PULSAR aims to develop key-technologies to enable the autonomous assembly of large structures in space. Similar to industrial applications, the assembly process relies on the usage of robotic systems, building one overall structure out of modular parts. However, the in-space assembly provides exceptional challenges necessitating innovation in fields such as free-floating manipulation and high precision assembly under the influence of uncertainties. PULSAR aims to demonstrate these technologies up to a technology readiness level (TRL) of 5-6.
Autonomous assembly of large structures in space is a key challenge for future missions that will necessitate structures too large to be self-deployed as a single piece. The James Webb Space Telescope has reached this limit with a mirror of 6.5-meter diameter. Next generation telescopes expected by astronomers, like the High Definition Space Telescope, will therefore require new assembly technologies, in particular autonomous robots. The need for large structures in space goes beyond telescopes and also concerns solar arrays for power plants, light sails to reach outermost regions of the solar system, or heat shields to land on Mars.
The main objective of PULSAR is to develop and demonstrate the technology that will allow the on-orbit precise assembly of a very large structure by an autonomous robotic system. In this context, PULSAR focuses on the assembly of the primary mirror of a space telescope with a diameter of 8 meters. In this context, three demonstrators will be developed addressing the key-challenges in this endeavour:
- dPAMT: demonstrator of Precise Assembly of Mirror Tiles
- dLSAFFE: demonstrator of Large Structure Assembly in Free Floating Environment
- dISAS: demonstrator of In-Space Assembly in Simulation
PULSAR is a European project within the context of Horizon 2020 and is related to the Operational Grand 8 (OG8) of the Strategic Research Cluster “Space Robotics Technologies”. The demonstrators developed by PULSAR rely on common building blocks developed within projects of the preceding call, especially ESROCOS (OG1), InFuse (OG3), and SIROM (OG5).
PULSAR - Prototype of an Ultra Large Structure Assembly Robot
PULSAR: Underwater Demonstration of Large-scale Space Robotics
Space robotics is a key technology for space exploration and an enabling factor for future missions, both scientific and commercial. Underwater tests are a valuable tool for validating robotic technologies for space. In DFKI’s test basin, even large robots can be tested in simulated micro-gravity with mostly unrestricted range of motion.
In the project PULSAR, DFKI and European partners have developed technology for the autonomous in-orbit assembly of next-generation space telescopes. Three robot demonstrators were developed to validate the technology. In this video, one of these demonstrators is presented in detail: the underwater-based demonstrator of Large Structure Assembly in Free-Floating Environment – dLSAFFE.