The broader impact of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project would be to develop a novel electromechanical system for on-orbit servicing of spacecraft so that a spacecraft can be captured, dock. and refuel. This system will extend the useful life of spacecraft and enable the rescue of failed missions, representing savings to commercial and public entities alike. Mission life extensions of commercial projects are expected to translate into reduced costs of delivering information and services; similarly, extensions of government-sponsored missions will enable lowered costs associated with satellite launches.
The proposed project will create a capture and refueling system for spacecraft to be used in ride-share systems. Capturing system requirements include: compatibility with proximity and guidance sensors; low-power operation; and autonomous alignment. Docking and refueling requirements include: formation of a rigid, leak-proof, structural connection to deliver fuel; and a mechanism to open the fuel port on the client spacecraft without secondary actuation systems. Finally, for ride-share compatibility, the robot arm must be optimized for size, weight, and power; and it must have end-effectors and a tool exchange mechanism. All subsystems must be fully compatible with the extreme environmental conditions of space. The proposed effort will address the systems engineering process of developing requirements and specifications; conceptual design development; detailed design, analysis and modeling; and breadboard testing.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.