Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



DARTing Into Space

DART in Orbit
Dulles VA (SPX) Jul 07, 2004
Imagine this: As a modern spacecraft slowly approaches the International Space Station (ISS), it makes small corrections to make sure it's perfectly on course. Finally, the docking connectors meet with an amazing level of precision. The hatch to the vehicle opens, and out steps - no one. The extremely accurate rendezvous and docking was carried out completely by computer.

Currently, only the Russian Progress and Soyuz spacecraft feature a completely automated docking system. NASA's Space Shuttles do have a docking targeting system, but it only assists the pilot in the maneuver. However, if a NASA test project goes right an automated docking system may become standard equipment on future spacecraft.

NASA is about to test a new spacecraft called the Demonstration for Autonomous Rendezvous Technology, or DART. Building on the Kurs docking system installed on Russian spacecraft, DART could one day be used on next generation vehicles as outlined in the Vision for Space Exploration.

The system could guide spacecraft carrying cargo or equipment to the ISS, or be used by robotic spacecraft for retrieving or servicing satellites in orbit. But, before the new system can be implemented on piloted spacecraft, it will have to be tested in space.

The computer-guided DART spacecraft will be equipped with an Advanced Video Guidance Sensor and a Global Positioning System (GPS) that can receive signals from other spacecraft to allow DART to move within approximately 330 feet of the target.

Once DART has reached that range, the spacecraft will use navigation data from its sensors to perform rendezvous maneuvers with the target. These sensors actually have a range of approximately 985 feet, overlapping with the GPS system.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., is working with Orbital Sciences Corporation located in Dulles, Va. to develop the DART spacecraft. The flight demonstrator is nearly 6 feet long with a diameter of 3 feet, and weighs about 800 pounds, the same weight as large motorcycle.

Most of the DART hardware is already complete and being tested. The demonstrator is currently scheduled to fly in October. For that test, DART will be mounted on a Pegasus rocket, which is carried aloft by an airplane, and then launched into orbit.

The fourth stage of the Pegasus rocket will remain attached as an integral part of the spacecraft, allowing it to maneuver in space. Once in orbit, the DART will race to the target satellite - the Multiple Paths, Beyond-Line-of-Site Communications (MUBLCOM) satellite, also built by Orbital Sciences - for a rendezvous.

This satellite was chosen because it was equipped with special optical reflectors for use in this type of situation. Once DART has approached the satellite using the GPS system, the spacecraft will use its other sensors to demonstrate rendezvous operations, including approaching the target and moving around in close proximity to the satellite.

The 24-hour mission will be performed without intervention by a human controller. Afterward, the spacecraft will leave its orbit and burn up during re-entry.

While the DART spacecraft is only the first flight of the new system, the technology it demonstrates could have applications to future space systems development requiring in space assembly, services, or other autonomous rendezvous operations.

Related Links
SpaceDaily
Search SpaceDaily
Subscribe To SpaceDaily Express

Dr. David Finkleman Joins Center for Space Standards and Innovation
Colorado Springs - Mar 10, 2004
Analytical Graphics, Inc. (AGI) announced that Dr. David Finkleman, a leading authority on military space systems and strategic defense resources, has joined its Center for Space Standards and Innovation (CSSI) in Colorado Springs, CO. Finkleman will serve as CSSI's senior scientist, where he will evaluate and design orbit estimation and space system simulation techniques while expanding the use of STK software technology in space research.


Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only






Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News








The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.