Orbital Robotics

Orbital Robotics

The main goal of the Orbital Robotics is the development of systems that effectively and cost-efficiently allow to operate in near- or far-Earth orbits in order to

  • Assist astronauts during IVA and EVA
  • Maintain and repair orbital space systems
  • Support the set-up or even assemble large space structures
  • Extend the lifetime of space systems, e.g. telecom satellites in GEO

The increasing number of launched satellites per year, calls for solutions to keep a free operational space, avoiding endangering of space and enlarge the operational life of the satellites. Therefore, on-orbit servicing (OOS) capabilities will be a necessary and changeling field for the application of space robotics technology in the next years.

Making the robotic servicing missions in Earth orbit a reality will enlarge the time of service of the satellites. These high-cost assets eventually fail or run out of fuel. So, refuelling and maintaining missions can keep them operating longer in space in the right orbit, giving more value from its initial investment.

Servicing can also help make space more sustainable, broken and drifting satellites take up valuable GEO real estate and pose a risk to their space neighbours. A multi-capability servicer spacecraft could help mitigate the looming orbital debris problem.

OOS is advancing technologies such as dexterous robotics, autonomous rendezvous and docking systems,  contact dynamics, standardization, simulation platforms, and sophisticated tools and grippers.

Servicing satellites could also offer a suite of capabilities applicable to fixing a spacecraft, upgrading existing satellites or assembling bigger structures such an observatory, habitat in space or an orbiting launch platform.

External links:

ESA Applications in Earth orbit

ESA Geostationary servicing

ESA How to catch a satellite

NASA In-Space Robotic Servicing

NASA’s Satellite Servicing Technology Playlist

DLR On Orbit Servicing and Autonomy

DLR Virtual Reality for On-Orbit Servicing

DLR The In-flight Technology Demonstration (ASTRA2011)

Robotic On-Orbit Servicing – DLR’s Experience and Perspective