Experimental Investigation of Spacecraft Rendezvous and Docking by Development of a 3 Degree of Freedom Satellite Simulator Testbed
Cookson, Joshua Jonathan
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This thesis developed a 3 degree of freedom air bearing satellite simulator testbed. The major components of this testbed are a 2-meter by 4-meter granite table, a pair of satellite simulators, and a passive infrared marker array. The goal of this implementation was to achieve soft docking between 2 satellite simulators while relying only on hardware and systems onboard the satellite simulator. The satellite simulators make use of compressed air stored onboard in tanks to supply the air bearing and gas thrusters. The air bearing system provides a thin cushion of air for the satellite simulator to float on, removing surface contact and friction between the satellite simulator and the granite table. This produces a 3 degree of freedom system which is effectively free of the effects of gravity. The infrared marker array is used to provide reference points similar to stars to enable an onboard positioning system using a single observer. The experimental results obtained here demonstrate the successful implementation of this testbed.