Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

NASA Successfully Demonstrates Innovative Nanosatellite System

Date:
June 22, 2005
Source:
NASA/ Johnson Space Center
Summary:
Big things can come in small packages, and engineers at NASA's Johnson Space Center are making progress on a tiny spacecraft that holds major promise for future exploration. Work on the volleyball-sized Miniature Autonomous Extravehicular Robotic Camera (Mini AERCam) moved forward with successful initial tests on its docking system. The Mini AERCam is designed to help astronauts and ground crews see outside the spacecraft during a mission.

As a free flying camera platform, AERCam could provide additional external views unavailable from ISS or Space Shuttle cameras. It could even be flown to areas around ISS unreachable by suited crewmembers.
Credit: Image courtesy of NASA/ Johnson Space Center

Big things can come in small packages, and engineers at NASA's Johnson Space Center are making progress on a tiny spacecraft that holds major promise for future exploration.

Work on the volleyball-sized Miniature Autonomous Extravehicular Robotic Camera (Mini AERCam) moved forward with successful initial tests on its docking system. The Mini AERCam is designed to help astronauts and ground crews see outside the spacecraft during a mission. During ground-based testing, the device was able to work with the docking system that serves as an exterior home base for housing and refueling the nanosatellite.

Since early 2000, NASA engineers have been working to create a miniaturized spacecraft that can be deployed from a parent vehicle to inspect the exterior or provide remote-controlled views during space operations. Early development is funded by the Space Shuttle Program Office, which is considering using Mini AERCam to inspect the Shuttle's heat shield in space. The nanosatellite will not be used on the Return to Flight mission (STS-114), but holds long-term promise for future space operations.

The Mini AERCam could provide beneficial on-orbit views that cannot be obtained from fixed cameras, cameras on robotic manipulators, or cameras carried by space-walking crewmembers. For Shuttle or International Space Station missions, Mini AERCam could support external robotic operations by supplying situational awareness views to operators, supplying views of spacewalk operations to flight and/or ground crews, and carrying out independent visual inspections.

Free-flying spacecraft such as Mini AERCam will be particularly critical for external inspections during long-duration missions, as spacewalks will be kept to a minimum and external camera views may be limited.

The Mini AERCam prototype is just 7.5 inches in diameter and weighs only 10 pounds. The tiny free flyer is designed to be operated by on-orbit flight crews or by ground control personnel. Either could command the nanosatellite to fly automatic maneuvers.

Mini AERCam could be deployed and retrieved many times during a single space mission, with the use of a hangar-based docking system located on the exterior of the vehicle. The free-flyer portion of the docking system includes a vision-based system for autonomous navigation and an electromagnetic capture capability. The docking culminates in a precision hard-dock, suitable for connecting propulsion and electrical recharge elements. The docking capability has been demonstrated both on an air-bearing table and in orbital simulation environments.

For human spaceflights, automatic deployment and docking eliminates the need for astronauts to perform a spacewalk to release and retrieve the free flyer. For robotic missions, external basing is essential. The docking system provides a protective base during periods it is not needed for mission operations.

Mini AERCam incorporates significant upgrades in a package that is one-fifth the volume of its precursor, the 35-pound, 14-inch AERCam Sprint. It flew as a Space Shuttle flight experiment on STS-87 in 1997. Upgrades include a full suite of miniaturized avionics, instrumentation, digital imagers, communications, navigation, video, power and propulsion subsystems.

Technology innovations include rechargeable xenon gas propulsion, a rechargeable lithium ion battery, custom avionics based on the PowerPC 740/750 microprocessor, "camera-on-a-chip" imagers with video compression, micro electromechanical system gyroscopes, precise relative GPS navigation, digital radio frequency communications, micro-patch antennas, digital instrumentation networking and compact mechanical packaging.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/ Johnson Space Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/ Johnson Space Center. "NASA Successfully Demonstrates Innovative Nanosatellite System." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 June 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/06/050619191628.htm>.
NASA/ Johnson Space Center. (2005, June 22). NASA Successfully Demonstrates Innovative Nanosatellite System. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/06/050619191628.htm
NASA/ Johnson Space Center. "NASA Successfully Demonstrates Innovative Nanosatellite System." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/06/050619191628.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan

Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan

AP (July 23, 2014) The Progress 56 cargo ship launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Wednesday. NASA says it will deliver cargo and crew supplies to the International Space Station. (July 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

AP (July 22, 2014) A Russian Soyuz cargo-carrying spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station on Monday. The craft is due to undergo about ten days of engineering tests before it burns up in the Earth's atmosphere. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

AP (July 21, 2014) NASA honored one of its most famous astronauts Monday by renaming a historic building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It now bears the name of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins