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Autonomous target capturing of free-floating space robot: Theory and experiments

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 May 2009

Wenfu Xu*
The Institute of Space Intelligent System, Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin, P.R. China.
Bin Liang
The Institute of Space Intelligent System, Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin, P.R. China.
Cheng Li
The Institute of Space Intelligent System, Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin, P.R. China.
Yu Liu
The Institute of Space Intelligent System, Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin, P.R. China.
Yangsheng Xu
Department of Automation and Computer-Aided Engineering, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, P.R. China.
*Corresponding author. E-mail:


Space robotic systems are expected to play an increasingly important role in the future. Unlike on the earth, space operations require the ability to work in the unstructured environment. Some autonomous behaviors are necessary to perform complex and difficult tasks in space. This level of autonomy relies not only on vision, force, torque, and tactile sensors, but also the advanced planning and decision capabilities. In this paper, the authors study the autonomous target capturing from the issues of theory and experiments. Firstly, we deduce the kinematic and dynamic equations of space robotic system. Secondly, the visual measurement model of hand–eye camera is created, and the image processing algorithms to extract the target features are introduced. Thirdly, we propose an autonomous trajectory planning method, directly using the 2D image features. The method predicts the target motion, plans the end-effector's velocities and solves the inverse kinematic equations using practical approach to avoid the dynamic singularities. At last, numeric simulation and experiment results are given. The ground experiment system is set up based on the concept of dynamic simulation and kinematic equivalence. With the system, the experiments of autonomous capturing a target by a free-floating space robot, composed of a 6-DOF manipulator and a satellite as its base, are conducted, and the results validate the proposed algorithm.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2008

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