Robotic test system developed for nanosatellites


Italian industrial robot maker Comau and aerospace engineering company Argotec have developed what they say is the world’s first robotic system for testing and validating the functionality of nanosatellites.

The ATENA (Advanced Testing Emulator for Nanosatellite Arm) consists of the electronic control unit and a Comau Racer7 1.4 robot, the fastest in its class. The nanosatellite, or part of it, is fastened to the wrist of the robot which, using a closed loop configuration, recreates the movement of the satellite in orbit, during the different phases of a mission.

The system simulates satellite performance, which is usually carried out through complex numerical analysis and tests of hardware, software, navigation and control algorithms. It enables the testing of all the communication protocols of the nanosatellite and also verifies the interaction between all the components.

According to Comau, the testing is so realistic and versatile that it can be used to carry out flight demos and observe behavior of a nanosatellite during the early design stages. Two or more robots can also be used to reproduce in-orbit satellite docking.

Massimo Calvetto, Comau’s sales manager robotic general industry in Italy, said, “We are proud to have contributed to the implementation of the innovative project developed by Argotec, in an extremely technological sector such as aerospace, where precision and reliability are essential components. Our robots have proved to be the right choice to guarantee the achievement of excellent results.”

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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