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Center Independent Research & Development: GSFC IRAD

A Distributed Science Mission Testbed

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

The technology required for distributed spacecraft missions (DSM) is currently hamstrung by the lack of a realistic six-degree-of-freedom (DOF) testing platform.  A spacecraft emulator using autonomous rotorcraft provides this capability with minimum investment. Modifying commercially available rotorcraft hardware and applying customized attitude and position control algorithms will result in a space-like testing environment for formation flying, astrometric alignment, and other DSM applications.

The largest roadblock to advancing distributed spacecraft mission (DSM) technology is the difficulty inherent in demonstrating these concepts in a relevant environment. The complications and expenses required by space-bound technology demonstrations impose onerous costs on budding technologies.  Developing an inexpensive test platform that is dynamically similar to the space environment provides an accelerator for a wide range of DSM concepts relevant to all of Goddard’s science communities. For example, heliophysics and astrophysics scientists can test coronagraph and virtual telescope concepts like CANYVAL-X, while Earth science principal investigators (PI) can test formations such as MMS or the proposed BOWTIE concept.

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