The Spacecraft Robotics and Control Laboratory recently acquired a 20,000 pound air bearing table made from a single slab of solid impala black granite. Quarried in Graniteville, Vermont, the 12 feet by 8 feet, 13″ thick air bearing table arrived at Carleton University in Ottawa (ON), on June 27, 2014. While tables of similar sizes currently exist at NASA Ames Research Center, Stanford University, MIT, Naval Postgraduate School and German Aerospace Centre (DLR), Carleton’s 10-ton table is thought to be the largest, single slab, precision granite table in Canada.
Honed by Rock-of-Ages Corporation to U.S. federal ‘A’ specifications, the granite slab is within +/- 0.0007 inches flat across its surface. Being the centerpiece of the newly-established Spacecraft Robotics and Control Laboratory, this equipment will emulate the dynamics of space by making use of compressed air to float spacecraft platforms on a flat, smooth, frictionless, large surface area (similar to an inverted air hockey table). This precision air bearing table will allow graduate student researchers to develop and experimentally validate advanced guidance, navigation, and control systems and associated sensors that enable autonomous spacecraft proximity operations, such as rendezvous and docking, inspection maneuvers, and robotic capture of space debris or free-flying satellites.