Space Systems Group (SSG)

During the past decade, multi-robot cooperation has become an active area of research because of its potential to provide a significant impact on system automation and robotics. Specifically, the challenge of the multi-robot cooperative research program is to develop enabling technologies that allow robots to work together in an intelligent (and autonomous) manner to execute a global task.The Space Systems Research Group (SSG) is investigating issues related to multi-robot cooperation, specifically as it applies to spacecraft. Our more recent investigations are associated with the dynamics and controls of a flying formation of satellites which may be used for either remote sensing or deep space applications. We are also developing multi-agent robotic inspection systems for ground-based and on-orbit applications. The current research activities are summarized below.

1. Development of a robust simulation environment to evaluate control methodologies for formations in low earth orbit. This simulation environment is capable of handling any closed orbit and is developed in the Matlab environment. Both orbital and attitude dynamics and control issues are considered, with emphasis on the coupled attitude and orbit problem.

2. Many current and proposed space systems require the ability to maneuver in constrained environments. Such systems include active vehicle rendezvous and maneuvering in proximity to complex space platforms. This research effort investigates guidance, navigation, and control methodologies for precise autonomous proximity operations. The classical Clohessy-Wiltshire (C-W) equations that are typically used in proximity operations are not of sufficient fidelity for this application. A modified C-W model is being developed that increases the fidelity of the model yet maintains the benefits (i.e., the level of complexity) of the original C-W model.

3. Development of autonomous robotic agents to aid in the ground processing of reusable space launch vehicles. During ground processing, these robotic agents will interrogate the launch vehicle to identify/locate vehicle anomalies. Since these are terrestrial vehicles, the current research focus is on motion planning for robotic systems with kinematic and dynamic constraints operating in dynamic environments.