MSFC Testing of the Starsys Research Mechanical Docking System and Orbital Express Capture System

Period of Performance: 01/24/2003 - 06/30/2005


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Starsys Research
1722 Boxelder St.
Louisville, CO 80027
Principal Investigator


There is a need to develop and test a satellite specific autonomous mechanical docking system capable of multiple fluid transfer and electrical connections between low-earth-orbit satellites. Such a system will enable future orbital servicing missions. Furthermore, determination of capabilities for docking in a controlled test environment is critical in identifying and eliminating risk in the docking system. In the subject proposal, Starsys will use the existing Mechanical Docking System, MDS, and the qualification unit of the Orbital Express Capture System in 6 degree of freedom (6-DOF) tests. The tests will verify system performance and mating of the active and passive side mechanisms. Testing will be conducted in a qualified test facility - currently established as Marshall Space Flight Center. The 6-DOF simulator allows six degrees of freedom between the active and passive halves of the MDS simulating near space-like conditions. For this test, the MDS will be actuated manually with no control electronics. The second phase of testing will be conducted on the Orbital Express Capture System (OECS) Qualification Unit. This test also uses the 6-DOF simulator. This test will verify the OECS design including the control electronics, which are a part of the OECS.