Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Robotic Repair System Will Fix Ailing Satellites

Date:
October 13, 2008
Source:
Queen's University
Summary:
Researchers are developing a new robotic system to service more than 8,000 satellites now orbiting the Earth, beyond the flight range of ground-based repair operations. Currently, when the high-flying celestial objects malfunction -- or simply run out of fuel -- they become "space junk" cluttering the cosmos.

Electrical and Computer Engineering professor Michael Greenspan (right) and graduate student Limin Shang demonstrate a new robotic tracking system that will be used to enable repairs of orbiting satellites. (The Big Bird figure in foreground represents a satellite.)
Credit: Photo by Stephen Wild

Researchers at Queen’s University are developing a new robotic system to service more than 8,000 satellites now orbiting the Earth, beyond the flight range of ground-based repair operations. Currently, when the high-flying celestial objects malfunction – or simply run out of fuel – they become “space junk” cluttering the cosmos.

“These are mechanical systems, which means that eventually they will fail,” notes Electrical and Computer Engineering professor Michael Greenspan, who leads the Queen’s project. But because they are many thousands of kilometres away, the satellites are beyond the reach of an expensive, manned spaced flight, while Earth-based telerobotic repair isn’t possible in real time.

Dr. Greenspan’s solution to this problem is the development of tracking software that will enable an Autonomous Space Servicing Vehicle (ASSV) to grasp the ailing satellite from its orbit and draw it into the repair vehicle’s bay. Once there, remote control from the ground station can be used for the repair, he explains. “The repair itself doesn’t have to be done in real time, since everything is in a fixed position and a human can interact with it telerobotically to do whatever is required.”

The Queen’s team is now working to develop the ASSV with the aerospace company MDA (McDonald-Detweiller Associates) Space Missions, which earlier built the Canadarm and has been responsible for all Canadian systems in the International Space Station.

Computer vision is the main technical challenge of grasping the satellites, Dr. Greenspan continues. Since these objects circle the globe in “geosynchronous” orbit, their speed is synchronized with the Earth’s rotation. The robotic system must recognize the satellite first, then determine its motion and match that motion before grabbing it.

Due to the harsh illumination conditions in space, conventional video cameras are of limited use. The preferred sensor is a form of light-based radar called LIDAR, which provides a set of 3D points that accurately measure the surface geometry of the satellite.

The Queen’s team, which includes Electrical and Computer Engineering graduate students Limin Shang, Babak Taati and Michael Belshaw, has developed software that allows such a system to identify a satellite, determine its position and finally track it in real time, using this specialized range data. They have recently received funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) to continue looking at fundamental aspects of this new technology.

Another potential, terrestrial application of their findings is in the area of “flexible” manufacturing, says Dr. Greenspan. Using vision systems and algorithms, objects can be recognized and tracked as they go down a conveyor belt or assembly line. ”Once you can do that, automated manufacturing systems can interface much more flexibly with the objects,” he notes. “The result will be a much easier and more cost effective manufacturing process.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Queen's University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Queen's University. "New Robotic Repair System Will Fix Ailing Satellites." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 October 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081002172253.htm>.
Queen's University. (2008, October 13). New Robotic Repair System Will Fix Ailing Satellites. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081002172253.htm
Queen's University. "New Robotic Repair System Will Fix Ailing Satellites." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081002172253.htm (accessed September 22, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Monday, September 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Has Finally Reached Mars

NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Has Finally Reached Mars

Newsy (Sep. 22, 2014) After a 10-month voyage through space, NASA's MAVEN spacecraft is now orbiting the Red Planet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: SpaceX Rocket Carries 3-D Printer to Space

Raw: SpaceX Rocket Carries 3-D Printer to Space

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) A SpaceX Rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, carrying a custom-built 3-D printer into space. NASA envisions astronauts one day using the printer to make their own spare parts. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
SpaceX Cargo Ship Blasts Off Toward Space Station

SpaceX Cargo Ship Blasts Off Toward Space Station

AFP (Sep. 21, 2014) SpaceX's unmanned Dragon cargo ship blasts off toward the International Space Station, carrying a load of supplies and science experiments for the astronauts living there. Duration: 00:35 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA's MAVEN To Study Martian Atmosphere

NASA's MAVEN To Study Martian Atmosphere

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) NASA's Maven will soon give information that could explain what happened to Mars' atmosphere. 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