The Spacecraft Robotics and Control Laboratory houses several facilities to experimentally validate advanced spacecraft GN&C systems and related technologies in realistic environments. The lab includes two main facilities: the GPS-based formation flying testbed and the spacecraft proximity operation testbed (SPOT).

Spacecraft Proximity Operations Testbed (SPOT). This testbed is used by researchers to investigate robotics, control and computer vision technologies enabling spacecraft proximity operation tasks, such as inspection maneuvers, rendezvous and docking, robotic capture of a tumbling target, and on-orbit assembly of large structure. IMG_0580SPOT consists of two air-bearing spacecraft platforms operating in close proximity on a 2.4 m x 3.7 m granite surface. The use of air bearing on the platforms reduces the friction to a negligible level. Both platforms are actuated by a reaction wheel and compressed air expelled through miniature air nozzles, to provide three degree-of-freedom (3DOF) control authority. The motion of both platforms is measured in real-time through LEDs which are tracked by an eight-camera motion capture system. This provides highly accurate ground truth position and attitude data to evaluate the performance of the new robotics, control and computer vision technologies.
GPS-Based Formation Flying Testbed. The centerpiece of this real-time hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) testbed is a GPS simulator that executes a real-time high fidelity simulation of the entire GPS satellite constellation, to compute, based on the actual spacecraft attitude and orbit, the GPS signals that would be received by a GPS receiver installed on that spacecraft. The radio frequency (RF) signal generator inside the GPS simulator then generates this signal and sends it to an actual GPS receiver connected to its RF output. The GPS receiver is connected to a target computer which runs the GN&C software and propagates the attitude and orbital dynamics, which are then used to steer the GPS simulator. Up to two GPS receivers can be connected to the GPS simulator, enabling the HIL validation of formation flying GN&C algorithms and related software.

Additionally, graduate students have access to undergraduate departmental facilities to support their research activities; the Mars Yard and the Satellite Design Facility.

Planetary Rover Testbed. The planetary rover testbed consist of a IMG_0580Clearpath Robotics’ Jackal Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) operating in a simulated Martian landscape. The UGV is equipped with various sensors enabling basic autonomous operations. This testbed is used to experimentally validate different autonomous mobile robotic technologies, such as machine vision systems and path-planning algorithms. Located in an outdoor environment, this facility enables the experimental validation of various robotic systems under natural lighting conditions. The soil is a combination of beach sand and rocks. Besides larger rocks, other obstacles such as trenches can be used for specialized test conditions.
Satellite Technology Laboratory. This facility houses 12 EyasSat educational nanosatellite platforms designed exclusively for hands-on laboratories and teaching at the undergraduate level. These realistic nanosatellite platforms include all major subsystems (e.g., attitude determination and control) and ground support system of real spacecraft. This facility also provides lab computers with several useful software for the design and testing of spacecraft platforms and missions, such as MATLAB/Simulink and Satellite Tool Kit (STK). Furthermore, the facility is used as the main meeting room for the Spacecraft Robotics and Control Laboratory.