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In-Orbit Assembly of Large Spacecraft Using Small Spacecraft and Innovative Technologies

Eckersley, S., Saunders, C., Gooding, D., Sweeting, M., Whiting, C., Ferris, M., Friend, J., Forward, L., Aglietti, G., Nanjangud, A. , Blacker, P., Underwood, C., Bridges, C. and Bianco, P. (2018) In-Orbit Assembly of Large Spacecraft Using Small Spacecraft and Innovative Technologies In: 69th International Astronautical Congress (IAC), 01-05 Oct 2018, Bremen, Germany.

In-Orbit Assembly of Large Spacecraft Using Small Spacecraft and Innovative Technologies.pdf - Accepted version Manuscript

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The size of any single spacecraft is ultimately limited by the volume and mass constraints of currently available launchers, even if elaborate deployment techniques are employed. Costs of a single large spacecraft may also be unfeasible for some applications such as space telescopes, due to the increasing cost and complexity of very large monolithic components such as polished mirrors.

The capability to assemble in-orbit will be required to address missions with large infrastructures or large instruments/apertures for the purposes of increased resolution or sensitivity. This can be achieved by launching multiple smaller spacecraft elements with innovative technologies to assemble (or self-assemble) once in space and build a larger much fractionated spacecraft than the individual modules launched.

Up until now, in-orbit assembly has been restricted to the domain of very large and expensive missions such as space stations. However, we are now entering into a new and exciting era of space exploitation, where new mission applications/markets are on the horizon which will require the ability to assemble large spacecraft in orbit. These missions will need to be commercially viable and use both innovative technologies and small/micro satellite approaches, in order to be commercially successful, whilst still being safety compliant. This will enable organisations such as SSTL, to compete in an area previously exclusive to large commercial players. However, inorbit assembly brings its own challenges in terms of guidance, navigation and control, robotics, sensors, docking mechanisms, system control, data handling, optical alignment and stability, lighting, as well as many other elements including non-technical issues such as regulatory and safety constraints. Nevertheless, small satellites can also be used to demonstrate and de-risk these technologies.

In line with these future mission trends and challenges, and to prepare for future commercial mission demands, SSTL has recently been making strides towards developing its overall capability in “in-orbit assembly in space” using small satellites and low-cost commercial approaches. This includes studies and collaborations with Surrey Space Centre (SSC) to investigate the three main potential approaches for in-orbit assembly, i.e. deployable structures, robotic assembly and modular rendezvous and docking. Furthermore, SSTL is currently developing an innovative small ~20kg nanosatellite (the “Target”) as part of the ELSA-d mission which will include various rendezvous and docking demonstrations. This paper provides an overview and latest results/status of all these exciting recent in-orbit assembly related activities.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Conference Paper)
Divisions : Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences > Electronic Engineering
Authors :
Eckersley, S.
Saunders, C.
Gooding, D.
Whiting, C.
Ferris, M.
Friend, J.
Forward, L.
Nanjangud, A.
Blacker, P.
Bianco, P.
Date : 1 October 2018
Copyright Disclaimer : Copyright © 2018 by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF). All rights reserved.
Uncontrolled Keywords : In-orbit assembly; Large telescopes; Fractionated architecture; Space robotics and autonomous systems
Related URLs :
Depositing User : Clive Harris
Date Deposited : 15 Oct 2018 07:33
Last Modified : 15 Oct 2018 09:25

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