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Closed Space Robotics Missions (in alphabetical order)
The AROMA study (2000-2002) mainly focused on the definition of robot configurations for various purposes in modular design, attached to different Mars rover types. DLR’s contribution to this ESA study consisted mainly of defining appropriate robotic devices for inspection and monitoring of facilities on Mars.
In 1998 and 1999 the institute and its Italian industrial partner CARLO GAVAZZI developed subsystems for the ESA-project EUTEF (EUropean Technology Exposure Facility). Detailed concepts were elaborated concerning the mounting of pallets on the outer structure of ISS (either on the long grid structure or at the European COF-module), where a robot arm should perform operational payload handling; i.e., grasping payload-boxes and drawers, inserting them into measurement devices or exposing them in a dedicated way to space radiation and illumination (stars, sun, etc.).
CIRCUS is a compact integrated robot controller unit and servo amplifier for further 7 degrees-of-freedom internal robot arms on the ISS and the attached grippers. Such an arm would be used for, e.g., repetitive payload handling.
Immediately after ROTEX, we started to build up laboratory experiments for studying the dynamical behaviour and the rendezvous and docking capabilities of a free-flying servicing satellite, consisting of a robot arm mounted on a conventional chaser. A free-flying tele-robot ESS (Experimental Servicing Satellite) was supposed to approach, inspect, and repair a malfunctioning satellite.
From April 19-21, 1999 DLR’s tele-robotic and programming system was used to control the robot arm on the Japanese ETS-VII satellite. The main goals of the German ETS-VII Technology Experiments (GETEX) were to verify our tele-robotic ground control station for remote control of a free-floating robot, in particular to perform a peg-in-hole experiment, using VR methods and the „vision&force“ control scheme, by closing sensor control loops directly on-board (force) and via the ground track (vision), thus proving our sensor-based autonomy features, to conduct experiments with relevance to the behavior of the ETS-VII in free motion mode and thus to verify the existing 6 DoF dynamic models for the interaction between a robot and its free-flying carrier satellite.
In 2000 the nationally funded study MISSIS (Mobile Inspection and Service System for ISS) aimed at the development of a mobile inspection and service system for the ISS Columbus module. The major goal was to demonstrate advanced technologies for security enhancement of the station while reducing extra-vehicular activities (EVA) and thus reserve more time for other research activities.
A nationally funded study was initiated in 1999 to design a servicing satellite for operations in low earth orbit (LEO). The background was to rescue the scientific satellite ROSAT (a German Röntgen satellite launched in 1991), that was built without having any thrusters for controlled de-orbiting.
Autonomous planetary exploration will play an important role in future space missions. Therefore we have studied the feasibility of robotised planetary exploration in several ESA contracts (ROBUST, PSPE, ROSA-M). Within the European Payload Support for Planetary Exploration (PSPE) project, we have proposed a Lander spacecraft configuration and control concept, which should allow to perform geo-science operations on Mars, but with higher local autonomy than, e.g., the pathfinder’s sojourner rover.
A feasibility study was performed in 2002 for ESA on capturing a non-cooperative target satellite in geostationary orbit and its subsequent de-orbiting into a graveyard orbit. We were involved in the analysis of two strategies which both consisted of a chaser satellite deploying a tether, at the end of which was either a net or a robotic gripper to capture the target.
ROTEX (Robot Technology Experiment on Spacelab D2-Mission) was kind of a starting shot for Germany’s participation in space automation and robotics. It contained as much sensor-based on-board autonomy as possible, but on the other side it presumed that for many years cooperation between man and machine, based on powerful telerobotic structures, will be the foundation of high-performance space robot systems, operable especially from ground.
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