Applying autonomy to distributed satellite systems: Trends, challenges, and future prospects
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While monolithic satellite missions still pose significant advantages in terms of accuracy and operations, novel distributed architectures are promising improved flexibility, responsiveness, and adaptability to structural and functional changes. Large satellite swarms, opportunistic satellite networks or heterogeneous constellations hybridizing small-spacecraft nodes with highperformance satellites are becoming feasible and advantageous alternatives requiring the adoption of new operation paradigms that enhance their autonomy. While autonomy is a notion that is gaining acceptance in monolithic satellite missions, it can also be deemed an integral characteristic in Distributed Satellite Systems (DSS). In this context, this paper focuses on the motivations for system-level autonomy in DSS and justifies its need as an enabler of system qualities. Autonomy is also presented as a necessary feature to bring new distributed Earth observation functions (which require coordination and collaboration mechanisms) and to allow for novel structural functions (e.g., opportunistic coalitions, exchange of resources, or in-orbit data services). Mission Planning and Scheduling (MPS) frameworks are then presented as a key component to implement autonomous operations in satellite missions. An exhaustive knowledge classification explores the design aspects of MPS for DSS, and conceptually groups them into: components and organizational paradigms; problem modeling and representation; optimization techniques and metaheuristics; execution and runtime characteristics and the notions of tasks, resources, and constraints. This paper concludes by proposing future strands of work devoted to study the trade-offs of autonomy in large-scale, highly dynamic and heterogeneous networks through frameworks that consider some of the limitations of small spacecraft technologies.
CitationAraguz, C., Bou, E., Alarcon, E. Applying autonomy to distributed satellite systems: Trends, challenges, and future prospects. "Systems Engineering", 26 Març 2018, vol. 21, núm. 5, p. 401-416.