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Call for Award Nominations
Wed, June 27, 2012
Traditionally, the control of Earth satellites has relied and still relies on human intelligence at the ground station instead of computer intelligence on-board the spacecraft. Recent developments in powerful space-qualified microcomputers, computer-aided software engineering tools and failure-detection-identification techniques have displaced the equilibrium point in this trade-off toward more autonomy. In this context, the European Space Agency (ESA) initiated in the 1990's the PRoject for On-Board Autonomy (PROBA) with the objective of demonstrating the benefits of on-board autonomy. The program also prepared the way for missions where autonomy is essential, such as planetary exploration missions.
This presentation will describe recent developments in the autonomous guidance, navigation and control (GNC) of space vehicles achieved through the PROBA program. It will review the innovative work that enabled the migration of the GNC functions from the ground control station to the spacecraft on-board computer, leading to the concept of `satellite for the non-expert'. In addition to PROBA-1 and PROBA-2 accomplishments, which have accumulated more than 12 years of flight experience, the latest innovations in autonomous spacecraft control developed for PROBA-V and PROBA-3, both under development, will be briefly reviewed. The presentation will proceed with the recent extensions to the PROBA technology for application to robotic planetary exploration missions where autonomy is an enabling technology for Orbiter, Lander and Rover operations. The presentation will conclude with a review of the benefits and drawbacks of spacecraft autonomy so far observed via the PROBA program, and with an outlook on the remaining challenges to be addressed.