eSpace leads several innovative space engineering research projects with partners such as Innosuisse and ESA.
They can rely on an intense collaboration with a number of state-of-the-art labs on EPFL Campus with expertise in navigation, materials, robotics, etc. An extended list of these labs can be found HERE.

Innosuisse Projects

Capture System Concept Validation

ClearSpace is building up a service to remove debris from space. ClearSpace proposes to develop the key technologies needed for a successful capture in this Innosuisse project, to guarantee that a high TRL can be reached quickly and in a most efficient way through the use of the knowhow of the research partners such as CSEM and EPFL labs LSMS and Rehassist. The project increases the TRL from 2 to 4 for the proximity and contact sensing system, and the tentacle control to reach a robust adaptronic capture system design.
Capture Dynamics Simulation Tool which allows​:

    • Simulating relative movement and dynamics of target/chaser​
    • Predicting stresses within the capture system​
    • Simulating the motions of the arms​
    • Control Algorithms

Capture System Concept Validation (Application no. 44145.1, lP-lCT)

ESA Projects

PROJECT DAWN

The goal of this one-year project is to issue a ranking of space logistics scenarios in the horizon 2030 via an in-house logistic modelling tool called TCAT. Through the results obtained, it is intended to provide recommendations for the maturation of the missing functions in the context of the space industry, in order to obtain the delivery of a payload and/or the provision of services. eSpace will develop further tool’s modules for the project, and run a set of simulation in order to provide recommendation regarding logistics scenarios to the ESA Future Launcher Preparatory Program team focusing on their current space transportation capabilities in two market segments:

  • On-orbit servicing
  • Constellation deployment
dawn render

Development of Space Logistics Generic Process - EXPRO
(Request for Quotation RFP 3-16622/20/FR/JLV)

Other Projects

Accurate Ground -based and in-orbit tracking for space debris capture
(September 2021 to August 2025)
 

The success of active debris disposal depends on two key factors. First, on the ground, one needs to monitor the trajectory and rotation speed of the debris so as to put the capture satellite on the correct course and choose the best capture strategy for the observed tumbling rate. Second, in orbit, one needs to estimate the debris relative position and attitude, i.e., 6D pose, w.r.t. the capture satellite, so as to synchronize their motion. This BRIDGE Discovery project will make breakthrough contributions to both aspects so as to facilitate generic debris disposal, thus broadening the applicability of the technology developed for the ClearSpace-1 mission and increasing its impact on the space debris monitoring and removal market.

The goal of this project is to facilitate the capture of space debris polluting Earth’s orbit so as to make active debris removal a viable, cost-effective technology. To achieve this, the team will develop algorithms that extract accurate information about a debris’s position and rotation period from ground-based imaging, and that estimate the 6D pose of these objects, i.e., their attitude and relative position, with respect to the capture system from in-orbit images. In particular, for the overall system to apply to as generic scenarios as possible, the algorithms will target realistic space conditions, and will handle new objects, of unknown or altered 3D shape.

To this end, the team investigate the following research directions:

    • Improving debris knowledge database
    • Pose estimation for new objects
    • Domain generalization for pose estimation
    • Learning compact networks for pose estimation

In the spirit of open research, most of the data generated in this project will be made publicly available. The research, aiming to ease the market deployment of active debris removal, will leverage the complementary expertise of both PIs in computer vision, machine learning, space engineering and astronomical observations. The collaboration with ClearSpace will further facilitate its transfer to the industry.

BRIDGE PROJECT

One of the goal of the project is to combine on-ground and in-orbit information for 6D pose estimation

Labs involved : LASTRO (Prof. J-P. Kneib), CVLab (Dr M. Salzmann)
Funding Innosuisse: Bridge Discovery 40B2-0_194729

In-Situ Resource Utilization and Additive Manufacturing 

Sustainable and affordable missions to the lunar surface (and beyond) are an aspiration which will need to be supported through a combined scientific and technological progress in in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) and additive manufacturing (AM). The entire lunar surface is covered by an unconsolidated layer of regolith rich in minerals and oxides, constituting several meters of thick soil which could be de-oxidized and yield oxygen and metallic by-product intended for sustainment of human life, propellant and construction of lunar infrastructure.

EPFL lab LMTM has proposed a comprehensive investigation on the printability of these by-products followed by mechanical characterization and the recycling effects of the powder feed-stock and the LPBF processed parts. These parts can be used in structural and load-bearing applications on the lunar surface and cis-lunar missions.

3d render of resources utilization on the moon

© ESA

Incorporation of In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) and Additive Manufacturing (AM) for Lunar Exploration
(Request for Quotation ref. 20-D-R-TEC-09)

Design for Demise

This thesis project at LPAC and eSpace is focused on the design of a novel composite structure panel that will improve the overall demisability of a spacecraft during its destructive reentry in the atmosphere at the end of its mission. This technology is planned to be integrated into the ClearSpace-1 spacecraft active debris removal mission planned for 2025. This study includes numerical and experimental aero-thermo-mechanical interactions analysis regarding the different types of reentry conditions according to the selected decommissioning strategy.

As part of a Network Partnering Initiative (NPI) supervised by EPFL and ESA, this project aims to get a step forward in the mitigation of reentry surviving space debris threat.

Partners involved:

  • ESA-ESTEC focus on the concept, generic overview of the Clean Space missions
  • IRS supporting characterization and Plasma Wind Tunnel experimental on the components
  • Belstead Ltd. lessons learn form previous demise experiments and support on modelling and simulation

Swiss Industries:

  • RUAG technical data on spacecraft structure (metallic and CFRP), space certification
  • Icotech technical data on CFRP fasteners
  • Bcomp technical data high performance natural fiber
3d render from esa design for demise

© ESA

Moon Crane

Yamato Transport, the EPFL Transport and Mobility Lab (TRANSP-OR) and the EPFL Space Center (eSpace) join forces to envision novel transportation systems for delivering parcels on Earth and infrastructure on extraterrestrial bodies.

  • Lunar surface-to-surface vehicle
  • Modular & reusable
  • Geological or resources survey, infrastructure development, etc.
  • Proposed wide-area multi-site survey for searching for water on the Moon
  • Submitted to AIAA SciTech conference
3d render of the moon crane