Autonomous Sciencecraft Experiment
NASA is successfully using onboard autonomous decision-making software, known as Autonomous Sciencecraft Experiment (ASE), to change a science satellite’s priorities without the involvement – or even knowledge – of ground controllers so it can observe unexpected phenomena in its path such as an active volcano. Normally, an ongoing event such as an eruption might be missed because of the time required for the spacecraft to send its data to ground controllers, who have to process and study the data and then send commands back to the spacecraft to make further observations. On future interplanetary space missions, ASE software will enable onboard capture of short-lived science phenomena at the finest time-scales without overwhelming onboard memory or downlink capacities. Examples include: eruption of volcanoes on Io, formation of jets on comets, and phase transitions in ring systems. The approach can cut lengthy time lags inherent to taking an observation, transmitting it to the ground for study, and later decisions by scientists to direct the satellite to take further measurements.
The ASE software aboard EO-1 consists of three parts that work together to spot science targets autonomously . First, there is a set of science algorithms that contain specific instructions on what to look for in incoming data. The ASE software also uses an onboard planner computer program to prioritize which science investigations EO-1 should conduct on its own and take control of the satellite. Thirdly, there is a spacecraft command language (SCL) that is used to communicate with onboard instruments.
Documentation of studies in this technology area using EO-1 as a testbed are as follows:
- Smarter Spacecraft: Science-Hunting Software for Robotic Explorers URL
- Spacecraft That Think for Themselves Developed URL, HTML
- Software Lets Satellite Make Its Own Decisions PDF
- New Software On NASA Spacecraft Monitors Active Volcano
- The Autonomous Sciencecraft Experiment
Onboard the EO-1 Spacecraft PDF
- The EO-1 Autonomous Science Agent PDF
- Preliminary Results of the Autonomous Sciencecraft Experiment PDF
- EOS Dynamic Replanning Using the Earth Phenomena Observing System PDF
- The Autonomous Sciencecraft Embedded Systems Architecture PDF
- JPL's ASE Homepage, URL