Small spacecraft are rapidly emerging as capable platforms that can support science and interplanetary mission requirements. SmallSat/CubeSat attitude control system performance is particularly important to achieving mission success for many of these applications. JPL is therefore making an effort to characterize, verify, and improve these critical systems.
The SmallSat Dynamics Testbed (SSDT) accomplishes this goal in a number of ways. It includes a hardware and software library of SmallSat-sized attitude control components that have been tested and characterized in JPL facilities. It also includes both planar and spherical air bearing simulation environments that enable hardware-in-the-loop testing of sensors, actuators, algorithms, and integrated control systems. These hardware environments are mirrored by a computer environment that supports analytical system dynamics modeling at varying levels of fidelity. With these tools, the SSDT can be used by technologists, flight projects, and proposal teams to mature, characterize, or quickly assess their system performance. By bringing a measure of maturity and fidelity to CubeSat V&V, TRL-raising activities, and more complex mission-level concepts such as formation flying or autonomous rendezvous and docking, the SSDT enables JPL to develop and test a class of SmallSats suitable for science and interplanetary missions.
- Mars Cube One (MarCO)
- Lunar Flashlight
- Near Earth Asteroid Scout (NEAScout)
- Arcsecond Space Telescope Enabling Research in Astrophysics (ASTERIA)
- Formation Control Testbed, colloquially known as the Robodome, is a 6 degree-of-freedom (DOF) hardware-in-the-loop test facility at JPL. Its unique capabilities allow high fidelity, system-level ground testing of spacecraft guidance and control architectures and technologies. With a flat floor, controlled lighting, external motion sensing, and two robotic spacecraft capable of 5 DOF frictionless motion, the testbed emulates the dynamics of space, allowing demonstration of formation flight, autonomous rendezvous and docking, or proximity operations missions.)