Satellite Technology

The workgroup satellite technology was founded in the course of the restructuring of the Institute of Space Systems. The Satellite Technology group examines the active removal of space debris. The main research areas include:

  • Orbit and attitude control of spacecraft
  • Docking with non-cooperative targets
  • Development, testing and operation of small satellites
  • Development of novel docking mechanisms

In the long term, the group plans the development of small satellites for on-orbit testing and verification of research results. For this purpose, the necessary infrastructure consisting of a satellite integration room and a ground station for communication is being established.

New mission concepts for the implementation of "Active Debris Removal" are designed. In particular, uncooperative targets such as tumbling rocket upper stages are considered. These are to be stabilized via the docking of a servicer and thus prepared for a controlled re-entry. The focus here lies particularly on the multibody dynamics and attitude control in space.

A docking mechanism for the servicer is under development on the basis of biologically inspired materials. Mechanisms based on adhesive bionic materials which mimic the properties of gecko feet are investigated.

To validate the docking mechanism, as well as navigation techniques, a test environment is set up consisting of an air-bearing table, a robotic arm and several testing bodies (simulated experimental satellites). It is noteworthy that the experimental satellites do not require separate supply of compressed gas and thus long-term simulations are possible.



The main research focuses of the satellite technology group include:

  • Orbit and attitude control of spacecraft
    • Optimization of trajectories (satellite orbits) for rendezvous and docking operations
    • Approach strategies for "Proximity Operations"
    • Formation Flight
    • De-Tumbling Concepts
  • Docking with non-cooperative targets
    • Investigation of new materials and concepts
    • Conception of mission scenarios for Active Debris Removal
    • Development, design and test of docking mechanisms
  • Risk assessment of satellite operations
    • Supporting satellite operators in optimizing collision avoidance maneuvers
    • Trade Space Analyses for evasive maneuvers and collision probabilities
    • Tools for "Space Situational Awareness"
  • Development, testing and validation of small satellites
    • System design and integration of CubeSats
    • Mission Planning
    • Technology Verification
    • Operational mode
  • Autonomy and fault-tolerant control