Next successful deployment of small satellites from International Space Station – Low Earth Orbiting Navigation Experiment for Spacecraft Testing Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking (LONESTAR) started !

MEI Technologies, NASA contractor and technology partner for LONESTAR confirmed correct operating of Aggiesat-4 and Bevo-2, two experimental satellites which were built by students of Texas A&M University (Aggiesat) and University of Texas (Bevo). They are part of the Low Earth Orbiting Navigation Experiment for Spacecraft Testing Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking (LONESTAR) program; it is scientific experiment on possibilities of performing fully autonomous docking and rendez vous between two robotic spacecrafts. AggieSat4 and Bevo-2 were deployed on 29 January 2016 from Kibo module with utilization of Space Station Integrated Kinetic Launcher for Orbital Payload Systems (SSIKLOPS). Both satellites were deployed connected and after reaching safe distance from ISS they will perform separation. After that satellites will start cross-link communication, data exchange, acquiring GPS link and transmit data to ground receiving stations. They will also take pictures of each with onboard cameras. Bevo-2 is example of evolution of Cubesat platform (it is 3-unit Cubesat based satellite). It is equipped in cold-gas thrusters and 3-axis attitude control system, a cold-gas propulsive thruster, and onboard camera which will be used for both imaging and star tracking. Aggiesat-4 is also equipped with 3-axis attitude control and advanced devices for navigation and tracking Bevo-2.

SSIKLOPS (also called Cyclops) it is robotic deployment device for transferring satellites from inside of ISS to space. It is built as slide table – it is built with following major components: deployment table with capture and release mechanism, pusher plate mechanism (it is ejecting satellite to safe distance from ISS), grapple fixture interface to robotic utilities,  JEM PM Slide Table mounting system and passive retention hooks. SSIKLOPS is attached to Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (SPDM) which is connected to Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS) or the JEM Small Fine Arm (SFA). SSIKLOPS can be used as small or nanosatellite deployment device or used to perform various experiments. Its main advantage over Nanoracks deployment device is possibility of deploying satellites little bigger than Cubesat or with irregular shape (it is not possible with NanoRacks which use special container designed just for regular shaped Cubesat satellites).

On picture above you can see Nanoracks in action.