Stardust Reloaded

On-Orbit Servicing with Robotic Manipulators

The Stardust Reloaded project is a European research project funded by the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Innovative Training Networks (ITN) action of the European Union Horizon 2020 (H2020) program. The project addresses the growing need for a sustainable exploitation of space, the resilience of the space environment, the threat and opportunities coming from asteroids, and the compelling need for properly trained specialists who can tackle these issues. Within the project, the research at DFKI tackles the development and experimental validation of an autonomous free-floating manipulator system for both the capture of non-cooperative targets and on-orbit servicing of cooperative ones.

Duration: 01.01.2019 till 30.06.2023
Donee: German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence GmbH
Sponsor: European Union
Grant number: This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska Curie grant agreement No 813644.
Partner: University of Strathclyde,
Università degli Studi di Roma "Tor Vergata",
Universitatea Alexandru Ioan Cuza din Iași,
Deimos Space S.L.U.,
Politecnico di Milano,
Università di Pisa,
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid,
Academy of Athens,
Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e. V.,
University of Belgrade - Faculty of Mathematics,
Technische Universiteit Delft,
Hyperion Technologies B. V.,
Aristotele University of Thessaloniki,
Universität Bremen,
The University of Texas at Austin,
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid,
University of Arizona,
University of Kyoto,
European Space Agency - ESA,
Centre national d'études spatiales - CNES,
Airbus Defence and Space Ltd.,
Laboratoire d’analyse et d’architectures des systèmes - LAAS CNRS,
Stanford University,
École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne - EPFL
Application Field: Space Robotics
Related Projects: RTES-TA
Robotic technologies for the removal of space debris (10.2012- 03.2013)
Innovatice technologies for relative navigation and capture (05.2009- 03.2012)
ITN Stardust
Workpackage Close-Range Navigation and Manipulation of Space Debris and Asteroids (02.2013- 01.2017)
Information Technology for Maritime Applications (08.2018- 11.2021)
Related Robots: SpiderCam
SpiderCam Cable Robot
KUKA KR 60-3 Robotic arm
Related Software: Rock
Robot Construction Kit
Machina Arte Robotum Simulans
An add-on for Blender allowing editing and exporting of robots for the MARS simulation
Computer Aided Design To Simulation

Project details

Abstract artistic view of the asteroid field (Photo: Space for Art: Strathclyde Aerospace Centre of Excellence)
Abstract artistic view of the encircling chaos around the Earth due to space debris (Photo: Space for Art: Strathclyde Aerospace Centre of Excellence)
Artist’s concept of a robotic on-orbit servicing mission (Photo: Space for Art: Strathclyde Aerospace Centre of Excellence)

The current amount of space debris in orbit, combined with the expected increase in space traffic will have an unprecedented impact on the space environment, posing serious questions on its stability and resilience to any incident or anomalous event. 

An asteroid impact, on the hand, although statistically less likely to occur, would have devastating consequences for our planet. Therefore, asteroids and space debris represent a significant hazard for both space and terrestrial assets, but they also represent one of the most interesting challenges of space science and technology.

The Stardust Reloaded (Stardust-R) project aims at tackling these challenges by capitalizing and building on the success of the previous Stardust project, an Initial Training Network, which took place from 2013 till 2017. 

Stardust-R will improve the understanding of the evolution of the space environment around Earth and how the ever-increasing traffic in space can be safely managed to prevent collisions and allow a sustainable use of space. Moreover, the project will also increase our knowledge of the shape, gravity, composition and dynamics of asteroids and comets in view of possible actions to prevent a catastrophic impact with the Earth. Furthermore, the project will investigate how mineral resources on these celestial minor bodies could be exploited to enhance our exploration of the Solar System. 

The project is funded by the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Innovative Training Networks action of the European Union Horizion 2020 (H2020) program and comprises 20 partners, including the European, French, and German aerospace agencies that will support 15 early-stage career researchers (ESRs). The ESRs will be trained in mathematics, physics, computer science, robotics and aerospace engineering to provide effective solutions to make the space environment resilient, space exploitation sustainable, learn more about minor bodies and ultimately protect Earth and our space assets.

The part of the Stardust-R project conducted at DFKI addresses specifically the development of a real-time control system for a free-floating based manipulator, for both debris removal and on-orbit servicing, and its evaluation under realistic conditions using an underwater vehicle. Use of a manipulator-based system for such purpose presents unique challenges as high level of autonomy is required to account for the limited reaction time available to face anomalies and/or communication problems and the nonholonomic behavior of the whole spacecraft during the usage of the manipulator. In fact, the concept of an active debris removal involving orbital robotics has been around since the early 1980s, due to its similarity to on-orbit servicing. However, to date, no robotic spacecraft has ever performed a capture of a non-cooperative, tumbling object, especially in the free-floating mode.

