Automated assembly and reconfiguration of space systems present enormous potential for affordable and reliable space exploration. They address the most significant constraint to space exploration, the limited payload volume and mass within a launch fairing. Although there is general agreement on the importance of automated space assembly and the profound impact it will have on the future of space exploration, there isn't agreement on the preferred system architecture or how it should be implemented. Furthermore, although most core technologies required for automated space assembly and reconfiguration exist, their maturity levels are uneven compromising the overall maturity and readiness for automated space assembly.
This project is creating a comprehensive and rigorous technology maturation program for autonomous, in-space assembly of infrastructure to support Human and Robotic Exploration, with the objective of achieving TRL 6 by 2008. In-space assembly holds enormous promise for space exploration, removing constraints of launch vehicle payload mass and volume. Autonomous assembly fundamentally separates crew from supporting infrastructure in a new way, and allows for real hardware deployment in advance of human operation. A demonstrated capability of autonomous assembly presents a gamechanging technology within a system-of-systems exploration architecture.
JPL has a co-investigation role for this work, which is led by Nelson Pedreiro of the Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center.
Terry Huntsberger - Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Exploration Systems Research and Technology