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To Catch a Falling Satellite

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Illustration shows Astrobee robot targeting a satellite

Credit: Tumbledock/ROAM

The U.S.-German TumbleDock/ROAM project is exploring ways to contain and stabilize out-of-control satellites so they can either be taken out of orbit, or possibly refueled or repaired. The project team has completed tests at the International Space Station (ISS), using the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Astrobee robots.

Researchers had the robots substitute for tumbling satellites, and "chaser" spacecraft were sent to retrieve them to develop algorithms that chasers can use to locate and safely catch the debris in real time. Each cubical Astrobee is equipped with navigation cameras, compressed-air thrusters, and Snapdragon processors similar to those found in smartphones. ISS tests showed that such maneuvers are possible, in principle.

From IEEE Spectrum
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Abstracts Copyright © 2022 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


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