The objective of this research is to improve the ability to track the orbits of space debris and thereby reduce the frequency of collisions. The approach is based on two scientific advances: 1) optimizing the scheduling of data transmission from a future constellation of orbiting Cubesats to ground stations located worldwide, and 2) using satellite data to improve models of the ionosphere and thermosphere, which in turn are used to improve estimates of atmospheric density. Intellectual Merit Robust capacity-constrained scheduling depends on fundamental research on optimization algorithms for nonlinear problems involving both discrete and continuous variables. This objective depends on advances in optimization theory and computational techniques. Model refinement depends on adaptive control algorithms, and can lead to fundamental advances for automatic control systems. These contributions provide new ideas and techniques that are broadly applicable to diverse areas of science and engineering. Broader Impacts Improving the ability to predict the trajectories of space debris can render the space environment safer in both the near term---by enhancing astronaut safety and satellite reliability---and the long term---by suppressing cascading collisions that could have a devastating impact on the usage of space. This project will impact real-world practice by developing techniques that are applicable to large-scale modeling and data collection, from weather prediction to Homeland Security. The research results will impact education through graduate and undergraduate research as well as through interdisciplinary modules developed for courses in space science, satellite engineering, optimization, and data-based modeling taught across multiple disciplines.
Performance Period: 09/15/2010 - 08/31/2014
Institution: University Corporation For Atmospheric Research
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Award Number: 1035250