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Berthing and Docking

QinetiQ is the prime contractor for the development of the International Berthing and Docking Mechanism (IBDM), the European androgynous low impact solution for effective and reliable docking and berthing of both large and small spacecraft.

The IBDM is designed according to the International Docking System Standard (IDSS) and is compatible with the future ISS International Docking Adapter (IDA) on the US side of the International Space Station (ISS). It is also the baselined docking mechanism on the European contributions to Gateway, the international habitat (iHAB) and the European System Providing Refueling, Infrastructure and Telecommunications (ESPRIT) module.

The IBDM is fully redundant, features a safe mode that maintains functionality in case of vehicle power failure and it has been successfully tested on the NASA/JSC Six-Degree-of-Freedom Dynamic Test System (SDTS) for a range of vehicles between 5 and 25 tons. All IBDM avionics run in hot redundancy and the system features a Soft Capture Mechanism (SCS), and a structural mating system called the Hard Capture System (HCS).

  • Smooth: The IBDM’s low impact docking capability reduces or eliminates the need for impact energy to achieve spacecraft interface alignment and capture.
  • Autonomous: The IBDM features autonomous fast switch-over from primary to redundant lane in case of a failure.
  • Flexible: The IBDM provides a highly versatile berthing and docking solution for both exploratory and resupply missions as the Soft Capture Mechanism uses configurable active control.
  • Effective: The system delivers a very high capture success rate, enabled by an agile force-sensing controlled capture mode.
  • Safe: The IBDM comprises a backup or safe mode where the Steward platform behaves like an electro-magnetic damper. This mode is used if two failures have occurred in the IBDM avionics or power supply – or on command by the hosting vehicle – to ensure safety for both the vehicle and the host spacecraft even during the docking phase.

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