Next-generation space missions feature a never-seen design and operational complexity that creates a critical need to perform mission design, navigation, and operation tasks in a modern and responsive environment. Currently, navigation tasks such as orbit determination and statistical maneuver design are a series of disconnected stakeholders, processes, software, and manual human tasks that result in time inefficiencies, high costs, and compound risks for mission success. This type of structure is poorly suited for collaborative activities that are becoming more and more prevalent given the increase of complexity of space missions.
The solution that we propose is to design and provide one unified environment for navigation analysis that integrates and automates state of the art NASA software to abstract the complexity and manual nature of these tasks into a collaborative environment, coupled with interactive and visual support to perform the remaining manual tasks. Navigation analysis is a key step in mission planning as analysts must assess trajectory robustness toward various error sources, including uncertainty in the launch state, mismodeling of the dynamics, as well as thruster execution and orbit determination errors. We propose to build a tool that (1) performs a navigation analysis given a reference trajectory by automatically determining the optimal number and the location of statistical maneuvers as well as the type and amount of tracking data needed, and (2) visualizes the data output in a user friendly, visual and interactive environment.
Continuum Space Systems is already building its cloud-based design platform, CTK, for space missions from ideation to completion, so far focused on flight dynamics. The proposed innovation will build upon Continuum’s effort to expand the platform into an integrated mission design and navigation framework towards a fully unified design lifecycle and seamless transition to other key subsystems.
This innovation will directly empower all upcoming NASA flight missions, including concepts in development, as any mission that involves deep space navigation will face the challenges this innovation aims to alleviate. Specifically, the upcoming ARTEMIS missions to the Moon, including secondary hosted spacecraft as well as longer term plans for orbital stations, will benefit from this technology. The framework Continuum is developing will act as an agent for sustainable and safe space design and navigation in this challenging environment.
There are increasing applications for this technology both in the public and private sectors. The cis-Lunar commercial space activity is booming and any venture attempting to reach Lunar orbit or its surface will face the challenges this innovation aims to alleviate. The United States Air Force and Space Force are sensitive to the critical nature of establishing a presence on the Moon.