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Center Innovation Fund: JSC CIF

A Ground Testbed to Advance US Capability in Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking

Canceled Technology Project

Project Introduction

This project will advance the Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking (AR&D) GNC system by testing it on hardware, particularly in a flight processor, with a goal of testing it in IPAS with the Waypoint L2 AR&D scenario.   The entire Agency supports development of a Commodity for Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking (CARD) as outlined in the Agency-wide Community of Practice whitepaper entitled: "A Strategy for the U.S. to Develop and Maintain a Mainstream Capability for Automated/Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking in Low Earth Orbit and Beyond".  The whitepaper establishes that 1) the US is in a continual state of AR&D point-designs and therefore there is no US "off-the-shelf" AR&D capability in existence today, 2) the US has fallen behind our foreign counterparts particularly in the autonomy of AR&D systems, 3) development of an AR&D commodity is a national need that would benefit NASA, our commercial partners, and DoD, and 4) an initial estimate indicates that the development of a standardized AR&D capability could save the US approximately $60M for each AR&D project and cut each project's AR&D flight system implementation time in half. 

The entire Agency supports development of a Commodity for Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking (CARD) as outlined in the Agency-wide Community of Practice whitepaper entitled: "A Strategy for the U.S. to Develop and Maintain a Mainstream Capability for Automated/Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking in Low Earth Orbit and Beyond".  The whitepaper establishes that 1) the US is in a continual state of AR&D point-designs and therefore there is no US "off-the-shelf" AR&D capability in existence today, 2) the US has fallen behind our foreign counterparts particularly in the autonomy of AR&D systems, 3) development of an AR&D commodity is a national need that would benefit NASA, our commercial partners, and DoD, and 4) an initial estimate indicates that the development of a standardized AR&D capability could save the US approximately $60M for each AR&D project and cut each project's AR&D flight system implementation time in half.   As designed, each element of the AR&D commodity is to be evolvable so that as sensor, computer technology, and algorithm advances occur, the commodity will harness these advances and allow the new hardware and software to be integrated with a minimum of difficulty because the interfaces have been well-defined.  Since the majority of the effort in any AR&D mission involves solving systems integration challenges, having an 80% solution will go a long way toward reducing time and cost – and risk -- of future missions. This project's objective is to develop a CARD software and hardware package (which goes well beyond this IR&D proposal and is a long-term endeavor) that will provide a cross-cutting starting point that will provide 80% of the functionality necessary to carry out any conceivable AR&D mission.  The remaining 20% will need to be tailored to a particular mission.  One of the key elements of this commodity is a set of well-defined, standardized interfaces.   To date, all of the work performed for AR&D has focused on either Low Earth Orbit (LEO) or Low Lunar Orbit (LLO).  We seek to advance AR&D technology by focusing this IRaD on rendezvous in a weak gravity environment –either at L2 or around an asteroid.  We choose to focus our IRaD effort on the AR&D algorithms and software for the Waypoint Mission, thus broadening our scope, maintaining our cutting-edge capability, and advancing US manned space exploration.  Our goal is to be flexible enough to meet the needs of the NASA vision as it applies to any AR&D mission the Agency chooses to embark upon.

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