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Reduced Gravity Flight Demonstration of the Resonant Inductive Near-field Generation System (RINGS) (RINGS)

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Reduced Gravity Flight Demonstration of the Resonant Inductive Near-field Generation System (RINGS)
Over the past decade, research has been conducted on the technology of Electromagnetic Formation Flight (EMFF), which uses the local generation of electromagnetic fields by the vehicles of a spacecraft cluster to control their relative degrees of freedom without consuming propellant. The technology has been demonstrated on ground testbeds in 2D, but full 3D motion is necessary to evaluate and refine the complex control laws necessary to fully realize the technology. To this end, DARPA has funded the RINGS project through their InSPIRE program. RINGS, which stands for Resonant Inductive Near-field Generation System, provides a hardware implementation of EMFF that will operate as a payload on SPHERES, the formation flight test facility onboard the International Space Station (ISS). The RINGS hardware has been designed to operate using A/C magnetic fields, which also provides for the demonstration of inter-vehicle power transfer through the use of resonant inductive coupling a technology that is also of interest for future spacecraft cluster architectures. To maximize productivity during the planned ISS test sessions, we propose the use of a parabolic flight campaign to conduct preliminary formation flight testing and begin the control algorithm refinement process. The parabolic flight tests will act as a bridge between extensive 2D ground testing and long duration 3D testing, whereby an array of control approaches can be evaluated in a realistic dynamics environment. Any major control implementation issues can be addressed in the intervening periods between flights over the four-day campaign, and the solutions could prevent the loss of valuable testing time on-orbit. The same cycle of ground, parabolic flight and on-orbit testing was used for the development of the SPHERES facility, and has no doubt contributed to its ongoing success. With a potential hardware launch as early as this December, on-orbit operations of RINGS would likely commence in mid to late Spring, providing an ideal window in which to leverage the parabolic flight campaign in the early Spring timeframe. More »

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