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AERCam Autonomy: Intelligent Software Architecture for Robotic Free Flying Nanosatellite Inspection VehiclesThe NASA Johnson Space Center has developed a nanosatellite-class Free Flyer intended for future external inspection and remote viewing of human spacecraft. The Miniature Autonomous Extravehicular Robotic Camera (Mini AERCam) technology demonstration unit has been integrated into the approximate form and function of a flight system. The spherical Mini AERCam Free Flyer is 7.5 inches in diameter and weighs approximately 10 pounds, yet it incorporates significant additional capabilities compared to the 35-pound, 14-inch diameter AERCam Sprint that flew as a Shuttle flight experiment in 1997. Mini AERCam hosts a full suite of miniaturized avionics, instrumentation, communications, navigation, power, propulsion, and imaging subsystems, including digital video cameras and a high resolution still image camera. The vehicle is designed for either remotely piloted operations or supervised autonomous operations, including automatic stationkeeping, point-to-point maneuvering, and waypoint tracking. The Mini AERCam Free Flyer is accompanied by a sophisticated control station for command and control, as well as a docking system for automated deployment, docking, and recharge at a parent spacecraft. Free Flyer functional testing has been conducted successfully on both an airbearing table and in a six-degree-of-freedom closed-loop orbital simulation with avionics hardware in the loop. Mini AERCam aims to provide beneficial on-orbit views that cannot be obtained from fixed cameras, cameras on robotic manipulators, or cameras carried by crewmembers during extravehicular activities (EVA s). On Shuttle or International Space Station (ISS), for example, Mini AERCam could support external robotic operations by supplying orthogonal views to the intravehicular activity (IVA) robotic operator, supply views of EVA operations to IVA and/or ground crews monitoring the EVA, and carry out independent visual inspections of areas of interest around the spacecraft. To enable these future benefits with minimal impact on IVA operators and ground controllers, the Mini AERCam system architecture incorporates intelligent systems attributes that support various autonomous capabilities. 1) A robust command sequencer enables task-level command scripting. Command scripting is employed for operations such as automatic inspection scans over a region of interest, and operator-hands-off automated docking. 2) A system manager built on the same expert-system software as the command sequencer provides detection and smart-response capability for potential system-level anomalies, like loss of communications between the Free Flyer and control station. 3) An AERCam dynamics manager provides nominal and off-nominal management of guidance, navigation, and control (GN&C) functions. It is employed for safe trajectory monitoring, contingency maneuvering, and related roles. This paper will describe these architectural components of Mini AERCam autonomy, as well as the interaction of these elements with a human operator during supervised autonomous control.
Document ID
Document Type
Fredrickson, Steven E.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Duran, Steve G.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Braun, Angela N.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Straube, Timothy M.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Mitchell, Jennifer D.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
September 7, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2006
Subject Category
Avionics And Aircraft Instrumentation
Meeting Information
Meeting: AIAA Space 2006
Location: San Jose, CA
Country: United States
Start Date: September 19, 2006
End Date: September 21, 2006
Sponsors: American Inst. of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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