A CORE IP IN self driving satellites
Our core IP is in the domain of Guidance, Navigation and Control. We build custom hardware and software systems which allow our satellites to track other space objects, translate that information into relative trajectories to navigate to them, and find the pose of these satellites to be able to execute high precision maneuvers (such as docking).
Pose estimation of a GEO satellite in simulated lighting conditions (left), and on an in-orbit satellite (right). Colored lines represent best guess estimates of the pose based on camera data.
Pose estimation techniques
Star tracker navigation: using a star tracker to identify target satellite candidates at far range
Control: extensive optimization allows high precision navigation and control software at sub-cm levels
The key innovation is to develop a fully agnostic GNC system, which can function with little to no change regardless of the target satellite it aims to track and the orbit that it operates in. This allows our system to be applied to multiple future use cases in Active Debris Removal for LEO constellations, debris tracking, Space Situational Awareness, and future concepts such as asteroid mining and modular, self assembling satellites, without modifying the core software system on board.
This ability is achieved through various techniques (AI systems, optimization techniques, particular orbital mechanics frameworks) which have been developed and implemented from research done at the Stanford Space Rendezvous Laboratory, and support from the European Space Agency.