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An ISS facility for on-orbit validation of advanced spacecraft control algorithms

The MIT Space Systems Laboratory developed the SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellites) laboratory environment to provide DARPA, NASA, and other researchers with a long term, replenishable, and upgradable testbed for the validation of high risk metrology, control, and autonomy technologies for use in formation flight and autnomous docking, rendezvous and reconfiguration algorithms. These technologies are critical to the operation of distributed satellite and docking missions such as Terrestrial Planet Finder and Orbital Express. To approximate the dynamics that will be encountered during these missions, the testbed consists of three small, self-contained vehicles, or 'spheres,' which can control their relative positions and orientations, and is operable on a 2-D laboratory platform, NASA's KC-135, and the International Space Station. SPHERES draws upon the MODE family of dynamics and control laboratories (STS-40, 42, 48, 62, Mir) by providing a cost-effective laboratory with direct astronaut interaction that exploits the micro-gravity conditions of space.

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Related Theses

Saenz-Otero, Alvar
2000, SM
The SPHERES Satellite Formation Flight Testbed: Design and Initial Control

Berkovitz, Dustin
2007, SM
System Characterization and Online Mass Property Identification of the SPHERES Formation Flight Testbed

Related Conference Papers

SPHERES: A Testbed For Long Duration Satellite Formation Flying In Micro-Gravity Conditions
D. Miller, A. Saenz-Otero, J. Wertz, A. Chen, G. Berkowski, C. Brodel, S. Carlson, D. Carpenter, S. Chen, S. Cheng, D. Feller, S. Jackson, B. Pitts, F. Perez, J. Szuminski, S. Sell
AAS/AIAA Space Flight Mechanics Meeting , 2000

Control Testbeds and Flight Demonstrations: Transitioning Theory to Application
Miller, DW, Mallory GJW
American Control Conference , 1998