Irish Software hooks up with NASA to aid space traffic
A collaboration by scientists from Lero, the Irish Software Research Centre, and NASA has been highlighted by prestigious publication New Scientist. NASA has filed a patent for control software that will be used to protect multiple spacecrafts from crashing into one another in future mission.
Prof Mike Hinchey, director, and Emil Vassev, research fellow at Lero, named as inventors of this software, have been working with NASA at the Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland to create control software that will autonomously guide all of the space probes in a mission while continuously checking up on critical electronic systems for potential failures in each one.
Lero and NASA have predicted that future space missions will be undertaken by swarming formations of small spacecrafts as opposed to a single large spacecraft. All of these smaller probes would work collectively on the mission and would be more cost effective than one traditional spacecraft.
If one spacecraft in this swarm were to fail and possibly collide with another, this software would enable a dying spacecraft to sense it’s impending failure and put itself on a course directed away from the rest of the swarm. In simple terms, the spacecraft would be able to self-sacrifice for the greater good of the mission. The work builds on prior work undertaken by Prof Hinchey and Roy Sterritt, Lecturer in Informatics at the University of Ulster.
This NASA owned patent designed by Lero has been widely welcomed by the scientific community. Richard Holdaway, director of Space Technology at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Didcot, UK told New Scientist magazine, “It’s a clever move by NASA and it’s one we’re looking at for future missions.”
“Having 10 to 100 spacecraft with optical, infrared and radar sensors swarming together offers great scope for science missions – but it’s one hell of a technical and software challenge. A self-sacrifice mechanism that adjusts the constellation as a whole when units fail is a wise move.”
Commenting on the patent, Prof Hinchey said: “This control software could potentially make it easier for space missions to survive in harsher environments, and in turn lead to some interesting developments in space exploration. Lero are delighted to be a part of such a huge development and we look forward to the next stage in the process.”
published by techcentral
Uploaded by Niall Mulrine, Navenny, Ballybofey, Co. Donegal, Ireland