[MIT engineering Professor David] Miller’s challenge to his undergraduate engineering class back in 1999 was to design a small, roughly spherical robot that could float aboard the ISS and maneuver using compressed CO2 thrusters. The project, called SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold Engage Re-orient Experimental Satellite), would serve as a testbed for trying out experimental software to control clusters of satellites. The robotic spheres provide a generic platform consisting of sensors, thrusters, communications and a microprocessor; scientists working on new software ideas can load their software into that platform to see how well those ideas work. It’s a quick and relatively cheap way to test new theories on software design.
Possible applications include NASA’s return to the Moon (see the Vision for Space Exploration). One way to build a moonship is to assemble it piece by piece in Earth orbit. “Software designed to control small satellites could just as well be used to maneuver the pieces of a spaceship together,” says Miller.
Orbiting ship-building docks!!!!!!
Thanks to Mom for the link :)