FREND: Pushing the Envelope of Space Robotics
NAVAL RESEARCH LAB WASHINGTON DC
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The Front-end Robotics Enabling Near-term Demonstration FREND project is a DARPA-sponsored effort that is developing the state of the art in autonomous rendezvous and docking with satellites not pre-designed for servicing. This capability allows nearly any satellite to be repositioned on-orbit and provides a number of national benefits including better ground coverage in time of crisis, satellite life extension by eliminating the requirement imposed on fully functional satellites to expend their fuel to move to a safe disposal orbit, and disposal of derelict spacecraft which present navigation hazards to active satellites. FREND has successfully demonstrated autonomous rendezvous and docking in a ground test environment using research grade robotics and space-flight traceable control software under simulated orbital conditions. NRL will soon perform these same demonstrations with the prototype and flight robotic arms to prove that this capability is ready for space-flight operations.