Low Cost Space Demonstration for a Single-Person SpacecraftThis paper introduces a concept for a single-person spacecraft and presents plans for flying a low-cost, robotic demonstration mission. Called FlexCraft, the vehicle integrates propulsion and robotics into a small spacecraft that enables rapid, shirt-sleeve access to space. It can be flown by astronauts or tele-operated and is equipped with interchangeable manipulators used for maintaining the International Space Station (ISS), exploring asteroids, and servicing telescopes or satellites. Most FlexCraft systems are verified using ground facilities; however, a test in the weightless environment is needed to assess propulsion and manipulator performance. For this, a simplified, unmanned, version of FlexCraft is flown on a low-cost launch vehicle to a 350 km circular orbit. After separation from the upper stage, the vehicle returns to a target box mounted on the stage testing the propulsion and control capability. The box is equipped with manipulator test items that are representative of tasks performed on ISS, asteroid missions, or for satellites servicing. Nominal and off-nominal operations are conducted over 3 days then the vehicle re-enters the atmosphere without becoming a debris hazard. From concept to management to operations, the FlexCraft demonstration is designed to be low cost project that is launched within three years. This is possible using a simplified test configuration that eliminates nine systems unique to the operational version and by designing-to-availability. For example, the propulsion system is the same as the Manned Maneuvering Unit because it capable, simple, human-rated and all components or equivalent parts are available. A description of the launch vehicle options, mission operations, configuration, and demonstrator subsystems is presented.
Griffin, Brand N. (Gray Research, Inc. Huntsville, AL, United States)
Dischinger, Charles (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)