurate dynamic response on the DPP. Leveraging the developments of Phase I and concurrent work on autonomous, vision-based navigation systems at the LASR Lab, we propose to simultaneously advance the TRL of the ground-test facility and the nav systems by performing an end-to-end simulation of an approach and capture of multiple rocket bodies.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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