Magnet-Based System for Docking of Miniature Spacecraft
- Created: Thursday, 01 March 2007
The capture envelope for this system is approximated by a 5-in. (12.7-cm) cube.
A prototype system for docking a miniature spacecraft with a larger spacecraft has been developed by engineers at the Johnson Space Center. Engineers working on Mini AERCam, a free-flying robotic camera, needed to find a way to successfully dock and undock their miniature spacecraft to refuel the propulsion and recharge the batteries. The subsystems developed (see figure) include (1) a docking port, designed for the larger spacecraft, which contains an electromagnet, a ball lock mechanism, and a service probe; and (2) a docking cluster, designed for the smaller spacecraft, which contains either a permanent magnet or an electromagnet.
This work was done by Nathan Howard of Johnson Space Center and Hai D. Nguyen of Lockheed Martin Corp. For further information, access http://aercam.nasa.gov/index.htm. This invention is owned by NASA, and a patent application has been filed. Inquiries concerning nonexclusive or exclusive license for its commercial development should be addressed to the Patent Counsel, Johnson Space Center, (281) 483-0837. Refer to MSC-23997.