Argotec and Comau present: ATENA, the innovative system for testing nanosats
Argotec and Comau are working together to create an innovative system aimed at testing and validating the functionality of nanosatellites.
The verification of a satellite’s hardware, software and its navigation and control algorithms is generally carried out through simulation and complex numerical analysis, but the results are often hard to interpret. To overcome these difficulties, Argotec has developed ATENA (Advanced Testing Emulator for Nanosatellite Arm), a system which allows immediate verification and constant monitoring of satellite parameters by means of a robotic arm.
The project began with an idea from Argotec and it was carried out with the technical support of Comau, a local company that is also a global leader in the supply of advanced industrial automation solutions.
The system, for which Argotec has registered a patent for the technological innovations they developed, consists of a satellite – or part of it – an electronic control unit and a Comau robot. The nanosatellite is first fastened to the end wrist of the robot. Using a closed loop configuration, the system tests the communication protocols that connect the different subsystems, verifies their interaction and obtains mechanical responses that are comparable to in-orbit satellite movements during the different phases of a mission.
These features prove to be particularly useful for validating the functionality and performance of a satellite and its subsystems. Moreover, the use of robotics enables visual feedback regarding the behavior of the satellite. This guarantees a simpler and more immediate visualization of the test results, as well as the possibility to carry out functionality and performance demos of the flight hardware. This is a real breakthrough in the aerospace sector, as two or more robots can now faithfully reproduce in-orbit satellite docking.
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