Mission-level autonomy coming to DARPA small satellite network

November 20, 2019 //By Rich Pell
Mission-level autonomy coming to DARPA LEO small satellite network
Defense contractor Raytheon (Waltham, MA) has announced that it is designing an autonomous mission management system for DARPA's Blackjack small satellite constellation with autonomy and AI company Scientific Systems (Woburn, MA).

Operating in low-Earth orbit (LEO), the DARPA Blackjack constellation will network sensors together with a goal to provide highly connected, resilient, persistent global coverage for many applications, including missile warning. The Pit Boss autonomous mission management system, says the company, aims to use an advanced architecture, processors, and encryption to autonomously collect and process data from the entire Blackjack constellation.

It is also envisioned to be able to incorporate future advanced algorithms, including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

"Pit Boss connects the brains of each Blackjack satellite, making it one exceptionally smart, networked system," says Mike Rokaw, director for Raytheon Space Systems. "Rather than sending data down to a ground station for processing, which takes time we don't have, Pit Boss will send data from space straight to the right operator at the right time."

While each individual Blackjack sensor can perform on-board processing, Pit Boss is the data collection and processing data hub. By fusing the sensor data together, says the company, decision-making speeds up, transitioning from what is known as "operator-in-the-loop" to "operator-on-the-loop" methodology.

"Self-knowing satellites are the next step in autonomous space-based mission planning," says Rokaw. "And, this isn't limited to missile warning and defense. Future constellation management systems will migrate to this type of methodology."

Raytheon
Scientific Systems Company

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