Space Operations Simulation Center
The Space Operations Simulation Center (SOSC) provides an ultra-stable test environment for precision instruments and accurate navigation systems. The large volume and six degree-of-freedom robots enable the recreation of the most complex orbital dynamics including proximity operations and docking with full scale hardware. The SOSC is also capable of testing air, land and sea based systems. The development, evaluation and testing of relative navigation technologies, including sensors and algorithms, are necessary requirements for successful manned and robotic missions to earth-orbiting platforms, planets, moons, and other bodies in our solar system. The SOSC provides unmatched capabilities to reduce risks inherent in space exploration.
The Space Operations Simulation Center boasts three 6 degree-of-freedom (6-DOF) robots. The large robot can maneuver a load weighing up to 2200 pounds with sub-millimeter accuracy through a 250' x 50' x 50' volume at rates up to 300 millimeters per second. The medium robot also travels the 250' distance of the SOSC with 16' and 10' of travel in the other directions. The small robot is stationary but can provide 6-DOF motion within the reach of its arm. Together, these three robots are capable of simulating the most complex orbit dynamics involving relative navigation, proximity operations, and docking. Remote control of the SOSC has also been demonstrated, allowing users in remote facilities to control the 6-DOF robots. See an example of testing capabilities here.
The SOSC is an ideal location for the testing of both passive and active electro-optical sensors. The walls and floors are painted with a specially engineered paint for low reflectivity. IR dark curtains are available to create uncluttered backdrops for active sensors. A fully stocked optics lab is available with hardware and test equipment such as laser power meters. LiDAR sensors benefit from the long range capabilities and the laminar air flow. If further range is needed than the 250 foot high-bay, two roll-up doors provide an unobstructed view out to a test stand over two kilometers away.
Mock-ups and Models
The SOSC is home to a full scale mock-up of the International Space Station's Pressurized Mating Adapter (PMA). The materials used in the construction of the PMA mock-up were carefully selected to match the observed on-orbit appearance with visible cameras and LiDAR systems. At the other end of the SOSC, is a 50' x 50' asteroid wall. The wall provides more than 3 feet of topographic relief and is painted to match the low reflectivity of a common carbonaceous asteroid. The SOSC also has models of common spacecraft such as communications satellites based on the A2100 bus from 1/40 scale up to full scale. In the SOSC machine shop, custom mock-ups are commonly built to individual customer needs. We also partner with Lockheed Martin's 3D printing facility to rapidly fabricate parts as needed.
High Fidelity Environmental Effects
Five 18,000 watt studio lights are used to simulate orbital solar illumination. Light tight treatments also allow for complete blackout conditions. The unique way in which the SOSC was attached to the underlying bedrock, and then isolated from local seismic disturbances, produces an ultra-stable platform where sensors can be tested free from external disturbances.