Probe, Austin Breien (2013-12). Development of a Robotic Simulation Platform for Spacecraft Proximity Operations and Contact Dynamics Experiments. Master's Thesis.
A major challenge facing the introduction of new technologies and techniques in space flight is the high cost required to raise the Technological Readiness Level (TRL) prior to flight. This is a result of the cost and scarcity of developmental launch opportunities for verification and validation. A ground facility with the capability for six degree-of-freedom robotic spacecraft emulation that enables laboratory-based hardware-in-the-loop experiments is desired, to allow for the simulation of space- based operations for almost any mission. Such a facility would enable experiments that can be used pre-flight to reduce development cost and ensure the functionality of sensor suites with guidance, navigation, and control systems. However, a major shortfall of most robotic motion emulation systems is the inability to simulate proximity operations involving contact dynamics, due to their methods of actuation and required dynamic response time. To provide this capability at the Texas A&M Land Air and Space Robotics (LASR) Lab, a novel low-cost robotic platform called the Suspended Target Emulation Pendulum (STEP) was developed. This thesis de- tails the design, system dynamics, simulation, and control of the STEP system, and presents experimental results from an initial prototype.