Akin to landing lights for aircraft, ESA is developing infrared and phosphorescent markers for satellites, to help future space servicing vehicles rendezvous and dock with their targets. One larger pattern incorporating smaller versions for when the chaser satellite comes close enough that its camera’s field of view is filled.
Developed by Hungarian company Admatis as part of an ESA Clean Space project, these markers would offer robotic space servicing vehicles a steady target to home in on, providing critical information on the line of sight, distance and pointing direction of their target satellite.
Initial testing of these ‘Passive Emitting Material at end-of-life’ or PEMSUN markers took place at the end of March 2019 inside ESA’s GNC Rendezvous, Approach and Landing Simulator, part of the Agency's Orbital Robotics and Guidance, Navigation and Control Laboratory, at its ESTEC technical centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.
ESA is studying space servicing vehicles to carry out a wide range of roles in orbit, from refurbishment and refuelling to mission disposal at their end of life.