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Satellite Artificial Intelligence Lab

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.455.1 - 4.455.5

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Paper Authors

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Daryl Boden

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2302

Satellite Artificial Intelligence Lab

Daryl G. Boden, Associate Professor Department of Aerospace Engineering United States Naval Academy


The Spacecraft Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL) is a joint Navy / NASA / Industry/ Academia research and development project which uses existing facilities in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA). The goals of the project are to test and evaluate automation and machine intelligence techniques for operating space systems. The SAIL project is unique because it uses the UHF Follow-On (UFO) Flight #1 spacecraft as an on- orbit test article, providing the means to qualify artificial intelligence (AI) applications for use in space. The laboratory is also used to support USNA classes and associated laboratories, as well as midshipmen and faculty research projects. This paper describes the SAIL project and how the Aerospace Engineering Department uses the project to support midshipmen education.

I. Introduction

Historically, operating space missions has been a labor-intensive endeavor. Spacecraft were designed as unique objects, and because of their operating environment, complexity on the spacecraft was minimized. This required the operators to be experts in both the operational procedures necessary to maintain the health and safety of the spacecraft, and also the engineering design of the spacecraft to properly respond to spacecraft anomalies. Two factors require us to re-think our approach to operating spacecraft. First, the number of operational spacecraft is increasing all the time. Second, breakthroughs in spacecraft design, especially in the area of miniaturization and on-board processing, allow us automate many of the operational functions on the spacecraft. Operators must now be able to monitor more spacecraft, know which operations functions are performed on the spacecraft, and understand how the spacecraft should respond to commands, both onboard and from the ground. Spacecraft design engineers must decide which functions can be controlled from the spacecraft onboard processor and which functions should be controlled by ground operations. Before addressing the issue of automating space mission operations we need to define mission operations. Different countries, and different organizations within a country, define space mission operations differently. In this paper, mission operations includes actions needed to prepare for launch, activities that take place after launch, and activities required to maintain the infrastructure that supports space mission1. For the SAIL project, we focused primarily on the post-launch operation of the spacecraft. The mission operations concept describes how we will fly the spacecraft to accomplish mission objectives and get the required data to the user. The concept combines the people, procedures, hardware, and software necessary to support the mission into a set of tasks, or processes, for accomplishing the mission. From the mission operations concept we identify the functions operations must accomplish for a particular mission.

Boden, D. (1999, June), Satellite Artificial Intelligence Lab Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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