Scientists at the University of Surrey and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) are developing a docking system that is based on Xbox Kinect technology. The twin-satellite mission, called STRaND-2, is a follow-up mission of the STRaND (Surrey Training, Research and Nanosatellite Demonstrator) program . The team will use two satellites, each measuring 30cm in length, and will utilize components from the Xbox Kinect game controller. The scientists explained that the the STRaND-2 twin satellites will be separated after launch and that the Kinect-based docking system will provide the satellites with 3D spatial awareness to align and dock.
“We were really impressed by what MIT had done flying an autonomous model helicopter that used Kinect and asked ourselves: Why has no-one used this in space? Once you can launch low cost nanosatellites that dock together, the possibilities are endless – like space building blocks,” project leader Shaun Kenyon said.
SSTL believes that its low cost nanosatellites are intelligent “space building blocks” that could be stacked together and reconfigured to build a larger modular spacecraft. “It may seem far-fetched, but our low cost nanosatellites could dock to build large and sophisticated modular structures such as space telescopes. Unlike today’s big space missions, these could be reconfigured as mission objectives change, and upgraded in-orbit with the latest available technologies,” Dr. Chris Bridges of the University of Surrey said.