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Plan Generation for Autonomous Small Spacecraft Swarms

Award Information
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Branch: N/A
Contract: 80NSSC21C0183
Agency Tracking Number: 213012
Amount: $124,988.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: Z8
Solicitation Number: SBIR_21_P1
Solicitation Year: 2021
Award Year: 2021
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2021-05-18
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2021-11-19
Small Business Information
7901 Sandy Spring Road, Suite 511
Laurel, MD 20707-3589
United States
DUNS: 101537046
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 Tim Woodbury
 (301) 345-1535
Business Contact
 Everett Cary
Phone: (301) 345-1535
Research Institution

Small satellite (smallsat) swarms and constellations are widely used in low Earth orbit (LEO), and government operators have expressed interest in missions at higher altitudes and in proximity operations. These new mission regimes are more challenging and require greater onboard autonomy capabilities to act and plan without a ground system in the loop. To address this need, we propose to develop an onboard planning capability for smallsats. This software enables constellations or swarms to respond dynamically to failures and opportunities independent of ground systems. The innovation addresses specific gaps in the state of the art identified in our subtopic to enable operation of swarms without the need for ground system commanding. We identify two critical qualities the planner should have. First is the ability to construct a plan that incorporates likely exception information as a safety check. This reduces the frequency of replanning and builds in robustness to exceptions that are well-understood by the operator. The second quality is a standard interface with specialized ldquo;subplannersrdquo; for functions like maneuvers, constellation design, and so on. This second ability ensures the planning software can interact flexibly with external software, which may be mandated for particular applications. Subplanners are also an appealing approach for decomposing a large planning problem into more tractable sub-problems. The proposed Phase I work will develop a proof-of-concept planner and demonstrate its operation in conjunction with Emergentrsquo;s flight software for autonomous mission execution.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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