Universe

Smart Mini-Satellite with Artificial Intelligence

Because the duration of signals in space response is often very long,  Smart Mini-Satellite  will autonomously act and make decisions. In addition to solve imminent problems itself or at least an early sign.
It takes sometimes too long, until the decision in space from the control centre on Earth. To the satellite by the storm on Mars, take photos or would rather make a film? What is with the meteorite? The flashing, twitching from the Earth’s atmosphere towards space?

How observation satellites to decide in such cases when signals from the Earth too long on the road are simple, researchers at the University of Würzburg develop systems that enable the satellites weigh between the choices. So to choose between photo series and video.

Vision of the autonomous flying and acting in the universe

“Such autonomous goal planning to realize is very challenging” says Hakan Kayal, Professor of Aerospace Engineering. Autonomous action was necessary mainly for missions in distant space. Signals need many minutes or even hours to arrive on Earth. The signals to the spacecraft new horizons, which has reached the Pluto last year, were over four hours despite the speed of light.

Smart Mini-Satellite
An autonomous mini-satellite. They have a floor area of 10 x 10 cm and are 30 cm high discovered a Meteor and then independently decide what to do next: Würzburg Aerospace Engineers. Photo: Håkan Kayal

And sometimes the connection between Earth and the probe fails completely, like in the land robot Philae. He was not reachable on the Comet Tan for months.

Before the scientists on the ground decided, as a satellite continue to behave, passes a while. Moreover even the duration of the response signal. Generally the phenomenon pass after so long ago than can not be watch. Therefore, the Würzburg computer scientists develop a module called ASAP, intended to help in the decision-making process.

Repairs, before the error occur

But also in damage cases satellite can help himself in future better even. So far, the ground stations satellite sign that something is broken. A device is cut from the power supply, temperature on Board reaches a value that could destroy the systems, or fails the drive is of course correct allows you to. The scientists on the ground then develop strategies how to fix the error, and send corresponding signals into space.

Smart Mini-Satellite Artificial Intelligence
Animation of Philae landing on the Comet Tan: because of insufficient sunlight, Philae was able to send any data to the Earth since November 2014. Photo: ESA/ATG medialab

“We want can independently predict possible faults and malfunctions on Board of satellites with ADIA, identify the root cause and treat perspective better”, says Computer Science Professor Frank Doll. You could then possibly avoided damage and total losses. ADIA stands for autonomous diagnostic system for satellite.

Tests aboard a mini satellite

ASAP and ADIA will be tested 2019 on board a satellite, which is about as big as two specialize. This mission called Sonata financed the German Center for air and space travel, the Federal Ministry of economy and energy with 1.3 million euros to support the research in Würzburg probably because it offers the chance, to avoid economic damage.