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A Distributed Hierarchical Framework for Autonomous Spacecraft ControlFuture human space missions for exploring beyond low Earth orbit are in the conceptual design stage. One such mission describes a habitat in cis-lunar orbit that is visited by crew periodically, others describe missions to Mars. These missions have one important thing in common: the need for autonomy on the spacecraft. This need stems from the latency and bandwidth constraints on communications between the vehicle and ground control. A variable amount of autonomy may be necessary whether the spacecraft has crew on board or not. Spacecraft are complex systems that are engineered as a collection of subsystems. These subsystems work together to control the overall state of the spacecraft. As such, solutions that increase the autonomy of the spacecraft (called autonomous functions) should respect both the independence and interconnectedness of the spacecraft subsystems. This distributed and hierarchical approach to system monitoring and control is a key idea in the Modular Autonomous Systems Technology (MAST) framework. The MAST framework enables a component-based architecture that provides interfaces and structure to developing autonomous technologies. The framework enforces a distributed, hierarchical architecture for autonomous control systems across subsystems, systems, elements, and vehicles. An example autonomous system was implemented in this framework and tested using realistic spacecraft software and hardware simulations. This paper will discuss the framework, tests conducted, results, and future work.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Badger, Julia M.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Strawser, Philip
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Claunch, Charles
(Jacobs Technology, Inc. Houston, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
April 11, 2019
Publication Date
March 2, 2019
Subject Category
Cybernetics, Artificial Intelligence And Robotics
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
IEEE Aerospace Conference(Big Sky, MT)
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.

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