Repurposing and Reuse of Retired Satellites

Control and Validation of On-Orbit Robotics for DARPA Phoenix

Actin, Energid’s advanced robotic control software, enables robotic repurposing and reuse of retired satellites.

The DARPA Phoenix program was a multi-year program designed to develop and demonstrate technologies to cooperatively harvest and re-use valuable components from retired, nonworking satellites in geosynchronous orbit.

The Phoenix vision was to field a robotic satellite servicing spacecraft. The spacecraft employs grasping arms that manipulate unique tools to reconfigure orbiting satellite hardware. The arms are designed to have many degrees of freedom and the tools, newly developed under the program, will be innovative. This advanced robotic system will be controlled using Energid’s software.

From having an articulated arm in orbit to repurposing an abandoned satellite to finding new ways to launch, Phoenix is targeting many firsts.

Energid’s Actin software for robot control and simulation was ported to a real-time operating system (RTOS), and a set of libraries was created for real-time robot control on the servicing spacecraft. This control used the extra degrees of freedom in the manipulating robot arms to optimize for strength, avoid joint limits, and avoid collisions.

Energid’s software supported validation of the system through simulation during development and support training in preparation for launch. Actin enables automatic construction of control systems and simulations from CAD models, such as would be made with SolidWorks. This capability seeks to allow robot designers to test concepts in just minutes and accelerate the design process for Phoenix.

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