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A Perfect STORRM

Rendezvous and docking may not sound like the most exciting topic to read about, but NASA has developed, according to this articleA Perfect STORRM, an improved method for rendezvous and docking as part of Project Orion.

Sensor Test for Orion Relative Navigation Risk Mitigation, or STORRM, is a new sensor technology that will make it easier and safer for spacecraft to rendezvous and dock to the International Space Station. This new docking navigation system prototype consists of an eye-safe lidar Vision Navigation Sensor, or VNS, a high-definition docking camera, as well as the avionics and flight software. Both sensors will provide real-time three-dimensional images to the crew with a resolution 16 times higher than the current space shuttle sensors. This next generation system also provides data from as far away as three miles – three times the range of the current shuttle navigation sensor.

According to NASA, the STORRM hardware will be tested by astronauts aboard STS-134, the last planned shuttle mission, currently scheduled for February 2011, as part of the Sensor Test for Orion Relative Navigation Risk Mitigation (STORRM) Development Test Objective (DTO). On Flight Day 11 of the mission, the shuttle crew will conduct an unprecedented on-orbit maneuver; they will undock from the space station and then re-rendezvous with the station on an Orion-like approach.

In support of the STS-134 test, five retro-reflectors, which will serve as targets for the VNS, were installed on the station’s visual docking target during the STS-131 shuttle mission in May.

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Written by Jim Hillhouse

Jim Hillhouse earned a BA in History and a BSE and MSE in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, with his Master’s work focused on mission planning and orbital mechanics. Jim Hillhouse worked as an undergraduate and graduate assistant to Dr. Robert Bishop’s GNC group at the Center for Space Research, a programmer at JPL’s Navigation Section, and as the McCain 2008 campaign’s Space Industry Coordinator on the Space Coast during the 2008 Presidential Campaign.

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