Space-based manipulators have traditionally been tasked with robotic on-orbit servicing or assembly functions, but active debris removal has become a more urgent application. We present a much-needed tutorial review of many of the robotics aspects of active debris removal informed by activities in on-orbit servicing. We begin with a cursory review of on-orbit servicing manipulators followed by a short review on the space debris problem. Following brief consideration of the time delay problems in teleoperation, the meat of the paper explores the field of space robotics regarding the kinematics, dynamics and control of manipulators mounted onto spacecraft. The core of the issue concerns the spacecraft mounting which reacts in response to the motion of the manipulator. We favour the implementation of spacecraft attitude stabilisation to ease some of the computational issues that will become critical as increasing level of autonomy are implemented. We review issues concerned with physical manipulation and the problem of multiple arm operations. We conclude that space robotics is well-developed and sufficiently mature to tackling tasks such as active debris removal.

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Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Ellery, A. (2019). Tutorial review on space manipulators for space debris mitigation. Robotics (Vol. 8). doi:10.3390/ROBOTICS8020034