30 August 2004 Advancements in KC-135 microgravity testing of an autonomous satellite docking system
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Abstract
During the development of an autonomous spacecraft docking mechanism, one of the primary areas of interest in the way the mechanism will behave in a micro-gravity environment. This issue is of particular interest when a flexible soft-dock cable is used to make initial capture, because ground-based testing does not adequately represent the environmental conditions that will be seen on orbit. To this end, Michigan Aerospace Corporation has recently conducted flight tests of its prototype autonomous satellite docking system in a micro-gravity environment on the KC-135 in conjunction with the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate and Microcosm, Inc. Though the first flight was primarily for the purpose of testing the core operating principles of the docking mechanism, several lessons were learned that will be applied toward developing a second, more advanced prototype and experimental setup intended for a second series of flights on the KC-135. Areas of improvement for the new flight test will be in the physical operation of the experimental apparatus and the data collection methods used. The use of redundant sensors as a means of eliminating noise will be explored, as will the merits of using a combination of coarse and fine sensors to collect data over a broader measurement range.
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Anthony B. Hays, Anthony B. Hays, Peter Tchoryk, Peter Tchoryk, Jane C. Pavlich, Jane C. Pavlich, Gregory J. Wassick, Gregory J. Wassick, } "Advancements in KC-135 microgravity testing of an autonomous satellite docking system", Proc. SPIE 5419, Spacecraft Platforms and Infrastructure, (30 August 2004); doi: 10.1117/12.539810; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.539810
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