A Modular Architecture for Responsive Configuration of Satellite Autonomy
Agency / Branch:
DOD / USAF
A repeating topic in aerospace discussion forums is the ever-increasing reliance on space assets to support our national infrastructure. Their vulnerability has led to significant discussion about how to facilitate better situational awareness and protection of these assets. As the space environment becomes more utilized the management effort will inevitably become increasingly complicated. One strategy is to offload the ground by making satellites more capable at a platform level allowing them to draw from collective situational information to satisfy their own needs and respond appropriately to space arena changes. This capability is commonly termed spacecraft autonomy. Previous implementations have been tailored to the mission at hand tightly coupled to the hardware and software instantiated on that particular spacecraft. If autonomy is to become robust and commonplace, the community needs a standardized approach. DNet and SRA are developing an architecture specifically designed to accommodate the needs of spacecraft autonomous operations. The architecture will be naturally predisposed to scalability, rapid configuration, and reusability all qualities that are necessary features of a framework that will be significantly built upon in the years to come to address the maintenance and protection of our military, science and commercial space infrastructure. BENEFIT: The anticipated benefits of this research extend well beyond the initial tactical military application. AFRL has pressed for standardization of space system components to streamline the satellite life cycle to address the needs of ORS. These SPA standards have culminated in an implementation on the PnPSat program, which is ongoing at the Responsive Space Testbed in Albuquerque. A major focus area has been satellite autonomy, which is comprised of modular, reusable code elements. Using supporting design and development tools, the conceptualization, assembly, and testing of SPA-based systems can occur in exceedingly short timeframes, satisfying the specifically expressed ORS objective of maintaining a satellite depot that can field a request for tactical capability and deploy supporting assets within the course of one week. Clearly, the ability to design and build spacecraft in much shorter periods of time is an attractive option to the aerospace sector as a whole. We expect that the standards, as well as the data architecture that facilitates these significantly reduced development times, will gain favor in the wider community and become commonplace within the next decade. The anticipated benefits of this system for defensive counterspace are increased space awareness and practical defensive countermeasures.
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