Development of a smart docking system for small satellites

Development of a smart docking system for small satellites

Alex Caon, Luca Lion, Lorenzo Olivieri, Francesco Branz, Alessandro Francesconi

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Abstract. DOCKS is a smart docking system for space vehicles developed by the Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Padova, within the framework of the Space Rider Observer Cube (SROC) mission. The design and development of SROC is being conducted by a consortium of Italian entities under contract with the European Space Agency (ESA). The SROC mission is designed to be a payload on the ESA Space Rider (SR) spaceship. The main objective of the mission is to demonstrate the critical capabilities and technologies required to execute a rendezvous and docking mission in a safety-sensitive context. The space system is composed by a nanosatellite (approximately 12U CubeSat) and a deployment/retrieval mechanism mounted inside the payload bay of SR. During the mission, SROC will be released by SR, will perform inspection manoeuvres on SR and, at the end of the mission, will dock back inside the bay of SR, before re-entering Earth with the mothership. The docking functionality is provided by DOCKS. DOCKS is suitable for use onboard micro- and nanosatellites and merges a classical probe drogue configuration with a gripper–like design, to manage the connection between the parts. The system is equipped with a suite of sensors to estimate the relative pose of the target and with a dedicated computer, making it a smart standalone system. A laboratory prototype has been assembled and functionally tested, aiming at the validation of the capability to passively manage misalignments during the docking manoeuvre.

Docking system, Autonomous system, Space Rider, Space Rider Observer Cube

Published online 11/1/2023, 4 pages
Copyright © 2023 by the author(s)
Published under license by Materials Research Forum LLC., Millersville PA, USA

Citation: Alex Caon, Luca Lion, Lorenzo Olivieri, Francesco Branz, Alessandro Francesconi, Development of a smart docking system for small satellites, Materials Research Proceedings, Vol. 37, pp 504-507, 2023


The article was published as article 110 of the book Aeronautics and Astronautics

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