Further information about the Stardust Reloaded project can be found at the following URL:



Region of Attraction Estimation for Free-Floating Systems under Time-Varying LQR Control
Lasse Shala, Shubham Vyas, Mohamed Khalil Ben-Larbi, Shivesh Kumar, Enrico Stoll
In Proceedings of the 2024 CEAS EuroGNC conference, (EuroGNC-2024), 11.6.-13.6.2024, Bristol, CEAS, Jun/2024. CEAS.
A small body open-source dataset for image processing algorithms
Mattia Pugliatti, Shubham Vyas, Marko Jankovic, Francesco Topputo
In Proceedings of the 2024 CEAS EuroGNC conference, (EuroGNC-2024), 11.6.-13.6.2024, Bristol, CEAS, Jun/2024. CEAS.


AcroMonk: A Minimalist Underactuated Brachiating Robot
Mahdi Javadi, Daniel Harnack, Paula Stocco, Shivesh Kumar, Shubham Vyas, Daniel Pizzutilo, Frank Kirchner
In IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, IEEE, volume 8, pages 1-8, Jun/2023.
LQR for Free-Floating Robots: Theory and Experiments
Shubham Vyas, Lasse Shala, Anton Bredenbeck
In 17th Symposium on Advanced Space Technologies in Robotics and Automation, (ASTRA-2023), 18.10.-20.10.2023, Leiden, ESA, 2023. ESA.
Linear Model Predictive Control for a planar free-floating platform: A comparison of binary input constraint formulations
Franek Stark, Shubham Vyas, Georg Schildbach, Frank Kirchner
In 17th Symposium on Advanced Space Technologies in Robotics and Automation, (ASTRA-2023), 18.10.-20.10.2023, Leiden, ESA, 2023. ESA.


Robot Dance Generation with Music Based Trajectory Optimization
Melya Boukheddimi, Daniel Harnack, Shivesh Kumar, Rohit Kumar, Shubham Vyas, Octavio Arriaga, Frank Kirchner
In IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) 2022, (IROS-2022), IEEE, Nov/2022.
Trajectory Optimization and Following for a Three Degrees of Freedom Overactuated Floating Platform
Anton Bredenbeck, Shubham Vyas, Martin Zwick, Dorit Borrmann, Miguel A. Olivares-Mendez, Andreas Nuechter
In IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) 2022, (IROS-2022), 23.10.-27.10.2022, Kyoto, IEEE, Nov/2022. IEEE/RSJ.
Torque-limited simple pendulum: A toolkit for getting familiar with control algorithms in underactuated robotics
Felix Wiebe, Jonathan Babel, Shivesh Kumar, Shubham Vyas, Daniel Harnack, Melya Boukheddimi, Mihaela Popescu, Frank Kirchner
In Journal of Open Source Software, The Open Journal, volume 7, number 74, pages 1-7, Jun/2022.
Quaternion based LQR for Free-Floating Robots without Gravity
Shubham Vyas, Bilal Wehbe, Shivesh Kumar
In 6th CEAS Conference on Guidance, Navigation, and Control, (EuroGNC-2022), 3.5.-5.5.2022, Berlin, CEAS, May/2022.
Post-Capture Detumble Trajectory Stabilization for Robotic Active Debris Removal
Shubham Vyas, Lasse Maywald, Shivesh Kumar, Marko Jankovic, Andreas Mueller, Frank Kirchner
In Advances in Space Research, Elsevier Ltd., volume 1, pages 1-18, 2022.
RealAIGym: Education and Research Platform for Studying Athletic Intelligence
Felix Wiebe, Shubham Vyas, Lasse Jenning Shala, Shivesh Kumar, Frank Kirchner
Editors: Brian Plancher, Dylan Shell, Kris Hauser, Shuran Song, Katja Mombaur
In Proceedings of the Robotics: Science and System Workshop Mind the Gap: Opportunities and Challenges in the Transition Between Research and Industry, 1.7.-1.7.2022, New York, New York, Robotics Science and Systems, Online Proceedings, 2022. RSS Foundation.
Momentum based classification for robotic active debris removal
Shubham Vyas, Marko Jankovic, Frank Kirchner
In Journal of Space Safety Engineering, Elsevier, volume 9, number 4, pages 649-655, 2022.


Survey of Landing Methods on Small Bodies: Benefits of Robotics Manipulators to the Field
Pelayo Penarroya, Shubham Vyas, Roberto Paoli, Karl Martin Kajak
In International Symposium on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Automation in Space, (iSAIRAS-2020), 19.10.-23.10.2020, virtuell, n.n., Oct/2020.
Momentum Based Classification for Robotic Active Debris Removal
Shubham Vyas, Marko Jankovic, Frank Kirchner
In 71th International Astronautical Congress, (IAC-2020), 12.10.-14.10.2020, Online-Conference, International Astronautical Federation (IAF), Oct/2020.
Underwater Demonstrator for Autonomous In-Orbit Assembly of Large Structures
Christian Ernst Siegfried Koch, Marko Jankovic, Sankaranarayanan Natarajan, Shubham Vyas, Wiebke Brinkmann, Vincent Bissonnette, Thierry Germa, Alessio Turetta, Frank Kirchner
In Robotics and Automation in Space 2020, (i-SAIRAS-2020), 19.10.-23.10.2020, Online, Universities Space Research Association (USRA), Oct/2020.

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last updated 04.01.2024