Session

Technical Session 1: Mission Operations and Autonomy

Location

Utah State University, Logan, UT

Abstract

Smallsat missions using cooperating constellations offer significant benefits compared to traditional space missions. These benefits include lower unit costs, better robustness to failures, and the ability to collect data in a distributed fashion. Significant commercial smallsat missions are active in low Earth orbit, and spacecraft operators have expressed interest in smallsat constellations operating both at higher altitudes and in proximity operations missions. Autonomy plays a significant role in extending smallsat missions to these more challenging domains. Autonomy in a broad sense refers to a spacecraft's or constellation's ability to operate independently of ground systems, and affects every part of a typical mission. For example, onboard processing of data can significantly reduce the frequency and expense of communications to a terrestrial ground station link. Onboard safety and health management is critical in proximity operations with fast dynamics, or in remote operations where offboard monitoring is available infrequently. Onboard monitoring of mission objectives enables remote operations and reduces the required operator workload.

Emergent Space Technologies has developed flight software products to enable future missions with greater autonomy. Navigator is a standalone application for cooperative absolute and relative navigation within a cluster of space vehicles. The Autopilot software suite enables routine orbit maintenance and satellite maneuvers to be monitored and executed onboard, increasing safety and reducing reliance on ground systems. Guardian is a suite of applications thatenable fault detection, isolation, and recovery on modules within a distributed mission. The Cirrus cloud computing framework enables distributed computing tasks within a fleet of cooperating platforms, allowing complex data processing algorithms to be executed onboard and distributed among vehicles according to their computational availability. Finally, Commander is a set of applications for autonomous execution of a planned mission on a distributed group of platforms. Critically, Commander enables autonomous coordination of the actions of Navigator, Autopilot, Guardian, and Cirrus, providing a significantly greater level of autonomy than the suites provide individually. In this paper, we describe the capabilities of the flight software and demonstrate how coordination using Commander enables desired operator missions. The following missions are considered: (1) autonomous lunar injection; (2) rendezvous and proximity operations; (3) constellation intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. Discussion is informed by use case diagrams and simulation results using Emergent's Ascent simulation environment.

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Aug 9th, 10:00 AM

Software-Enabled Smallsat Autonomy: Discussion with Examples

Utah State University, Logan, UT

Smallsat missions using cooperating constellations offer significant benefits compared to traditional space missions. These benefits include lower unit costs, better robustness to failures, and the ability to collect data in a distributed fashion. Significant commercial smallsat missions are active in low Earth orbit, and spacecraft operators have expressed interest in smallsat constellations operating both at higher altitudes and in proximity operations missions. Autonomy plays a significant role in extending smallsat missions to these more challenging domains. Autonomy in a broad sense refers to a spacecraft's or constellation's ability to operate independently of ground systems, and affects every part of a typical mission. For example, onboard processing of data can significantly reduce the frequency and expense of communications to a terrestrial ground station link. Onboard safety and health management is critical in proximity operations with fast dynamics, or in remote operations where offboard monitoring is available infrequently. Onboard monitoring of mission objectives enables remote operations and reduces the required operator workload.

Emergent Space Technologies has developed flight software products to enable future missions with greater autonomy. Navigator is a standalone application for cooperative absolute and relative navigation within a cluster of space vehicles. The Autopilot software suite enables routine orbit maintenance and satellite maneuvers to be monitored and executed onboard, increasing safety and reducing reliance on ground systems. Guardian is a suite of applications thatenable fault detection, isolation, and recovery on modules within a distributed mission. The Cirrus cloud computing framework enables distributed computing tasks within a fleet of cooperating platforms, allowing complex data processing algorithms to be executed onboard and distributed among vehicles according to their computational availability. Finally, Commander is a set of applications for autonomous execution of a planned mission on a distributed group of platforms. Critically, Commander enables autonomous coordination of the actions of Navigator, Autopilot, Guardian, and Cirrus, providing a significantly greater level of autonomy than the suites provide individually. In this paper, we describe the capabilities of the flight software and demonstrate how coordination using Commander enables desired operator missions. The following missions are considered: (1) autonomous lunar injection; (2) rendezvous and proximity operations; (3) constellation intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. Discussion is informed by use case diagrams and simulation results using Emergent's Ascent simulation environment.