Development of a smart docking system for small satellites
Alex Caon, Luca Lion, Lorenzo Olivieri, Francesco Branz, Alessandro Francesconidownload PDF
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
Content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. Any further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the title of the work, journal citation and DOI.
 S. Corpino, G. Ammirante, G. Daddi, F. Stesina, F. Corradino, A. Basler, A. Francesconi, F. Branz and J. Van den Eynde, “Space Rider Observer Cube – SROC: a CubeSat mission for proximity operations demonstration,” in 73 International Astronautical Congress (IAC), Paris, France, 18-22 September 2022.
 F. Sansone, F. Banz and A. Francesconi, “A relative sensor for CubeSat based on LED fiducial markers,” Acta Astronautica, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actaastro.2018.02.028
 A. Caon, M. Peruffo, F. Branz and A. Francesconi, “Consensus sensor fusion to estimate the relative attitude during space capture operations,” in IEEE 9 International Workshop onMetrology for AeroSpace (MetroAeroSpace), 2022. https://doi.org/10.1109/MetroAeroSpace54187.2022.9856096
 A. Caon, F. Branz and A. Francesconi, “Characterization of a new positioning senosr for space capture,” in IEEE 8 International Workshop on Metrology for AeroSpace (MetroAeroSpace), 2021. https://doi.org/10.1109/MetroAeroSpace51421.2021.9511704
 A. Caon, F. Branz and A. Francesconi, “Smart capture tool for space robots,” Acta Astronautica, 2023. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actaastro.2023.05.014
 A. Caon, F. Branz and A. Francesconi, “Development and test of a robotic arm for experiments on close proximity operations,” Acta Astronautica, 195, pp. 287-294, 2022. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actaastro.2022.03.006