Modern satellites can be understood as monolithic systems. The autonomous replacement of such systems or the repair of damaged components is not sufficiently considered in the design and construction of classical satellites. Malfunctions or damage to components or individual components therefore have irreversible consequences them, including total failure. Considering the costs that have to be spent on the development, manufacture and commissioning of a single satellites, concepts for on-orbit servicing of satellites are increasingly being researched.
Scientists of TU Berlin now developed an androgynous (high pressure) coupling device with an integrated ball valve for liquid and gaseous media. The system consists of 2 main modules, the actual coupling and the drive unit. While conventional closure or quick couplings consisting of a female and a male element have limitations in their applications, the androgynous design of the invention allows absolute freedom in the number, arrangement, alignment and combination of various modules of the system.
Originally designed for modular, easy-to-maintain satellites for on-orbit servicing, fuel transfer and refueling of satellites, this system is not limited to such space applications. Moreover, the coupling device can be used wherever liquid or gaseous media need to be transferred, e.g. in the chemical industry, water management, hydraulic machinery, food industry, pharmaceutical industry, natural gas and petroleum production, etc..
Prototype of the locking coupling