The ReSWARM Microgravity Flight Experiments: Planning, Control, and Model Estimation for On-Orbit Close Proximity Operations

by   Bryce Doerr, et al.

On-orbit close proximity operations involve robotic spacecraft maneuvering and making decisions for a growing number of mission scenarios demanding autonomy, including on-orbit assembly, repair, and astronaut assistance. Of these scenarios, on-orbit assembly is an enabling technology that will allow large space structures to be built in-situ, using smaller building block modules. However, robotic on-orbit assembly involves a number of technical hurdles such as changing system models. For instance, grappled modules moved by a free-flying "assembler" robot can cause significant shifts in system inertial properties, which has cascading impacts on motion planning and control portions of the autonomy stack. Further, on-orbit assembly and other scenarios require collision-avoiding motion planning, particularly when operating in a "construction site" scenario of multiple assembler robots and structures. These complicating factors, relevant to many autonomous microgravity robotics use cases, are tackled in the ReSWARM flight experiments as a set of tests on the International Space Station using NASA's Astrobee robots. RElative Satellite sWarming and Robotic Maneuvering, or ReSWARM, demonstrates multiple key technologies for close proximity operations and on-orbit assembly: (1) global long-horizon planning, accomplished using offline and online sampling-based planner options that consider the system dynamics; (2) on-orbit reconfiguration model learning, using the recently-proposed RATTLE information-aware planning framework; and (3) robust control tools to provide low-level control robustness using current system knowledge. These approaches are detailed individually and in an "on-orbit assembly scenario" of multi-waypoint tracking on-orbit. Additionally, detail is provided discussing the practicalities of hardware implementation and unique aspects of working with Astrobee in microgravity.


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