End to End Satellite Servicing and Space Debris Management

01/25/2019
by   Aman Chandra, et al.
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There is growing demand for satellite swarms and constellations for global positioning, remote sensing and relay communication in higher LEO orbits. This will result in many obsolete, damaged and abandoned satellites that will remain on-orbit beyond 25 years. These abandoned satellites and space debris maybe economically valuable orbital real-estate and resources that can be reused, repaired or upgraded for future use. Space traffic management is critical to repair damaged satellites, divert satellites into warehouse orbits and effectively de-orbit satellites and space debris that are beyond repair and salvage. Current methods for on-orbit capture, servicing and repair require a large service satellite. However, by accessing abandoned satellites and space debris, there is an inherent heightened risk of damage to a servicing spacecraft. Sending multiple small-robots with each robot specialized in a specific task is a credible alternative, as the system is simple and cost-effective and where loss of one or more robots does not end the mission. In this work, we outline an end to end multirobot system to capture damaged and abandoned spacecraft for salvaging, repair and for de-orbiting. We analyze the feasibility of sending multiple, decentralized robots that can work cooperatively to perform capture of the target satellite as a first step, followed by crawling onto damage satellites to perform detailed mapping. After obtaining a detailed map of the satellite, the robots will proceed to either repair and replace or dismantle components for salvage operations. Finally, the remaining components will be packaged with a de-orbit device for accelerated de-orbit.

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