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Enhanced mission autonomy through on-board Artificial Intelligence for next generation spacecraft

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MiRAGE (Enhanced mission autonomy through on-board Artificial Intelligence for next generation spacecraft)

Reporting period: 2018-04-01 to 2018-09-30

There are currently around 1,600 active satellites orbiting around the Earth, and more than 4,500 will be launched within 2026. None of them is designed to be autonomous.
Despite the technological advancements, currently it takes an average of three ground operators to manage the basic in-flight operations of each satellite, which substantially impact on cost and mission effectiveness.
For a standard mission, this turns into a time span of several hours to detect system failures, to perform orbit and attitude correction, and to identify critical mission events related to the mission objectives, such as monitoring (disasters such as forest fires, flooding), or acquisition of important data (weather, astronomy, Earth Observation).
In an era where Artificial Intelligence is making cars and other systems smarter and more autonomous, at AIKO we have seen a huge market opportunity in endowing spacecraft with AI-based capabilities.
We are a team of experts in aerospace engineering and Artificial Intelligence, and we have developed MiRAGE, the first in-flight software on the market based on AI and designed to enable increased mission autonomy for satellites (conventional and small satellites) and for the Mission Control Centres.
The use of our product MiRAGE drastically improve the way how operations are managed during space missions, increasing the mission effectiveness and supporting the operators in taking decisions. By having more efficient space mission, there is an effect on the society by obtaining more timely, more precise and higher quality data from space missions.
MiRAGE is an innovative software library based on Artificial Intelligence algorithm capable of enhancing the autonomy of space missions. The objectives of the SME Instrument Phase 1 project were related to the integration of the library within the on board satellite flight software and the evaluation of the performances. Moreover, the feasibility of a business centered on the MiRAGE product was being object of investigation.
During the SME Instrument Phase 1 project, to succesfully investigate the open points, several activities were carried out. The activities executed encompass different tasks that were able to evaluate MiRAGE functionalities and its business feasibility within the Space Industry. The activities started with a survey of available on-board computer for satellite missions, this was done in order to understand and evaluate the computational requirements necessary to guarantee balance between computational capabilities and performance of MiRAGE solution. From these requirements the refinement of MiRAGE and the selection of the target platform has been carried out. The Raspberry Pi 3B+ has been chosen as a reference executing platform and a full version of MiRAGE has been implemented and integrated. To make the output of MiRAGE satellite operator friendly, a Graphical User Interface (GUI) has been developed. During this process, the main driver for the development of the GUI was the satellite operator utilization during his/her tasks. The successful integration of MiRAGE within a LINUX based platform, with performance compatible with the state of the art of satellites on board computers, and the validation of its performances through the developed Graphical User Interface, yielded promising results for the application of the technology on future space missions, thus enabling autonomous operations.
During the SME instrument phase 1 project we have performed all the activities needed to define the development of the proposed solution, both at technical level (product evolution) and at commercial level. We have also defined financing needs and a strategy to meet them within an adequate timeframe in order to preserve and increase our competitive advantage. The key results achieved during the project, are summarized as follows:
- We have defined the final objectives of the project scale-up (Phase 2), by taking into account both the starting considerations and the additional expertise and background coming from the stakeholders involved during the feasibility study.
- We have designed and finalised the project work plan for the MiRAGE development and implementation such as the timeline, the numbers and typology of partners to involve, the whole costs of the project.
- We have analysed the business opportunity for the MiRAGE solution, given the current unmet needs and the market drivers that are responsible of the market growth for satellite industry.
The results obtained through the technological feasibility have proven the viability for the further development of the current MiRAGE version, thus allowing us to go forward with the validation of the software under the Space Qualification procedure. At the same time we have implemented a business plan that includes an overview on the target market, the competing solutions, as well as the proposed AIKO business model and a prospect of the potential revenues.
AIKO: autonomous space missions