Engineers at the University of Surrey and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) are developing ‘STRaND-2’, a twin-satellite mission, to test a new in-orbit docking system. The system is based on the novel idea of using Microsoft’s XBOX Kinect technology to assist in the alignment during the docking phase. If successful, the new approach has the possibility to change the way space assets are built, maintained and upgraded.
Usually docking control systems are developed for costly missions to the International Space Station, and it has never been employed on the small scale that the researchers now are attempting. They have a vision of using relatively low cost nanosatellites as intelligent “space building blocks”, that could potentially be stacked together and reconfigured to build larger modular spacecrafts, if combined with low cost docking system.