What is the problem?
Spacecraft that will travel to and beyond the moon face a high risk from MMOD impacts. Limited communication to Earth and limited image downlink means ground control of inspection tools is challenging. Analysis of all inspection images on Earth means more ground crews and longer timelines to reach decisions. Control from in-space crews on future spacecraft or space stations use precious crew time and robotic manipulator time as well. Therefore, an autonomous inspection and damage detection system is required for future spaceflight missions.
What are the requirements?
The free-flyer(s) will circle around the spacecraft (in a spiraling way) at a distance from the spacecraft so it can observe more area at once, then once it perceives damage it will go closer to the spacecraft where it will take photos and measure the depth of the dent caused by the debris.
MMOD Damage Detection
Using LiDAR, the free flyer will be able to map the surface of the mothership. When it observes abnormalities on the surface, it will dock near the damaged surface (using geckskin adhesive) for a detailed analysis of the hole/scratch/dent. This would include exact diameter of the hole, length of the crack/scratch and depth of the hole. Using elementary threat analysis, the flyer should be able to categorise the threat as serious or trivial. If the threat is serious, the engineers on board can be alerted. The flyer will then resume its circuit of the mother ship. The path is defined based on the design of the spacecraft it is being used on.
How does it analyse data?
How will it measure the depth?
Propulsion and Attitude Control
Bi-directional monopropellant or cold-gas thrusters for accelerating and decelerating in one dimension. Reaction wheels for attitude control. Effectively 6 Degrees of Freedom.
Batteries / Solar Panels
What material should the exterior be made from?
A light polymer or metal that is heat and cold resistant (394-173 Kelvin)
What value are we adding compared to existing solutions?
Who’s our customer?
What are the costs involved?
What are the next steps?
SpaceApps is a NASA incubator innovation program.