The proposed Phase II supports completion of the RINGS science missions on ISS using SVGS as real-time sensor for the EMFF maneuver. During Phase I, SVGS-based navigation of RINGS was developed and tested on a 3DOF ground-based platform, and mechanical and electrical integration of RINGS with the free-flying robotic platforms on ISS (Astrobee) was designed in detail. SVGS was deployed and tested on a platform equivalent to the Guest Scientist Module (HLP) on Astrobee, which facilitates direct deployment of SVGS on Astrobee with minimal additional hardware. The Phase II effort will support the deployment and completion of the EMFF and WPT science sessions of RINGS onboard ISS, using SVGS as GN&C sensor. Ground testing of the RINGS-Astrobee assembly will including formation flight in both open and closed loop maneuvers.
RINGS is currently unutilized on board ISS. The RINGS science missions are an important step to demonstrate and assess the feasibility of electromagnetic formation flight and wireless power transfer. The proposed research would enable to leverage the substantial expenditures and effort already invested in the development of RINGS to serve as demonstration of EMFF and WPT - technology areas of great promise for future small spacecraft.
The proposed Phase II will also help demonstrate and assess SVGS as stand-alone sensor for proximity operations between small satellites. SVGS is an attractive alternative as real-time sensor for rendezvous, docking and proximity operations. Key factors that make SVGS attractive to small satellite applications (small form factor, low cost, platform independence) also makes it appealing to human exploration missions, where crew vehicles need to dock with a variety of platforms. The niche for a proximity operations sensor for smallsat applications is currently open – the deployment of SVGS on ISS and its application to complete the RINGS mission will illustrate SVGS’ ability to fill that role.
Deploying SVGS on small, powerful, inexpensive platforms opens the path to use SVGS as rendezvous & docking sensor in multiple space applications. Key factors that make SVGS attractive to small sat applications (small form factor, low-power consumption, relatively simple implementation) also make it appealing to human exploration missions, where crew vehicles need to dock with a variety of platforms. The niche for a proximity operations sensor for space applications is currently open – this initiative is positioning SVGS to compete for that role. SVGS is envisioned as a compact, low-cost, sensing and estimation system for proximity operations and rendezvous applications in space robotics. The proposed effort will help demonstrate SVGS performance while being very competitive in size, complexity and cost compared to currently existing devices. 1) SVGS can support orientation and navigation in cubesat and smallsat missions. Automatic docking and maneuvering cubesats can be used for inspection tasks related to manned spacecraft. 2) Cubesats capable of vision-based positioning and orientation can also be used to perform close-up science missions. 3) Additional potential applications include orbital debris mitigation, & small sat formation flying. 4) SVGS could be used as sensor that assists large spacecraft docking or feedback for robotic systems, similar to the role played by the camera and RMS target when astronauts maneuvered the Remote Manipulator System on the Space Shuttle.
The proposed effort will deliver a positioning/metrology system well suited for proximity operations in Robotics when vision-based feedback is desirable, such as in automated docking or approach/grasp tasks with a robotic hand. It would also be well suited for rendezvous, short range navigation and visual inspection tasks in Cubesats. The SVGS/RINGS architecture can support a broad array of space missions - potential customers are contractors or companies supporting missions with small robots that need to dock, proximity maneuvers or teleoperation. SVGS will evolve as an “agnostic" architecture that can be ported to any platform. To make SVGS available to many possible users, a 'portable' version of SVGS will be developed and maintained: a version of the SVGS algorithm that is agnostic to platform or language. SVGS can be implemented in ANSI C and provide an API with bindings for Python, Java, etc., to broaden its applicability. The API would be purely the image processing and mathematical portions of the SVGS algorithm, leading to the development of a 'root' version of SVGS that any potential customer could easily adapt and use in a variety of platforms and applications.