Space Mission Design

American Academy of Aeronautics studies various aspects in the exploration and commercial development of space. Areas of study have included the following:

  • Autonomous landing and hazard avoidance: The Academy works with partners to allow robotic systems to land on the Moon or other planetary bodies. In many cases, the surface is poorly characterized. Prior planetary missions may provide general overviews of the surface, including proposed landing areas, but camera resolution may be insufficient to resolve obstacles like small boulders. As a result, exploratory missions with landers will benefit greatly from landing systems which are able to discern safe and unsafe landing zones, and inform robotic vehicle guidance systems of them accordingly.
  • Near Earth asteroids: Planetary defense and resource extraction make up the two intertwined concerns in the study of near Earth asteroids (NEAs). The Academy began its study of NEA trajectories and classification a few years ago, and now looks into robotic NEA mission designs.
  • Outer planets robotic exploration: The distance from the Earth or Sun to the outer planets can be characterized in terms of light hours. For example, Saturn is over 1.2 to 1.4 light hours away, Uranus over 2.5, Neptune and the minor planets (Pluto, Eris, etc.) over 4.1. The data tramission times dictate that exploration missions to these planet be largely autonomous. Rather than single spacecraft missions, the Academy is studying multi-spacecraft approaches which deploy an infrastructure of landers/rovers and orbiters. It also looks into computational and communication architectures which provide mission robustness.