SPHERES as a Formation Flight Algorithm Development and Validation Testbed: Current Progress and Beyond
Kong EM, et al. (2004). "SPHERES as a Formation Flight Algorithm Development and Validation Testbed: Current Progress and Beyond." 2nd International Formation Flight Conference
The MIT-SSL SPHERES testbed provides a facility for the development of algorithms necessary for the success of Distributed Satellite Systems (DSS). The initial development contemplated formation flight and docking control algorithms; SPHERES now supports the study of metrology, control, autonomy, artificial intelligence, and communications algorithms and their effects on DSS projects. To support this wide range of topics, the SPHERES design contemplated the need to support multiple researchers, as echoed from both the hardware and software designs. The SPHERES operational plan further facilitates the development of algorithms by multiple researchers, while the operational locations incrementally increase the ability of the tests to operate in a representative environment. In this paper, an overview of the SPHERES testbed is first presented. The SPHERES testbed serves as a model of the design philosophies that allow for the various researches being carried out on such a facility. The implementation of these philosophies are further highlighted in the three different programs that are currently scheduled for testing onboard the International Space Station (ISS) and three that are proposed for a re-flight mission: Mass Property Identification, Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking, TPF Multiple Spacecraft Formation Flight in the first flight and Precision Optical Pointing, Tethered Formation Flight and Mars Orbit Sample Retrieval for the re-flight mission.