The SmallSat Rendezvous & Robotics Group investigates new technologies and approaches for rendezvous scenarios and proximity operations. This includes far range target acquisition, target state estimation, docking processes, and manipulators for different mission goals. Typical applications are Active Space Debris Removal (ADR), On-Orbit Servicing (OOS), and On-Orbit Manufacturing. Our work is governed by the opportunities and restriction that come with the use of SmallSats: The use of COTS components and short development cycles, while respecting tight mass and size budgets.
Current research topics are vision-based navigation, formation flight using non-impulsive propulsion like differential drag control and docking to uncontrolled targets using micropatterned dry adhesives, commonly referred to as gecko materials.
We are setting up a laboratory to simulate the lighting conditions in space and allow for virtually frictionless movement of satellite simulators in three degrees of freedom. This allows testing of vision-based navigation algorithms under realistic lighting conditions, functional testing of docking mechanisms, and verification of new control schemes.