Emergent Space Technologies, Inc. was awarded a $1.5M Commercialization Readiness Program contract by the Air Force Research Laboratory / Space Vehicles Directorate (AFRL/RV) to design and develop flight software for small satellite rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) missions. Called the Rendezvous and Proximity Operations Technology Demonstrator (RAPID), the focus is on military and commercial applications in satellite inspection, but the technology is also applicable to satellite servicing and refueling, in-space assembly of structures and planetary exploration. In executing the RAPID program, Emergent will work closely with AFRL/RV on developing the requirements, concepts of operations and conceptual mission design for a future notional small satellite RPO mission.
RAPID will use Emergent’s state-of-the-art ASCENT modeling and simulation software for model-based engineering of the RPO flight software. Software/processor-in-the-loop (SIL/PIL) demonstrations, leveraging a “virtualized” spacecraft bus, will be used to validate the software’s ability to seamlessly interact with other Emergent flight software products that support real-time, onboard spacecraft functions that include: navigation, attitude determination and control, optical imaging, space-to-ground and space-to-space communications, propulsion, power management, and autonomous “human-on-theloop” maneuvering. The flight software will enable integration of “massless payloads,” such as software that uses passive imaging data to implement simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) algorithms to navigate near non-cooperative space vehicles.
“RPO missions are of increasing interest to the US Space Force as well as the Intelligence Community”, stated Dr. George Davis, Emergent’s CEO. “The ability to leverage modular, open systems architecture flight software that can be ported to virtually any operating system and computing platform will pay dividends far into the future. Rather than using scarce technology development funding to re-invent the wheel, e.g. for relative navigation and control software, it can be focused instead on the development of mission-unique autonomy software. Our objective is to show that any properly designed 3rd party application that adheres to our software development kit can readily integrate with our flight software to implement a unique RPO mission. We will show this in SIL/PIL simulations. It is our objective to do so in space as well. We look forward to working with AFRL/RV to flesh out the concept and devise potential on-orbit experiments. I expect this program to be a game changer, both for the industry and for our company.”