Trajectory generation method for robotic free-floating capture of a non-cooperative, tumbling target

Marko Jankovic; Frank Kirchner
In: Stardust Final Conference: Advances in Asteroids and Space Debris Engineering and Science. Stardust Final Conference on Asteroids and Space Debris, October 31 - November 3, Noordwijk, Netherlands, Astrophysics and Space Science Proceedings Series, Vol. 52, ISBN 978-3-319-69955-4, Springer International Publishing AG, 2/2018.


The paper illustrates a trajectory generation method for a free-floating robot to capture a non-cooperative, tumbling target. The goal of the method is to generate an optimal trajectory for the manipulator to approach a non-cooperative target while minimizing the overall angular momentum of the entire system (chaser plus target). The method is formulated as an optimal control problem (OCP) and solved via an orthogonal collocation method that transforms the OCP into a nonlinear programming problem (NLP). This way the dynamical coupling between the base and manipulator is actively used to reach the optimum capturing conditions. No synchronization of the relative motion between the target and chaser is necessary prior to the maneuver. Therefore, there is an inherent propellant advantage of the method when compared with the standard ones. The method is applied in 2D simulation using representative targets, such as a Vega 3rd stage rocket body, in a flat spin. The results of simulations prove that the developed method could to be a viable alternative or a complement to existing free-flying methods, within the mechanical limitations of the considered space manipulator. The study of the capture and stabilization phases was outside the scope of the present paper and represents future work that needs to be performed to analyze the operational applicability of the developed method.


ITN Stardust

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