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Self-Driving Servicer Baselined for NASA's Restore-L Satellite Servicing Demonstration

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GREENBELT, Md., March 8, 2018 — Officials with NASA's Satellite Servicing Projects Division (SSPD) have officially baselined the Kodiak system — formerly known as the Goddard Reconfigurable Solid-State Scanning Lidar  — to provide real-time images and distance-ranging information during the Restore-L project.

Restore-L will demonstrate how a specially equipped robotic servicer spacecraft can extend a satellite's lifespan, even one not originally designed for on-orbit servicing. This device can use its relative navigation technologies to essentially drive itself to its destination, much like a self-driving car. Once it locates its target, it can use dexterous robotic arms and software to autonomously grasp, refuel and relocate a satellite.

The decision to use Kodiak is good news to principal investigator Nat Gill, who, along with other technologists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, began developing the advanced scanning lidar system five years ago, in part with Goddard Internal Research and Development program funding. Less than a year ago, only a portion of Kodiak was being considered for use, primarily as a backup to another system.

During a demonstration involving the imaging portion of Kodiak and a mockup of an existing Earth remote-sensing satellite, Gill and his team showed that the system's 3D imaging capabilities, coupled with specially developed algorithms, "could do the job the Restore-L project requires," Gill said. "Now, we have the whole job for Restore-L, including the 3D imaging."

As a result, mission controllers will be able to see a satellite in high resolution as the robotic servicer approaches and automatically determine its location and relative orientation with one small, lightweight system.

"Because of our team's work ethic, technical skill and belief in a crazy idea, we've succeeded in raising the cutting edge of spaceflight technology,” Gill said.

Photonics.com
Feb 2018
GLOSSARY
lidar
An acronym of light detection and ranging, describing systems that use a light beam in place of conventional microwave beams for atmospheric monitoring, tracking and detection functions. Ladar, an acronym of laser detection and ranging, uses laser light for detection of speed, altitude, direction and range; it is often called laser radar.
BusinessSatellite ServicingKodiakGoddard Reconfigurable Solid-State Scanning LidarRestore-LlidarlasersAmericas

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