Investigation of Augmented Reality in Enabling Telerobotic On-Orbit Inspection of Spacecraft
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Exterior inspection is a crucial component of maintaining safe operations for crewed spaecraft. On long-duration missions, traditional inspection methods (e.g. crewed extravehicular activity (EVA), fixed robotic platofrms) carry high risk to astronauts, and require significant crew time and labor. On-orbit demonstrations have shown that free-flying telerobotic assets are a viable alternative, providing greater autonomy and maneuverability while reducing risk. However it is important to maintain sufficient temporal and spatial awareness of the free-flyer operator. In this research, a custom-built Augmented Reality (AR) interface was used to perform simulated on-orbit inspection of a space station for surface anomalies. The AR interface enabled command of a free-flying inspector in three operation modes: satellite (local) reference frame control, global reference frame control, and waypoint control. Performance in each of these modes, as well as analysis of the AR interactions, was assessed. Operation in the global and local frames exhibited a greater percentage of the station inspected, while the use of waypoint control showed decreased collisions between the inspecting satellite and the station. When given the option to switch command modes, subjects preferred to remain in a single mode, typically either Local or Global control. Subject feedback and NASA Task Load Index (TLX) scores suggest global and local control required less workload than that of waypoint control for the selected inspection task and waypoint method. These results demonstrate the potential for wearable AR to support on-orbit free-flyer teleoperation tasks.