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Epoxy Test Bed

Georgia Institute of Technology Project


Precision Epoxy Products
a division of : Rock Art, Ltd.
4279 Midway Drive
Douglasville, Georgia 30134
Phone : (770) 489-0340


Georgia Tech ARD Test Bed Facility

The following is an article from the Spring 2007 Issue of AE News
(News from the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering)

Award won to build Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking Test Bed Facility

    Autonomous rendezvous and docking (ARD) operations are growing increasingly important in space operations and will continue to do so in the future, both for civilian and military missions. NASA, for instance, has recently identified ARD, servicing and proximity operation in general, as crucial technologies for upcoming space activities in low Earth orbit, as well as for planned manned missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Similarly, the U.S. Air Force has identified space operations as one of the most crucial factors for maintaining the current superiority of the United States Armed Forces on the battlefield. ARD technology will enable the continuous upgrading and servicing of satellites in orbit, protecting and inspecting friendly military space assets and realizing novel modular spacecraft architectures which may involve several spacecraft in an interacting array.



    A preliminary illustration of the spacecraft
    platform for Georgia Tech's new autonomous
    rendezvous and docking test bed facility.




    Although rendezvous and docking technology has been developed and used since the 1950's in both American and Russian space programs, the two programs have followed distinctly different philosophies. The Russians generally have followed automated or semi-automated rendezvous, with the Americans preferring human-executed and astronaut-supervised rendezvous. To close this gap, the renewed interest is thus specifically on autonomous (that is, routine, without human interference) rendezvous and docking operations.

    The main obstacle hindering progress in this area has been the difficulty of testing any new rendezvous and docking ideas in a realistic environment. Simulating weightlessness on earth is not an easy proposition. Panagiotis Tsiotras, a professor in the School of Aerospace Engineering, recently received an award from the U.S. Air Force Office for Scientific Research (AFOSR) via the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) to construct such a test facility at Georgia Tech. The new test ARD facility will be located in Room 111 of the Montgomery Knight Building on campus and will include a five-degree-of-freedom spacecraft platform free-floating on a 13 x 14 foot flat epoxy floor. The specifications for the floor are very tight: It should be flat within 0.001 inches and horizontal within a few milliradians.

Epoxy Test Bed installed at the Georgia Tech ARD Facility by Rock Art in September, 2007  


    The spacecraft platform will float on a very thin film of air (about 70 to 80 microns), and it will be equipped with a large collection of sensors and actuators: rate gyros, gas thrusters, reaction wheels, control moment gyros, a magnetometer, a Sun sensor and charge-coupled device (CCD) cameras. The ability to choose from this diverse collection of sensors and actuators will allow great flexibility in performing realistic experiments under a variety of conditions as encountered by a specific application. This new facility will be unique among United States academic institutions, and it will enable unprecedented, realistic testing of new rendezvous and docking control algorithms and hardware.


Developing innovative space technology for space operations in orbit is a priority in American Space Programs




Visit the following Georgia Tech web-sites for more information:




Cho, D., Jung, D. and Tsiotras, P.,

 "A 5-dof Experimental Platform for Spacecraft Rendezvous and Docking,'' 

Infotech at Aerospace Conference, Seattle, WA, April 6-9, 2009, AIAA Paper 2009-1869



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