Satellites dock with Microsoft's Kinect

Engineers at the University of Surrey (Guildford, UK) and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL; Guildford, UK) are developing an in-orbit docking system for small satellites that is based upon Microsoft’s Kinect system.

Satellites dock with Microsoft's Kinect
Satellites dock with Microsoft's Kinect

Engineers at the University of Surrey (Guildford, UK) and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL; Guildford, UK) are developing an in-orbit docking system for small satellites that is based upon Microsoft’s Kinect system.

They aim to launch two small satellites equipped with the games controller as part of the so-called STRaND (Surrey Training, Research and Nanosatellite Demonstrator) program.

After the two Kinect-based satellites have been launched, they will then be separated. Next, following an initial phase of system checks, the satellites will be instructed to perform a docking procedure which will be accomplished by using 3-D spatial data acquired from the Kinect controllers.

Docking systems have never been employed on small, low cost missions and are usually reserved for big-budget space missions. But the STRaND team believes that relatively low-cost "nanosatellites" equipped with inexpensive Kinect-based systems could be used as building blocks that could be stacked together and reconfigured to build larger modular spacecraft.

"It may seem far-fetched, but our low cost nanosatellites could dock to build large and sophisticated modular structures such as space telescopes. Unlike today’s big space missions, these could be reconfigured as mission objectives change, and upgraded in-orbit," says University of Surrey researcher and SSC Project Lead, Dr. Chris Bridges.

-- by Dave Wilson, Senior Editor, Vision Systems Design

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