Many space exploration and science missions focus on real-time monitoring of time-varying or geographically distributed phenomena. This monitoring could be achieved more effectively using a swarm of small spacecraft, each specialized with different science instruments. Since current space exploration missions typically issue commands to control each spacecraft individually from the Earth, and the data gathered by each spacecraft is also transmitted to the Earth separately via X-band communication over the Deep Space Network (DSN), this approach is expensive, slow, and intractable for swarms of spacecraft. Our NASA STMD SmallSat Technology Partnership (STP) task aims to address this issue by developing a framework for tight integration of communication and controls to allow a swarm of small spacecraft to operate distributed, while achieving or exceeding the effective data downlink expected from a monolithic spacecraft. It is an enabling technology for NASA to effectively deploy swarms of small spacecraft for these types of exploration mission concepts.
Amir Rahmani - Jet Propulsion Laboratory
NASA Space Exploration Technology Directorate (STMD)