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Refining space mission interoperability: NASA unveils new trajectory sharing strategy
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Refining space mission interoperability: NASA unveils new trajectory sharing strategy
by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Apr 26, 2024

NASA's Engineering and Safety Center has introduced a new approach, dubbed Trajectory Reverse Engineering (TRE), for transferring spacecraft trajectories between flight mechanics tools.

This method is designed to be adaptable, making it suitable for use with any pair of tools despite differences in their dynamical and numerical models. Developed as part of the NESC study titled Flight Mechanics Analysis Tools Interoperability and Component Sharing, TRE aims to facilitate interfaces that enhance interoperability among NASA's core flight mechanics tools.

Transferring trajectories between multiple design tools is crucial for space mission planning but involves intricate data like frames, states, and model specifics, which is often a complex and labor-intensive process. The new TRE strategy simplifies this process through a universal framework that remains unaffected by the underlying models.

Central to the TRE strategy is the use of a common data structure known as the spacecraft and planet kernels (SPK), conceived at the JPL Navigation and Ancillary Information Facility.

This SPK file encapsulates the trajectory as a six-dimensional invariant structure, indifferent to variations in gravitational fields, fidelity models, or numerical representations. It enables the seamless recovery and analysis of trajectory data in new tools, without needing extensive original data.

The TRE approach utilizes predetermined states or control points along the trajectory to map out the trajectory timeline. This process can highlight discrepancies between tool models, which can be adjusted using a multiple-shooting algorithm to ensure continuity.

Successful implementations of TRE include scripts for Monte and Copernicus tools, showcasing reconstructed trajectories and allowing for configurations tailored to specific user needs through an optional input file.

This system not only cuts costs by sharing technical capabilities but also speeds up the analysis process across different tools, ultimately leading to more robust design solutions and reduced redundancy in development.

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