Synchronized Position, Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites - Halo (SPHERES Halo) - 06.27.18

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Currently, almost all spacecraft are completely assembled and tucked into a rocket fairing for launch into space, which limits the size and weight of objects that can be directly sent to orbit. The Synchronized Position, Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites - Halo (SPHERES Halo) investigation studies the possibility of launching several separate components and then attaching them once they are in space. The investigation upgrades the International Space Station’s fleet of SPHERES to enable each SPHERE to communicate with six external objects at the same time, testing new control and remote assembly methods.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Alvar Saenz-Otero, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom: SPHERES Halo

Principal Investigator(s)
Alvar Saenz-Otero, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, United States

Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
David W. Miller, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, United States

Developer(s)
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, United States
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, United States
Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation, Cambridge, MA, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
Technology Demonstration Office (TDO)

Research Benefits
Scientific Discovery, Earth Benefits, Space Exploration

ISS Expedition Duration
September 2016 - September 2017

Expeditions Assigned
49/50,51/52

Previous Missions
SPHERES SPHERES-VERTIGO SPHERES-RINGS SPHERES-Docking Port

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • The Synchronized Position, Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites - Halo (SPHERES Halo) investigation, sponsored by DARPA, uses the SPHERES Facility on the International Space Station (ISS) and is designed to mature adaptive Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GNC) technology in support of on-orbit, robotic satellite assembly and servicing in a risk-tolerant, dynamically authentic environment.
  • The SPHERES Halo investigation consists of hardware and software upgrades to the SPHERES Facility that enable each satellite to interface with multiple peripheral devices at the same time through Halo ports.
  • The Halo has six Halo ports and is able to support up to six peripherals, including docking ports, cameras, and other sensors and actuators. These peripherals can be added and removed from the Halo by the astronaut as necessary for each test.
  • The Halo simplifies access to the processing power of the Visual Estimation for Relative Tracking and Inspection of Generic Objects (VERTIGO) Avionics Stack, providing Ethernet and USB connectivity to each Halo port for any future peripherals.
  • The Halo is able to provide power to all attached peripheral devices for a duration that will allow uninterrupted, interesting robotic assembly testing.

Description

Currently, the vast majority of space systems launch to orbit as a completely assembled spacecraft stowed within a single launch vehicle. Under this configuration, the launch vehicle imposes restrictions on spacecraft design, limiting systems by the lifting capabilities and fairing dimensions of the launch vehicle. To escape these limitations, one method proposes to subdivide spacecraft into miniaturized modules capable of being assembled and integrated on orbit rather than before the launch. Using this method, spacecraft are designed to be launched using multiple launch vehicles, with some modules possibly even hitching rides aboard other spacecraft launches.
 
There has also been a growing interest in robotic missions aimed at repurposing components from the vast number of retired, obsolete or failed spacecraft currently in orbit. As robotic technologies and satellite miniaturization rapidly progress and the cost of deploying new satellites continues to climb, the economics of asset reuse become increasingly viable to the point that a number of missions have been proposed for satellite repurposing and reuse in GEO. The DARPA's Phoenix program, for example, is focused on utilizing spacecraft cellularization techniques to achieve this goal, and thus is of particular interest.
 
There is demand for a risk-tolerant, dynamically authentic facility that provides both the hardware and software capabilities to develop and test these high-risk technologies using methods applicable to a wide spectrum of robotic servicing and assembly mission scenarios. The DARPA-funded InSPIRE-II program aims at expanding the current SPHERES facility to add such functionality, specifically with the focus on two key technology areas: spacecraft dynamics and controls, and vision based navigation and mapping.
 
The Halo is a key component of this expanding capability, allowing each satellite to interface with six different peripherals simultaneously. Peripherals include docking ports, used for testing docking algorithms and reconfiguring satellite geometry, sensors, such as the Visual Estimation for Relative Tracking and Inspection of Generic Objects (VERTIGO) Goggles, actuators, such as Control Moment Gyros or articulated robotic arms.

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Applications

Space Applications
Retired, obsolete, or failed satellites currently cannot be accessed for repair, and wind up as new pieces of space debris. Results from the SPHERES Halo investigation are applicable to remote or autonomous servicing of these spacecraft. In addition, future space habitats, large telescopes or exploration vehicles may be too difficult and costly to launch from Earth, and may instead be completed in orbit. The SPHERES Halo investigation improves research methods for computer systems that would control space-based repairs and constructions.

Earth Applications
The SPHERES Halo investigation is sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which designs unique, complex technology for the military and civilians. Computer programs developed through the Halo investigation could be applied to robotics on the ground, including robots that can form a swarm and work together to accomplish a single task.

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Operations

Operational Requirements and Protocols

The SPHERES facility is allocated a certain number of test sessions per ISS Increment. As the facility lead, NASA Ames determines specific test session scheduling based on ongoing planning and research results.

A typical SPHERES Halo test session consists of uplinking software one week before the test session. Batteries are charged prior to each test session. SPHERES facility satellites are unstowed and configured for the cleared work area. Each VERTIGO Avionics Stack is attached and configured to the SPHERES satellites followed by attachment and configuration of the SPHERES Halos to the SPHERES satellites. Appropriate peripheral devices to the Halos are attached and configured. New test algorithms are loaded onto the SPHERES through the communication system. Programs to the VERTIGO Avionics Stacks are then loaded via Ethernet cable connected to the ISS ELC laptop. Individual tests are run using the ISS laptop. Data after completion of the test session is downlinked for analysis. Once the data is analyzed, algorithms are revised and the next test session is scheduled.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites
MIT Space Systems Laboratory Website
MIT SPHERES Website
MIT Space Systems Laboratory YouTube Channel
Zero Robotics SPHERES Challenge Website

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Imagery

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Halo is a ring-shaped structure that is fastened around a SPHERES satellite. The structure is made out of several pieces of 3D-printed plastic which enclose 6 printed circuit boards. It provides 6 expansion ports (HPx) and power and data connections for each. The structure is designed so that the thrusters and sensors of the SPHERES satellite are not blocked. Image courtesy of MIT SPHERES.

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Used in conjunction with the Universal Docking Port (UDP), Halo allows docking of the three SPHERES in many different configurations. For example, one Halo equipped SPHERE can dock to a target SPHERE, allowing tests involving complicated docking configurations. Image courtesy of MIT SPHERES.

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SPHERES Halo mounted on a SPHERES satellite with VERTIGO Avionics Stack. Image courtesy of MIT SPHERES.

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The development of Halo allows tests involving navigation using sensor fusion and complex docking maneuvers, among other potential experiments. Here one Halo-equipped SPHERE docks through an HPG-positioned UDP to another satellite during a reduced gravity parabola. Image courtesy of MIT SPHERES.

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NASA Image: ISS050E038054 - NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough is seen executing the SPHERES-Halo experiment aboard the International Space Station. The investigation uses two small, self-contained satellites (SPHERES) fitted with donut-like rings to test wireless power transfer and formation flight using electromagnetic fields.

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image NASA Image: ISS052E006482 - Astronaut Peggy Whitson is photographed during a test session of the Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) Halo investigation in the Kibo module. The SPHERES Halo investigation studies the possibility of launching several separate components and then attaching them once they are in space. The investigation upgrades the International Space Station’s fleet of SPHERES to enable each SPHERE to communicate with six external objects at the same time, testing new control and remote assembly methods.
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