• Satellite Evolution Group

Orbit Logic advances autonomy for satellite self protection

Orbit Logic has been awarded a four-year Space Technology Advanced Research (STAR) Advanced Research Announcement (ARA) contract by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to develop and mature onboard satellite software, the Autonomous Decision Engine (ADE), in support of the Satellite Fusion, Inference and Response Engine (SaFIRE) program.

Figure 1. ADE Architecture and Relationship to Wider System

The ADE will enable onboard data collection and fusion for enhanced local area space situational/domain awareness (SSA/SDA) as well as onboard decision making to act autonomously in the interest of satellite self-protection. It is a complete closed-loop solution that processes raw observation data into intelligent decisions about evasive manoeuvres and/or additional data collection.

The ADE will be built on Orbit Logic’s Autonomous Planning System (APS) onboard planning/response framework. The flexible APS autonomy architecture enables capabilities such as tracking of Resident Space Objects (RSOs), behaviour inference of those RSOs, and autonomous satellite response logic.

Responsive actions include reactive manoeuvres, threat event-cued local area search, and local observation tasking; APS will plan all these actions and deconflict all resource utilization. Moreover, APS enables collaborative autonomy so that the satellite can coordinate with other space- or ground-based sensors for them to collect additional data to refine its RSO tracking and threat assessment in order to make more informed response decisions.

This contract is one avenue by which APS – a technology created under an AFRL SBIR contract and matured in work with AFRL, ONR, DARPA, and NASA – has transitioned from an elementary research and development technology to a deployed commercial solution; it is deployed on-orbit on a satellite launched in June 2021 and will fly again on an upcoming satellite mission in 2022.

Beyond satellite self-protection and local SSA, APS can be leveraged for autonomous planning in any domain. Other notable deployments of APS include for the autonomous operation of heterogeneous constellations of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites with DARPA, heterogeneous teams of unmanned underwater/surface/aerial vehicles (UUVs/USVs/UAVs) with the Navy, heterogeneous swarms of rovers, satellites, and atmospheric vehicles for robotic Mars exploration, and heterogeneous robotic swarms with astronauts-in-the-loop for Lunar exploration with NASA.