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SBIR/STTR

Picosats for Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking Technology Demonstration, Phase I

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Picosats for Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking Technology Demonstration, Phase I
Over the next decade, a host of new technologies and capabilities will be needed by NASA to support Project Constellation. For risk reduction considerations, it is desirable that they be flown on other missions prior to use on vehicles such as Orion or Altair. An innovative and cost-effective approach to doing so is to use picosats, which are miniaturized spacecraft with masses on the order of a few kilograms. Because of their size, weight and power requirements, they are ideal for low-cost, quick-turn-around technology demonstration missions. Picosats are now being developed at universities by teams of students for "hands on" experience with real space hardware. The University of Texas at Austin (UT) and Texas A&M University (TAMU), for example, are working with NASA Johnson Space Center to implement a series of four picosat missions that would culminate in an on-orbit demonstration of autonomous rendezvous and docking (AR&D). This is a mission-critical, system-level technology needed by Project Constellation, especially Orion. Accordingly, Emergent Space Technologies, Inc. (Emergent) proposes to team with UT to move the Platform for Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking with Innovative GN&C Methods (PARADIGM) picosats out of the university research realm and into the commercial marketplace. These spacecraft are being built by UT students to fly in concert with the picosats being built by their TAMU counterparts. The Flight 1 spacecraft are being readied for launch in early 2009 and are primed for transition to industry. Emergent will work with UT and TAMU in Phase 1 to design the 3 missions that will follow Flight 1. In Phase 2, we will use our considerable engineering expertise and AR&D spaceflight experience to help achieve a successful Flight 2. In Phase 3, we will successfully implement Flights 3 and 4 and in the process develop a picosat product line that can be applied to a variety of commercial space applications. More »

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