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.
By Control Engineering Staff October 29, 2007

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.

Control Engineering News Desk
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