Robotic arm: Satellite may salvage, repair, reposition, clean debris

Pasadena, CA—Alliance Spacesystems delivered the engineering development unit (EDU) of a robotic arm to demonstrate the “front end” of a possible future satellite that could conduct repairs or repositioning of military and commercial satellites in earth orbit.


Pasadena, CA

Alliance Spacesystems

delivered the engineering development unit (EDU) of a robotic arm to demonstrate the “front end” of a possible future satellite that could conduct repairs or repositioning of military and commercial satellites in earth orbit.

Funded and led by

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA

) with Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) acting as an agent on its behalf, the task builds on Alliance Spacesystems’ experience with robotic arms for Mars landers and rovers. DARPA’s Front-end Robotics Enabling Near-term Demonstration (FREND) program offers the possibility of spacecraft salvage, repair, rescue, reposition, de-orbit and retirement, as well as debris removal. The goal is to develop, demonstrate and fly technologies designed to increase survivability and operational effectiveness of geosynchronous orbit-based military and commercial spacecraft.

NRL’s FREND system provides hand-eye function and coordination for the potential servicing of spacecraft.

According to DARPA, a FREND-equipped spacecraft could help give new life to geosynchronous-orbit satellites that still operate but have expended position-control fuel. It would permit reboosting of spacecraft into new, useful orbits. Other uses could include on-orbit satellite repair or technology upgrades using robotic systems, or moving non-operating satellites into controlled reentry trajectories.

Alliance Spacesystems

is designing and manufacturing a robotic arm EDU and a flight arm and electronics, including first-level control algorithms. The arm will eventually incorporate end effectors such as an adapter-ring clamp or bolt-hole gripper. Electronics were developed for the company by

Broad Reach Engineering

of Boulder, CO.

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