ROACH (Robotic in-Orbit Analysis of Cover Hulls) researches the use of electrostatic adhesion for new locomotion methods in space. It will launch within the REXUS/BEXUS program aboard REXUS 24 in March 2018.
The project is inspired by the increasing threat to spacecraft posed by space debris and micro-meteorites. Hulls of spacecraft are additionally subject to fatigue, e. g. due to radiation. Both sources of damage can potentially destroy or impair the spacecraft. Based on this experiment, robots may enable autonomous maintenance by searching for damage and performing small repairs. The locomotion of such a rover on a spacecraft’s hull and its adhesion to the spacecraft is the primary challenge. The principle of electrostatic adhesion shall be used to achieve that.