This student competition involved writing code to command the SPHERES. The scenario and requirements were presented as follows:
The Red SPHERES Satellite is in trouble.
Increasing numbers of satellites are being deployed to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to study
Earth’s atmosphere, climate, land, oceans, and weather. To protect the success of this
important research the SPHERES program is working with space agencies internationally
to identify and remove space debris from LEO. Recently the SPHERES program deployed
ECO-SPHERES as a part of its Evade, Capture, de-Orbit (ECO) initiative to remove debris.
The ECO-SPHERES design includes a hook for the SPHERES to use to tow any type of cargo.
By its very nature, capturing and removing junk puts expensive debris removal satellites
in harm’s way. Any clean-up method is prone to damage. As you heard in the transmission
above, one of our SPHERES Satellites has been damaged by debris and we need to retrieve
it. The mission ahead of us, however, is dangerous. We must deploy another ECO-SPHERES
to traverse the crowded LEO and, instead of moving debris, it needs to hook onto the
damaged red SPHERES Satellite and bring it back to safety.
Program your satellite to avoid debris while trying to locate the red SPHERES. Use
expert geometry to latch onto the damaged satellite, and bring it back to safety, taking
into account the momentum of your precious cargo as to not further damage it.
Good luck to all participating space engineers.
The entries were down-selected by being tested in simulations and the finalists got to test their code out in the ISS SPHERES.
That's really neat.
Diagram of the hooks attached to the SPHERES.
While researching this I learned that the SPHERES have been retired in favor of the ASTROBEEs.
Source: Zero Robotics Middle School Summer Program 2019