DART, or Demonstration for Autonomous Rendezvous Technology, is a NASA sponsored project. The goal is to develop automated navigation and rendezvous capability and demonstrate it in a space craft. Orbital, the prime contractor, will build, launch and operate the vehicle. The $95 million dollars project was scheduled for launch October 25, 2004, launch has been postponed to April 2005 for launch loads analysis.
The DART craft will be launched on a Pegasus rocket into a polar, circular parking orbit (472 x 479 miles). The space craft will then autonomously navigate with orbit transfer maneuvers to reach the MUBLCOM (Multiple-Path Beyond-Line-of-Sight Communications) satellite. No navigational information will be relayed to the vehicle after launch, it will navigate autonomously and with GPS.
Proximity operations with AVGS
Once the spacecraft has navigated to the target satellite, a series of close proximity maneuvers will be initiated. The maneuvers will demonstrate the capabilities of the AVGS (Advanced Video Guidance Sensor). The vehicle will demonstrate station keeping, docking axis approach, circumnavigation, and a collision avoidance maneuver. DART will then depart the vicinity and transition to its final orbit. The entire sequence will be accomplished under autonomous control.
Validate ground test results of the AVGS and proximity-operations algorithms
Provide hardware capabilities for future missions by validating the AVGS in space
The entire mission will take place over a 24 hour period.
The Demonstration for Autonomous Rendezvous Technology, or DART, was a space flight demonstrator designed to test technologies required for the OSP to locate and rendezvous with the Station.
DART was controlled by computers, and it does not have a pilot.
Once the DARTvehicle was launched, some of the hardware and software tested would enable it to travel from a parking orbit around the Earth to rendezvous, or maneuver close to, a target satellite in space.
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