Session

Technical Session 1: Mission Operations and Autonomy

Location

Utah State University, Logan, UT

Abstract

Planning and commanding a space operation is inherently a very complex task requiring highly skilled operators from various disciplines coordinating in a timely manner to ensure both smooth and successful operation. This process can be performed manually, however, resolving conflicts quickly becomes an intensive iterative process that underuses a space system’s resources and renders it less responsive to sudden schedule changes. Increasingly complex space missions combined with the desire to maximize efficiency require a different approach. Responding to these challenges is SciBox, an autonomous planning and commanding system and a technology enabler for space operations, developed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). Since its development in 2001, SciBox has automated the processes of translating user requests into a series of satellite operations, searching for observation and data collection opportunities, scheduling required resources and contact with ground stations, generating command sequences to drive payloads and spacecraft, and validating the generated command sequences against operational health and safety constraints. Continual improvements to SciBox and to the SciBox development process through its application on a number of APL small sat missions will be discussed in this paper.

The initial use of SciBox for small sat operations was on the ORS Tech 1 and ORS Tech 2 Multi-mission Bus Demonstration (MBD) program. This program required an easy-to-use, operational management system for use by a non-APL operations team. This instantiation of the SciBox was named S2Ops. With a user-friendly, graphics interface built, this version of SciBox was an ideal solution for the government operations team.

For the CubeSat Signal Preprocessor Assessment and Test (CAT) mission, APL operates two 3U satellites, each hosting an industry-provided RF instrument, in low Earth orbit (LEO). APL operates the satellites using SciBox, which provides key features to autonomously manage satellite constellations. Given the limited operational resources and the desire to maximize the number of experiments performed, SciBox is an ideal solution for the CAT mission. SciBox reduces the lead time for operations planning by shortening the time-consuming coordination process, reduces cost by automating the labor-intensive processes of human-in-the-loop adjudication of operational priorities, reduces operations risk by systematically checking mission constraints, and maximizes data return by fully evaluating the trade space of experimental opportunities versus spacecraft recorder, downlink, scheduling, and orbital-geometry constraints. SciBox is also used on CAT to generate a command schedule that executes the following operations: South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA) constraints, experiment configuration schedule, ground station contacts, delta-differential drag maneuvers, and flight safety constraints.

Finally, the latest application of SciBox is to the Electrojet Zeeman Imaging Explorer (EZIE) mission, which studies the electric currents that play a crucial role in the interactions between Earth and the surrounding magnetosphere. EZIE consists of three 6U CubeSats flying in a pearls-on-a-string orbit configuration, each carrying a Microwave Electrojet Magnetogram (MEM) instrument. This mission will utilize the SciBox capabilities demonstrated on CAT, but also include enhanced features such as early spacecraft recovery by using the observed carrier frequency (or Doppler shift), and support the systems integration phase prior to launch.

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Aug 9th, 10:00 AM

Efficient SmallSat Operation Using SciBox

Utah State University, Logan, UT

Planning and commanding a space operation is inherently a very complex task requiring highly skilled operators from various disciplines coordinating in a timely manner to ensure both smooth and successful operation. This process can be performed manually, however, resolving conflicts quickly becomes an intensive iterative process that underuses a space system’s resources and renders it less responsive to sudden schedule changes. Increasingly complex space missions combined with the desire to maximize efficiency require a different approach. Responding to these challenges is SciBox, an autonomous planning and commanding system and a technology enabler for space operations, developed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). Since its development in 2001, SciBox has automated the processes of translating user requests into a series of satellite operations, searching for observation and data collection opportunities, scheduling required resources and contact with ground stations, generating command sequences to drive payloads and spacecraft, and validating the generated command sequences against operational health and safety constraints. Continual improvements to SciBox and to the SciBox development process through its application on a number of APL small sat missions will be discussed in this paper.

The initial use of SciBox for small sat operations was on the ORS Tech 1 and ORS Tech 2 Multi-mission Bus Demonstration (MBD) program. This program required an easy-to-use, operational management system for use by a non-APL operations team. This instantiation of the SciBox was named S2Ops. With a user-friendly, graphics interface built, this version of SciBox was an ideal solution for the government operations team.

For the CubeSat Signal Preprocessor Assessment and Test (CAT) mission, APL operates two 3U satellites, each hosting an industry-provided RF instrument, in low Earth orbit (LEO). APL operates the satellites using SciBox, which provides key features to autonomously manage satellite constellations. Given the limited operational resources and the desire to maximize the number of experiments performed, SciBox is an ideal solution for the CAT mission. SciBox reduces the lead time for operations planning by shortening the time-consuming coordination process, reduces cost by automating the labor-intensive processes of human-in-the-loop adjudication of operational priorities, reduces operations risk by systematically checking mission constraints, and maximizes data return by fully evaluating the trade space of experimental opportunities versus spacecraft recorder, downlink, scheduling, and orbital-geometry constraints. SciBox is also used on CAT to generate a command schedule that executes the following operations: South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA) constraints, experiment configuration schedule, ground station contacts, delta-differential drag maneuvers, and flight safety constraints.

Finally, the latest application of SciBox is to the Electrojet Zeeman Imaging Explorer (EZIE) mission, which studies the electric currents that play a crucial role in the interactions between Earth and the surrounding magnetosphere. EZIE consists of three 6U CubeSats flying in a pearls-on-a-string orbit configuration, each carrying a Microwave Electrojet Magnetogram (MEM) instrument. This mission will utilize the SciBox capabilities demonstrated on CAT, but also include enhanced features such as early spacecraft recovery by using the observed carrier frequency (or Doppler shift), and support the systems integration phase prior to launch.