Application Context and Needs

Thanks to the introduction of new robotics and processing capabilities in future spacecrafts, the overall space market is about to know a major step in capabilities for the benefit of a broad range of missions. The situation is changing fast with the United States’ initiatives and development of RSGS (Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites) and MEV (Mission Extension serVices) vehicles. US have demonstrated the capabilities of new advanced robotic vehicles for customers, based on the expertise acquired on visionary missions like Orbital Express in 2009. In the European Union, many initiatives are starting to develop key building blocks for future missions focusing on Science and Servicing. Both NASA and ESA are pushing forward robotic R&T in space to bring a new class of missions, more smart missions.

For European missions, Rosetta recently visited the Churyumov- Gerasimenko comet and ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter has been successfully inserted around Mars and Exomars 2020 rover is about to be launched. In parallel of those missions, NASA visited Pluto with the New Horizon probe and announced the development of the first-ever robotic mission to visit a large near- Earth asteroid, which therefore highlights the strategic extent of robotic technologies for space missions. This has been confirmed in their 2015 technology roadmap with their fourth technology area: “Robotics and Autonomous Systems”, in which the sections “sensing and perception”, “system-level autonomy” and “autonomous rendezvous and docking” are identified as priority subsectors. For Europe to remain competitive, its space industry must develop robotic spacecrafts that will be able to analyse their environment, to be free from human monitoring in order to enable complex autonomous operations in remote environments. Thanks to the major investments gathered through the H2020 calls and national subventions, the European industry has developed key assets for playing a major role in this new venture.

EROSS is not just about reusing and improving the building blocks of the H2020 Strategic Research Cluster in Space Robotics from the previous Operational Grants (OGs); EROSS is also about enabling a new range of applications by leveraging on EU and ESA developments to foster the European capabilities. This goal aims at providing reliable in-space servicing capabilities for a class of missions not only answering to the scope of this call, but also enabling extended capabilities, in accordance with the business opportunities identified by the consortium: extending the lifetime of a satellite (by refuelling and replacing a payload), offering orbital transfer services (for commissioning or decommissioning) and finally performing debris removal for a broad range of missions, equipped or not for servicing, from LEO to GEO and beyond, including constellations. From this perspective, the main challenge of EROSS is to demonstrate the technologies required to offer an efficient and safe commercial service to operational satellites. This addresses at least robotic deployment, refuelling and exchange of payloads in orbit. By means of multiple robotic devices, the servicing satellite must be capable of capturing, grasping, berthing and manipulating a target satellite, including the demonstration of services such as refuelling and payload transfer.

In all these applications, there is a need for space robotic operations based on an adapted group of actuators and sensors working in a coordinated manner to fulfil the mission goals. EROSS proposes to boost the maturity of these key building blocks from servicing business to a broad range of applications and proposes a general solution to provide orbital support services. EROSS answers to the Operational Grant n°7 (OG7) in the PERASPERA D3.2 – Compendium of SRC activities (for call2). As OG7, EROSS will be part of the Strategic Research Cluster (SRC) on Space Robotics that started with the H2020 2016 calls and continuing with the 2018 calls. 

Partners

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The project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation  Programme under Grant Agreement No 821904