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Building an Astrobee Hardware Testbed for Orbital Robotics and Proximity Operations




16: Aeronautics and Astronautics

Faculty Supervisor:

Richard Linares

Faculty email:


Apply by:

February 17 2020


Charles Oestreich - coestrei@mit.edu

Project Description

NASA's Astrobee free-flying robots, situated on the International Space Station (ISS), are the successors to MIT's SPHERES satellites as the preeminent microgravity research testbed for orbital robotics and space proximity operations. As such, our team is building an in-house version of Astrobee to perform ground experiments on the Space Systems Lab's (SSL) air table. This way, research algorithms can be tested on real hardware and validated before running them on an ISS experiment. We are looking for one or two students to assist in the build, especially regarding the mechanical assembly of Astrobee's core module (housing electronics and sensors) and its two propulsion modules. Astrobee's method of propulsion is unique: two impellers are spun to pressurize air within each module, and thrust/torque directions are controlled by re-directing the pressurized air to six controllable nozzles per module. Work will involve hands-on part fabrication and assembly, computer-aided design (CAD), and 3-D printing. Future work may involve electronic hardware and embedded software as we integrate the full Astrobee system. We are in contact with NASA on this project and we are using their Astrobee schematics for the build, making custom adjustments as necessary to operate within the SSL. If you are interested in hands-on work with robotic hardware and working within teams, please reach out to the contact below with a few sentences about your background and future goals. This UROP will provide you with crucial hardware experience and unique insight as an engineer, possibly aiding your own Astrobee experiment in the future.


Familiarity with CAD (namely SolidWorks)