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The Bandit: An Automated Vision-Navigated Inspector Spacecraft

Jared Macke, Keith Bennett, and William D. Smart.
In "Proceedings of the 17th AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites", Logan, UT, August 2003.

Further improvements in the reliability and operational lifetime of space systems require the ability to detect and repair problems on-orbit. The detection task would be aided by detailed, on-demand images of any region of the vehicle's exterior. One proposed method to do this is a deployable, maneuverable, camera-carrying "inspector" spacecraft. Such systems should be small, lightweight and low-cost to minimize changes to the parent vehicle, and, ideally, they should be capable of docking for re-use and safe stowage.

Researchers and students at Washington University propose the Bandit, a prototype inspector spacecraft, as part of the 25-kg Akoya University Nanosatellite Program. A 1-kg inspector releases from its parent vehicle, performs a visual inspection of the exterior, and re-docks. The carbon-fiber shell of the inspector contains an imager, transceiver and cold-gas propulsion system; the Akoya spacecraft holds the docking mechanism, another transceiver and image processing and flight control hardware. The Bandit is automatically controlled by Akoya using video images aided by exterior visual markings; ground controllers provide high-level directions.

This paper outlines the mission profile and major subsystems of the Bandit, with emphasis on flight control, vision and image processing subsystems. Early prototyping and flight-readiness plans are also discussed.

Paper: [PDF]

  author = {Macke, Jared and Bennett, Keith and Smart, William D.},
  title = {The Bandit: An Automated Vision-Navigated Inspector Spacecraft},
  booktitle = {Proceedings of the 17th {AIAA/USU} Conference on Small Satellites},
  address = {Logan, UT},
  month = {August},
  year = {2003}