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Ep. 37, Page 14
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Comic 2873 - Ep. 37, Page 14

3rd Jun 2019, 9:06 PM in Episode 37 :: Save My Place | Load My Place
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Author Notes:

smbhax 3rd Jun 2019, 9:06 PM edit delete
Bill Bolton of Altius Space Machines saw my illustration of a spacecraft grapple arm in page 13 and, as Altius is working on actual spacecraft grapple mechanisms, was kind enough to send me some information on the real deal.

Their system currently in development—"BullDog"—takes a two-pronged approach: a long, fast, boom can reach out and tag a detumbler on an out-of-control satellite, and an articulated arm can perform a variety of servicing tasks. The system is compact; the spacecraft in these renders is about 1 meter long:

A detumbler, or "detumble package," in the scenario of a dead target satellite spinning out of control, would feature a magnetorquer: a device containing electromagnets operated in such a way as to "force the dead spacecraft to align with the Earth's magnetic field"; the process is slow, but highly energy efficient.

A little Googling found me a related project Altius has under development: "DogTag," a standardized grapple fixture that would be mounted on spacecraft for grapple arms to grab. Bill mentioned to me a preference for magnetic grapple mechanisms over the big mechanical pincers I drew ^_^, but the DogTag is designed to offer a grapple option for both of those approaches, and many others: it is described as "capable of being grappled by a wide range of technologies: magnetic, electrostatic, gecko adhesive, hot melt or chemical adhesive, mechanical pinch grasping, mechanical snare capture, or even harpoon."

Thanks to Bill Bolton and Altius Space Machines for the real-life grapple mechanism examples and information. : )