Space-Based Robotic Truss Construction
Students on the Northrop Grumman team will develop a robotic arm for assembling beams to create trusses for a roll out solar panel. Additionally, the students must demonstrate that such an assembly method could be accomplished in zero-g by developing a mass-balance simulator to assemble up to a 3m truss section.
With NASA’s new timeline for returning humans to the Lunar surface by 2024, new mapping data is needed for safe expeditions. Apollo 11 suffered from mapping resolutions that did not adequately provide information on the boulder field, causing a manual takeover to fly to a safe location. The current state of the art radar resolution for the Moon is approximately 30 m/pixel, far above the threshold for collision avoidance from features such as boulders. To enable a closed loop navigation and collision avoidance guidance system, radar resolutions at or better than 0.5 m/pixel must be acquired. A barrier to this resolution is the power required for the radar mapper (approximately 6kW). Sending this on a rideshare to Lunar orbit means that the spacecraft must fit in an ESPA-Grande bus. In this project, students will utilize space based manufacturing and assembly technologies that Northrop Grumman Corporation is developing in partnership with Made in Space to design a spacecraft assembly method that minimizes for delivered mass to Low Lunar Orbit (LLO). The students will develop the robotic arm for assembling beams to create trusses for a roll out solar panel.
Additionally, the students must demonstrate that such an assembly method could be accomplished in zero-g by developing a mass-balance simulator to assemble up to a 3m truss section. The robotic arm must fit within a 60 cm x 60 cm x 60 cm box and account for operation in zero-g. As an initial goal, the students must demonstrate that they can repeatedly assemble a 1m truss (in their zero-g mass balance simulator) before graduating to a 3m truss section. The spacecraft where this robotic arm would be applied must be able to autonomously construct necessary trusses/structures and deploy instruments and/or solar panels as necessary. It is anticipated that the robotic arm will need to be a 2-3DOF (degrees of freedom) system to accomplish the assembly of pre-fabricated trusses. Students will design, build, and operate this robotic system either through human in the loop or machine vision such as ArUco markers with Open CV. Additionally; the robotic arm must simulate operation in zero-g.