Comau, Argotec’s ATENA robotic system tests nanosatellites

Comau, Argotec’s ATENA robotic system tests nanosatellites

ATENA simplifies simulations of satellite performance; robot recreates movement of a satellite in orbit.

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September 18, 2018
Edited by Eric Brothers
Inspection/Testing Motion/Design/Automation

Italian aerospace engineering company Argotec and advanced industrial automation products and systems company Comau have introduced Advanced Testing Emulator for Nanosatellite Arm (ATENA), a system for testing and validating nanosatellite functionality.

ATENA simplifies simulations of satellite performance, generally done through complex numerical analysis and tests of hardware, software, navigation, and control algorithms, which usually return results difficult to interpret.

The system, born from the intuition of Argotec and the collaboration with Comau, consists of a satellite or part of it, an electronic control unit, and a Comau robot. The nanosatellite, or part of it, is fastened to the wrist of the robot which, using a closed loop configuration, recreates the movement of a satellite in orbit during different mission phases. This solution allows testing all the communication protocols of the system, also verifying the interaction between all the components. The robot is the Racer7 1.4, the fastest in its class, for reliability and precision in a compact mechanism. This new approach is so realistic and versatile that it can be used from the early design stages of a satellite.

Using the robot, it’s possible to monitor the satellite's functionality and observe its behavior directly. This guarantees a more immediate and simple visualization of the test results, as well as the possibility of flight demos. Moreover, two or more robots can faithfully reproduce in-orbit satellite docking.

Argotec’s Managing Director David Avino said, “Everything that is designed for space activities can have an immediate return on Earth, resulting in benefits in our daily life and meeting needs which haven’t been met yet. The ATENA project, for which a patent application has been filed, represents our dynamic vision, our desire to innovate and, above all, the ability to collaborate with a multinational company like Comau, pursuing a common goal: obtaining outstanding results of international relevance by exporting the excellence of Made-in-Italy technology in the world.”

Comau Sales Manager GI Italy Massimo Calvetto observed, “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.”