2018.A.3.5. PIXE 2018: PocketSpacecraft.com Integrated eXploration Environment


Michael Johnson (1,2)

  1. PocketSpacecraft.com, China/United Kingdom/United States of America
  2. Imperial College London, United Kingdom




Interplanetary CubeSat, Thin-film spacecraft/lander/rover, in-situ printed spacecraft


With approximately one earth escape space science and/or exploration mission launched each year on average, the pace of exploration of the solar system is currently glacial. We present work that explores how the pace of space science and exploration could be dramatically increased by moving from infrequent large monolithic expensive spacecraft designed and manufactured on earth, to frequent small fractionated low cost spacecraft missions manufactured in space by the thousand, and the work underway to demonstrate that such a system can be built and operated.

The mg to g scale printed thin-film spacecraft/lander/rovers are very widely dispersed unreliable wireless sensor nodes with instantaneous mortality that can self-optimise themselves and the network of devices they are part of, including informing the manufacturing devices that there is a need for replacement or augmentation. Optimisation strategies address hardware manufacture (including location and dispatch), and also their software, communications strategy and spatiotemporal configuration during the data collection process, adapting to a changing list of prioritised targets and science objectives. 

Our work focusses on the tightly coupled self-adaptive design, manufacturing and operations aspects of this problem in situ in space by decomposing mission designs from scientific traceability matrices into structured data products, goals and other targets, identifying and structuring elements from a limited pool of materials, modules and algorithms to form devices that could achieve these targets, and then manufacture, operate and optimise the resulting system in space. A key goal is to demonstrate the utility of this approach on orbit, through a CubeSat scale spacecraft printer that can manufacture functional thin-film spacecraft in orbit which is currently being prepared for flight.


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