2007-04-22 - Docking in spaceFirst autonomous Spacecraft-to-Spacecraft transfer
Orbital Express: Test erfolgreich<br /> In its first on-orbit demonstration 300 miles above the Earth, Boeing's Orbital Express system autonomously transferred propellant fuel and a battery from one spacecraft to another, marking industry firsts for the revolutionary system.
During the fuel transfer demonstration, the Boeing Autonomous Space Transport Robotic Operations (ASTRO) servicing spacecraft successfully transferred hydrazine propellant with Ball Aerospace's NextSat, a prototypical modular next-generation serviceable client spacecraft.
The ASTRO vehicle also used a robotic arm to transfer a battery to NextSat. It marked the first time that a spacecraft autonomously transferred hardware to another spacecraft using a robotic arm. The landmark tests are the first in a series of planned demonstrations during a three-month mission to validate the system's functionality.
Orbital Express, launched to orbit on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on March 8, is a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency-led effort consisting of the Boeing ASTRO servicing spacecraft and the NextSat serviceable client spacecraft.
"Boeing believes autonomous on-orbit servicing and rendezvous proximity operations can be a vital element to enable a more operationally responsive space," said Alex Lopez, vice president of Boeing Advanced Network and Space Systems. Through pre-demonstration system checks, the team verified the spacecraft's ability to stay connected and hold a firm seal during transfer operations. ASTRO's fluid transfer system supports typical client spacecraft configurations using either a pressure-fed (ullage recompression) or transfer pump system.
Orbital Express team members include NASA, Ball Aerospace, Northrop Grumman Space Technology, MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd., the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory Inc., and Starsys Research.