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Distributed Satellite Autonomy and Multi-perspective Data Fusion






OBJECTIVE: Research and develop algorithms applied distributed satellite autonomy for clustered satellite systems as well as leveraging multi-perspective observations and measurements.


DESCRIPTION: Academic circles have investigated the topic of distributed collaborative control and autonomy for decades and recent applications to UAV’s, warehouse servicers, ground robotics and more are increasingly available. More specifically, the topic of distributed collaborative autonomy applies to the situation where a group of agents share their information to achieve a common task.


However, there exist numerous challenges of applying this work to the space domain that may not be seen in terrestrial domains, in particular, communication networks between satellites and/or ground stations are dynamic and are, in general, low bandwidth and throughput, contain significant latencies.  Limited computational hardware requires lightweight algorithms to compute correct collaboration tasks, manage scalability and fuse agents’ sensor measurements. 


Moreover, space is growing increasingly congested and contested, for which the resiliency of the space domain must be assured.  The objective of this STTR is to address the resiliency of the space domain through autonomous mission distribution of satellite systems. More specifically, the Offeror will research, develop and test lightweight distributed satellite autonomy of heterogeneous sensors and consider the impact of multi-perspective sensor fusion into the autonomous architecture. The capabilities of this software and algorithm-based approach will enhance the future of the space domain architecture. Offerors are encouraged to work with prime contractors to facilitate technology transition. Offerors should clearly indicate in their proposals what Government furnished property or information are required to conduct this effort.


PHASE I: Conduct a comprehensive comparative assessment and trade-off study of distributed autonomy architectures, algorithms and techniques that are computationally efficient and with low communication throughput requirements.


PHASE II: Design, implement, integrate and test the most promising and effective instantiation of the distributed autonomy algorithms in an AFRL/RV Laboratory Environment. Conduct analysis and simulations to demonstrate the effectiveness and resilience of the algorithms. Assess the implementation overhead of the candidate techniques and conduct through trade-off studies.


PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Develop flight ready software for implementation into future AFRL or other Government flight missions and laboratory experiments.


NOTES: The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the proposed tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with section 5.4.c.(8) of the Announcement and within the AF Component-specific instructions. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws. Please direct questions to the Air Force SBIR/STTR Help Desk:



1. C. Araguz, E. Bou-Balust, E. Alarcon, “Applying autonomy to distrusted satellite systems: Trends, challenges and future prospects,” Systems Engineering, 21:5, 401-416, Sept. 2018 ;

2. D. Selva, A. Golkar, O. Korobova, I. L. i Cruz, P. Collopy, and O. L. de Weck, “Distributed Earth Satellite Systems: What Is Needed to Move Forward?” Journal of Aerospace Information Systems 14:8, 412-438 2017; 

3. S. A. Szklany, J. L. Crassidis and S.S. Blackman, "Centralized and Decentralized Space Object Estimation and Data Association with Pattern Recognition", John L. Junkins Symposium, College Station, TX, May 2018.


KEYWORDS: Distributed Satellite Autonomy; Autonomy; Sensor-Fusion

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