“The ARCADE Team is committed to develop new navigation, control and docking systems for small-size aerial vehicles and address their performances at several altitudes, under different atmospheric conditions, during a stratospheric Bexus balloon flight.”
The ARCADE Team
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ARCADE is an experiment carried out by a team of students of the University of Padova, Italy. ARCADE – which stands for Autonomous Rendezvous, Control And Docking Experiment – is a technology demonstrator whose aim is to prove the feasibility of a small scale docking system, including automatic attitude determination and control capabilities, and to determine its performance under different atmospheric conditions.
In more details, the experiment main objectives are to test all the subsystems required to perform relative proximity navigation, relative attitude control and docking between a small aerial vehicle and the balloon gondola and to correlate each subsystem performance to the disturbances due to the external environment.
The idea is to execute several navigation-control-docking sequences at different altitudes and to collect data on the external pressure, temperature, wind speed and direction, in order to fully characterize the external environment and thus the atmospheric loads applied on the vehicle.
ARCADE is composed by a small vehicle (SMAV) provided with relative navigation sensors, attitude control actuators and a docking mechanism, mounted on a structure (STRUT) protruding outside the BEXUS gondola. Most of the electronics is placed inside a fixed assembly (PROXBOX) , along with temperature and pressure sensors.
ARCADE is expected to successfully and safely perform several docking and release sequences at different altitudes during the flight, thus proving the reliability of the system as a whole.
The development of such technologies is fundamental for future applications exploiting fleets of cooperative, automatic aerial unmanned vehicles, which possibly will be used over the next decades in various scenarios, including mapping, surveillance, inspection and remote observation of hazardous environments that are inaccessible to ground vehicles (canyons, interior of buildings, etc…). ARCADE was selected by a panel of Experts to participate in the BEXUS-12/13 flight campaign and flew on a stratospheric balloon on September 28th, 2011. The balloon was launched from the ESRANGE pad near Kiruna, northern Sweden. An improved version of the experiment, ARCADE-R2, was selecting to participate to the BEXUS 16/17 campaign, which will take place in late September 2013.
Bexus campaings are proposed in the framework of the REXUS/BEXUS programme, realised under a bilateral Agency Agreement between the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Swedish National Space Board (SNSB). The Swedish share of the payload has been made available to students from other European countries through a collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA).
EuroLaunch, a cooperation between the Esrange Space Center of the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) and the Mobile Rocket Base (MORABA) of DLR, is responsible for the campaign management and operations of the launch vehicles. Experts from ESA, SSC and DLR provide technical support to the student teams throughout the project.
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