Ground verification of the feasibility of telepresent on-orbit servicing



In an ideal case telepresence achieves a state in which a human operator can no longer differentiate between an interaction with a real environment and a technical mediated one. This state is called transparent telepresence. The applicability of telepresence to on-orbit servicing (OOS), i.e., an unmanned servicing operation in space, teleoperated from ground in real time, is verified in this paper. For this purpose, a communication test environment was set up on the ground, which involved the Institute of Astronautics (LRT) ground station in Garching, Germany, and the European Space Agency (ESA) ground station in Redu, Belgium. Both were connected via the geostationary ESA data relay satellite ARTEMIS. Utilizing the data relay satellite, a teleoperation was accomplished in which the human operator as well as the (space) teleoperator was located on the ground. The feasibility of telepresent OOS was evaluated, using an OOS test bed at the Institute of Mechatronics and Robotics at the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The manipulation task was representative for OOS and supported real-time feedback from the haptic-visual workspace. The tests showed that complex manipulation tasks can be fulfilled by utilizing geostationary data relay satellites. For verifying the feasibility of telepresent OOS, different evaluation methods were used. The properties of the space link were measured and related to subjective perceptions of participants, who had to fulfill manipulation tasks. An evaluation of the transparency of the system, including the data relay satellite, was accomplished as well. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.