ESA GNC Conference Papers Repository
Active Debris Removal GNC Challenges over Design and Required Ground Validation
Because of the exponentially growth of space debris, the access to space in the medium-term future is considered as being seriously compromised, particularly within LEO polar Sun-synchronous and orbits and within geostationary orbits. <br><br>The active debris removal (ADR) application poses new and challenging requirements on: first, the new required GNC technologies and, second, how to validate these new technologies before being applied in real missions. There is no doubt about the strong safety and collision risk aspects affecting the real operational ADR missions. But it shall be considered that even ADR demonstration missions will be affected by significant risk of collision during the demonstration, and that the ADR GNC systems/technologies to be used shall be well mature before using/demonstrating them in space. Specific and dedicated on-ground validation approaches, techniques and facilities are mandatory. <br><br>The different ADR (Active Debris Removal) techniques can be roughly catalogued in three main groups (rigid capture, non-rigid capture and contactless). All of them have a strong impact on the GNC system of the active vehicle during the capture/proximity phase and, particularly, during the active vehicle/debris combo control phase after capture and during the de-orbiting phase. The main operational phases on an ADR scenario are: 1) ground controlled phase (ADR vehicle and debris are far), 2) fine orbit synchronization phase (ADR vehicle to reach debris ±V-bar), 3) short range phase (along track distance reduction till 10s-100s of meters), 4) terminal approach/capture phase and 5) de-orbiting. While phases 1 to 3 are somehow conventional and already addressed in detail during past/on-going studies related to rendez-vous and/or formation flying, phases 4-5 are very specific and not mature in terms of GNC needed technologies and HW equipment. GMV is currently performing different internal activities and ESA studies/developments related to ADR mission, GNC and capture technologies. <br><br>This paper focuses on some specific aspects and technologies related to ADR terminal phases involved technologies and ground validation approaches: <br><br>Terminal ADR approach phase using visual-based navigation (VBN). Potential Image Processing techniques and preliminary performances will be described, together with the challenge of generating on-ground realistic images as input for the HW/SW VBN system. Some results of image generation (including comparison with real flight image missions) and processing using GMVs Optical Laboratory (image generation by rendering spacecraft 3D models and projecting on a screen in front of the HW camera) and using GMVs platform-art® laboratory to reproduce space-realistic physical scenarios (to be captured by a HW camera) using 1:1 physical spacecraft mock-ups in an absolutely dark environment with a Sun-like single illumination source. <br><br>Ground validation of GNC systems based on HW-in-The-Loop (HIL) test facilities, including realistic space-representative avionics (at processor, interfaces and real-time operating system), realistic and air-to-air stimulated breadboard perception sensors (IMU, optical cameras, laser 3D sensors) through the use of dynamic robotic devices hosting the active vehicle and debris mock-ups and reproducing accurately the spatial relative dynamic corresponding to an ADR scenario. This type of ground validation can effectively achieve validation in relevant environment, till TRL (Technology Readiness Level) 5/6 on ground and minimizing the uncertainty/risk of such technologies/systems with respect to its operational use. Description and video demonstration of some ADR applicable test case/s using GMVs platform-art® dynamic test facility will be included. Particular attention will be paid on the needed type of structural/functional active ADR vehicle and debris mock-ups, force/torque measurement and feedback capability over debris contact or momentum exchange actions, ground gravity compensation.