A report discusses the Miniature Autonomous Extravehicular Robotic Camera (Mini AERCam) — a compact robotic spacecraft intended to be released from a larger spacecraft for exterior visual inspection of the larger spacecraft. The Mini AERCam is a successor to the AERCam Sprint — a prior miniature robotic inspection spacecraft that was demonstrated in a space-shuttle flight experiment in 1997. The prototype of the Mini AERCam is a demonstration unit having approximately the form and function of a flight system. The Mini AERCam is approximately spherical with a diameter of about 7.5 in. (»19 cm) and a weight of about 10 lb (»4.5 kg), yet it has significant additional capabilities, relative to the 14-in. (36-cm), 35-lb (16-kg) AERCam Sprint. The Mini AERCam includes miniaturized avionics, instrumentation, communications, navigation, imaging, power, and propulsion subsystems, including two digital video cameras and a high-resolution still camera. The Mini AERCam is designed for either remote piloting or supervised autonomous operations, including station keeping and point-to-point maneuvering. The prototype has been tested on an air-bearing table and in a hardware-in-the-loop orbital simulation of the dynamics of maneuvering in proximity to the International Space Station.

This work was done by Steven Fredrickson, Larry Abbott, Steve Duran, Robert Goode, Nathan Howard, David Jochim, Steve Rickman, Tim Straube, Bill Studak, Jennifer Wagenknecht, Matthew Lemke, Randall Wade, Scott Wheeler, and Clinton Baggerman of Johnson Space Center. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Machinery/Automation category. MSC-23669

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the February, 2004 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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