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Distributed Spacecraft Autonomy Project Conducts Successful Joint Preliminary Design and Technical Assessment Periodic Reviews
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Distributed Spacecraft Autonomy Project Conducts Successful Joint Preliminary Design and Technical Assessment Periodic Reviews

The Distributed Spacecraft Autonomy (DSA) project conducted a successful joint Preliminary Design Review (PDR) and Technical Assessment Periodic Review (TAPR) at Ames Research Center on May 14, 2019. The purpose of the PDR was to demonstrate that the design meets system requirements with an acceptable level of risk and to monitor overall technical and programmatic progress. The TAPR assesses the project’s Key Performance Parameters (KPPs) and Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs), as well as technical accomplishments and progress against goals and milestones. DSA released a data package a week prior to the review that included presentation charts, project planning documents, requirements documents, software architecture, and design. The presentation provided a project overview, technology and KPP assessments, system and subsystem design, concepts of operations, a testing overview, and programmatic status.

The PDR was chaired by Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) Chief Engineer Jeff Sheehy, and the TAPR by Game Changing Development (GCD) Program Element Manager (PEM) Mark Thornblom. Review board members included autonomy subject matter experts from Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Langley Research Center (LaRC), and Ames Research Center (ARC). Stakeholder participation in the review included the DSA team, Starling project management and engineers, Ames management, Ames Safety and Quality Assurance, the Ames Chief Engineers Office, and the Small Spacecraft Technology Program (SSTP) Program Executive.

BACKGROUND: Autonomy is an immature, yet important technology for multi-spacecraft missions. Autonomous decision making is needed for deep-space multi-spacecraft missions due to latency, bandwidth constraints, and mission complexity. Additionally, autonomy can significantly increase the effectiveness of multi-spacecraft missions by operating them as a collective rather than individually. To address the needs of future missions, DSA has the following goals:

  1. Advance command and control methodologies for controlling a swarm of spacecraft as a single entity.
  2. Develop, mature, and demonstrate autonomous coordination between multiple spacecraft in the swarm.
  3. Develop, mature, and demonstrate approaches for adaptive reconfiguration and distributed decision-making across a swarm of spacecraft.

DSA will demonstrate autonomy with up to four spacecraft in conjunction with the Starling flight mission in the first two years, and independently from Starling on ground hardware with 100 spacecraft in the third year. These two demonstrations will establish scalability as a core capability for space missions.

NASA PROGRAM FUNDING: Game Changing Development (GCD) program, Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD)

TEAM: Daniel Cellucci, Brian Coltin, Chuck Fry, Rusty Hunt, Rich Levinson, Mark Micire, Sreeja Nag, Estrellina Pacis, Chris Provencher, Hans Utz, and DW Wheeler


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