The paper introduces and describes the recent and still ongoing development activities performed in Luxembourg for In-Orbit Attach Mechanisms for (Drag) Sails Modules to be operated from Space Tugs
. After some preparatory work aiming at understanding the possible operational aspects and implications of mating interfaces between these space systems, three possible designs of In-Orbit Attach Mechanisms have been proposed and completed for their 3D (Metal and Plastic) Printing, a new manufacturing technology assessed within this project. The Plastic-printed prototype underwent a series of automated tests in which a robotic arm, equipped with an advanced force sensor, replicated four docking scenarii in ideal and degraded modes. The observation of the forces and torque behaviors at and after impact allowed one to characterize the typical patterns for the various contacts but also, to identify a type of potentially dramatic impact for the safety of the docking and its equipment: in the case of the off-axis approach, “point” contacts shall be avoided, as they instantaneously transfer the total kinetic energy in a small area that could break.
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