. 24/7 Space News .
Artificial intelligence behind 21st Century spaceflight
by Staff Writers
Paris (ESA) Jan 29, 2021

stock image only

It's 4 October 1957, and the Soviet Union has just lofted humanity's first satellite -Sputnik 1 -into the pristine orbital environment around Earth, marking the start of the Space Age.

Throughout 1960s and 70s, launches quickly increase, as the USA, Soviet Union and other countries race for space, discovering and utilising the immense value of the 'orbital pathways' above us -a precious, limited natural resource.

No one thinks about space debris, abandoned junk or derelict satellites.

Now, it's the 1980s and 90s, and Gemini and Apollo have long given way to Soyuz and the Shuttles, actively flying to low-Earth orbit to build out the nascent International Space Station. A curious first-time event occurs in September 1991, when NASA's Space Shuttle Discovery has to perform a 7-second thruster burn to avoid debris from the derelict satellite Kosmos 955.

Over the following years, such manoeuvres become increasingly necessary. By 2020, just one space agency, ESA, with a relatively small number of satellites in Earth orbit, is obligated to conduct about 20 collision avoidance manoeuvres each year. Slowly but steadily, the orbital environment is becoming more polluted.

The future has arrived
Now it's January 2021, and ESA has just published the latest space environment numbers: some 28,210 debris objects big enough to damage or destroy a functioning satellite are up there. Clearly, it's time to act.

"The need to automate collision avoidance is just one example of how 21st Century spaceflight is dramatically increasing in complexity," says Thomas Reiter, Interagency Coordinator and Advisor to the Director General at ESA.

"Artificial intelligence is becoming vital to handle this complexity, to operate, network, coordinate and protect our space infrastructure and to get the most out of the data acquired by our scientific satellite missions."

Teaming up in Germany
To respond to this need, ESA and the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) are establishing a new technology transfer lab located on the premises of DFKI in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

On 27 January, the two organisations launched 'ESA_Lab@DFKI', a place to work together on AI systems for satellite autonomy, the interpretation of extensive, complex data delivered by missions, collision avoidance capabilities and many other applications.

The lab will take advantage of DFKI's proximity to ESA's European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), in Darmstadt, Germany, mission control for 22 ESA spacecraft and centre for the Agency's Space Safety Programme, focussing on hazards posed by space debris, risky asteroids and space weather.

"AI and space belong together," says Professor Antonio Kruger, CEO of DFKI. "AI can handle complexity far beyond humankind's physical and mental limits and rapid technical progress in the field is enabling new projects that were unthinkable only a short time ago."

"The establishment of this 'transfer lab' marks the next step in the collaboration between ESA and DFKI," says Professor Andreas Dengel, Executive Director and Head of the Smart Data and Knowledge Services at DFKI. "Together we will identify and tackle the greatest challenges of modern spaceflight."

AI for Solar System exploration...
As humans expand into the Solar System, AI will be our constant companion. Future space exploration at the Moon and Mars will require astronauts to work with intelligent machines including orbiting labs, landers, rovers and surface habitations.

"AI is essential for the operation of these machines, particularly for autonomous decision making, risk assessment and maintaining the health and safety of human and robotic explorers," explains Alessandro Donati, manager for artificial intelligence and operations innovation at ESOC.

and back at Earth
Artificial intelligence will also power a new generation of 'super-intelligent satellites' to help us better understand our home planet, solve climate change and ensure the sustainable use of space in future.

At ESA, the development of technologies to enable on-board autonomy for spacecraft is considered vital for all types of future missions. These include innovative 'firsts', like the Hera asteroid deflection mission and the world's first space-debris removal mission, Clearspace-1, now readying for launch in 2025, as well as those delivering the vast quantities of data that provide society with services such as internet connectivity, navigation and telecommunications.

Artificial intelligence is also crucial for the analysis of the data sent down by observation satellites like ESA's Earth Explorers and those in Europe's Copernicus programme.

This data is far too extensive to be analysed by humans alone. AI systems on Earth can help scientists and researchers identify key patterns and relationships and uncover new insights into, for example, how our climate is changing.

ESA's OPS-SAT, a small 'nanosat' launched in 2019, is allowing European industry and academic experimenters to test innovative new software across numerous fields, including artificial intelligence for pattern recognition, autonomous scheduling, deep learning and automated manoeuvring.

The partnership between ESA and DFKI will support these and other fundamental AI-related technology development efforts, and promises to expand the range and scope of innovations that evolve from academic research into highly developed industrial applications.

The ESA_Lab@ initiative
ESA_Lab@s are joint initiatives between ESA and academic/research institutions. The institutions contribute proposals for innovative research linking space and their scientific expertise, students and teaching, while ESA contributes technical expertise from across the Agency and first-hand knowledge of the challenges facing modern spaceflight.

Existing ESA_Lab@s focussing on artificial intelligence include those established with the University Oxford and University College London.

Related Links
Operations at ESA
Space Tourism, Space Transport and Space Exploration News

Thanks for being there;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5+ Billed Monthly

paypal only
SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal

Axiom Space reveals historic first private crew to visit ISS
Houston TX (SPX) Jan 27, 2021
Axiom Space on Tuesday announced its crew for humankind's first flight of a group of private individuals to a Low Earth Orbit destination - the first-ever entirely private mission proposed to fly to the International Space Station (ISS). The proposed historic Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) will consist of: former NASA astronaut and Axiom vice president Michael Lopez-Alegria as commander; American entrepreneur and non-profit activist investor Larry Connor as pilot; Canadian investor and philanthropist Mark ... read more

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

NASA and Boeing target new launch date for next Starliner flight test

NASA spacewalk partially hooks up new science platform

Showtime for ColKa

Axiom Space reveals historic first private crew to visit ISS

Virgin Orbit to launch first satellite for Dutch Ministry Of Defense

NASA Marshall, SpaceX team celebrates engines of success

Framework agreement facilitates future slot bookings by ESA

Hot Fire met many objectives, test assessment underway

Purdue scientist ready for Mars rover touchdown

NASA's Perseverance Rover 22 days from Mars landing

New Mars rover may collect first sounds recorded on another planet

Six things to know about NASA's Mars helicopter on its way to Mars

China's space station core module, cargo craft pass factory review

China's space tracking ship completes satellite launch monitoring

Key modules for China's next space station ready for launch

Major space station components cleared for operations

Barbs fly over satellite projects from Musk, Bezos

Sirius XM says its newest satellite has malfunctioned

UN and UK sign agreement to promote space sustainability

MDA appoints new VP of Satellite Systems

3D printing to pave the way for Moon colonization

NASA's Deep Space Network welcomes a new dish to the family

D-Orbit's ION satellite carrier rides SpaceX's Falcon 9 to orbit

European team to collaborate in optical communication

CHEOPS finds unique planetary system

The 7 rocky TRAPPIST-1 planets may be made of similar stuff

First six-star system where all six stars undergo eclipses

Puzzling six-exoplanet system with rhythmic movement challenges theories of how planets form

A Hot Spot on Jupiter

The 15th Anniversary of New Horizons Leaving Earth

Juno mission expands into the future

Dark Storm on Neptune reverses direction, possibly shedding a fragment

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.