NASA Marshall - Huntsville
Case Study NASA Marshall - Huntsville

NASA Perfects Orbital Docking Right Here on Earth

For most of those not directly involved, space exploration and research conjure up triumphant images of weightlessness and exotic technologies straight out of a science-fiction novel. However, most of the painstaking engineering efforts that go into reaching orbit take place on the ground. Due to the exorbitant, prohibitively high cost of leaving anything to chance and the inherent dangers involved, exhaustive tests and simulations of all systems and system interactions are performed here on Earth.

NASA has used robots for many years to simulate different aspects of docking and space maneuvering. In the past, these robots were checked with static measurements, and NASA was looking for a way to check the robots' dynamic response. Due to a myriad of special considerations and limitations being placed on any metrology system being implemented (such as the vastness of the testbed, the tightness of available space and the need for tremendous freedom of movement of the system being inspected), NASA contacted Leica Geosystems with the request for an off-the-shelf solution that would require few, if any, modifications to complete the complex measurement task remotely, with no personnel present inside the facility.

The NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) wanted the robots in the Flight Robotics Laboratory (FRL) and the Contact Dynamics Simulation Lab (CDSL), which make up the MSFC integrated testbed, to be verified using dynamic measurements with six degrees of freedom (6DoF) to determine how accurately the robots respond to commanded moves. . . . .

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