MISSION

Models in Space Systems: Integration, Operation and Networking

Designing reliable spacecraft involves accounting for a wide variety of faults and environmental challenges, such as radiation and space debris. To overcome these obstacles, spacecraft are often over-engineered, significantly adding to cost and complexity. Increasingly, the commercialisation of space now involves small businesses using existing solutions to launch constellations of small satellites. This approach can reduce cost, weight, size and production time, but it also presents challenges that increase uncertainty and reduce reliability. The EU-funded MISSION project will develop the technologies necessary to assist in critical aspects of spacecraft design. The goal is to improve reliability and effectiveness for future space missions of the European and global space industry.

MISSION Context

The MISSION project overview

There is a strongly growing interest of the space community in low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites for Earth observation, and in deploying networked large-scale LEO constellations. This trend is accelerated by the utilisation of cost-efficient and performant commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components. This comes with a disruptive change in the culture of developing space objects. Different from earlier days, resilience and reliability assurance no longer dominates over cost considerations. As a result, hundreds of low-cost missions are being deployed, and larger and larger constellations are launched into low orbit.

These advances in technology induce many opportunities for new business models as well as for research advances. At the same time, they pose a number of striking challenges that share a common ground.

  1. Due to size and weight limitations, the operation of LEO satellites rests on a fine balance of the available resources, especially with respect to power consumption and data handling.
  2. The classical resilience and reliability assurance methods have not been adapted to the new situation where COTS-based systems dominate and development times are much shorter than in earlier days.
  3. Data transfer across space-terrestrial systems asks for the conception of novel link and network protocols capable of coping with limited bandwidth, latency variances and extremely dynamic topologies.

These three challenges intertwine in upcoming constellations and mega-constellations, and require an integrated consideration and validation.

MISSION Approach

All these challenges are, at their core, computational problems. Tackling these and other concrete problems of the future space domain will need expertise in state-of-the-art model-based computational methods and software tools. At the same time, effective communication channels between the space industry and the researchers working on the algorithmic forefront will be pivotal to guide the future research. The focus of the MISSION project is precisely this.

The MISSION project aims at reinforcing the long established and cautious space culture within the new space era by model-based software tools. The project teams up a diverse set of companies in the space engineering domain with prominent research teams working on model-based algorithmics. The project provides effective means for knowledge transfer and training, and in doing so, it tackles the scientific questions related to (1) energy and resources, (2) resilience and reliability, (3) links and networks and (4) integration and validation for future satellite missions.