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AFIT CSRA Receives Space Object Self-Tracker Data

Posted Tuesday, July 21, 2020

 


AFIT’s Space Object Self-Tracker after completing pre-ship checkout before delivery for final integration.  The SOS, launched in June of 2019, is a self-sufficient, low-cost, low-weight, and low-power system which demonstrates precise orbit tracking capabilities for use in future Space Domain Awareness and Space Traffic Management applications. The payload is now fully operational, and provides daily data messages containing its current position and velocity in space.  AFIT’s CSRA designed, manufactured and tested the payload through one of several collaborative efforts.   (AFIT CSRA Contributed Photo)

 

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – The Air Force Institute of Technology’s Space Object Self-Tracker experiment, launched in June of 2019, is now fully operational, providing daily data messages containing its current position and velocity in space. 

The SOS is a self-sufficient, low-cost, low-weight, and low-power system which demonstrates precise orbit tracking capabilities for use in future Space Domain Awareness and Space Traffic Management applications. The SOS experiment is a hosted payload on NASA’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission spacecraft. As a hosted payload, AFIT’s Center for Space Research and Assurance’s SOS team anxiously waited for permission to begin its experimental mission.  AFIT’s CSRA designed, manufactured and tested the payload through one of several collaborative efforts with the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico. 

“Now fully operational, SOS data will be used in both the classroom and for further research.  Our collaborative relationships with sponsors like AFRL/RV provide our students with unique opportunities to receive both a hands-on space education, while also making a research contribution to the larger space community,” said Dr. Rich Cobb, CSRA associate director.

Student involvement with SOS technology development has contributed to research topics in orbital dynamics, systems engineering, and solar cell and panel design technology.  AFIT astronautical engineering graduate, John Claybrook, researched an orbital dynamics problem for his thesis to ensure the mission objective could be achieved.

“The two greatest benefits of my education at AFIT were the ability for a hands-on research investigation leveraging modeling and simulation tools as well as collaborating with other senior subject matter experts,” said Claybrook, section chief and capability manager, space asset resilience, Arnold Engineering Development Complex. 

“This experience was also an opportunity to conduct thesis work within a real, meaningful DoD-based problem-set, rather than a pure academic investigation where the thesis ultimately ends up sitting on a shelf,” said Claybrook.

According to Dr. William Wiesel, AFIT professor of astronautical engineering and SOS principal investigator for the navigation mission, the data from AFIT's SOS experiment is now being used to qualify and further develop the next generation of autonomous, onboard satellite navigation and mission planning software.  Although the original experiment software showed that kilometer level navigation was possible, computer technology is advancing so quickly that miniature single board computers can now execute advanced orbit determination algorithms, allowing for accuracy of a few tens of meters.

“SOS-derived technology will allow much of the satellite’s ground site 'handholding' to be offloaded to the satellite itself, allowing the vehicle to plan and execute a list of high-level objectives," said Wiesel.

The Air Force Institute of Technology, or AFIT, is located at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, and is the Air Force’s graduate school of engineering and management as well as its institution for technical professional continuing education.  AFIT is committed to providing defense-focused graduate and professional continuing education and research to sustain the technological supremacy of America’s air, space, and cyber forces.

For additional information about graduate or post-doctoral degrees in astronautical engineering or space systems, please visit the CSRA website at https://www.afit.edu/CSRA/ , call 937-255-6565 extension 4753 or email Jaclyn.knapp.ctr@afit.edu.


AFIT CSRA team members completing final checkout of the Space Object Self-Tracker experiment.  The SOS, launched in June of 2019, is a self-sufficient, low-cost, low-weight, and low-power system which demonstrates precise orbit tracking capabilities for use in future Space Domain Awareness and Space Traffic Management applications. The payload is now fully operational, and provides daily data messages containing its current position and velocity in space.  AFIT’s CSRA designed, manufactured and tested the payload through one of several collaborative efforts.  (AFIT CSRA Contributed Photo).

 

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