Traverse City Firm Wins NASA Contract to Develop Satellite Management System

A space technology company in Traverse City has been awarded a NASA contract to further the development of a solution to satellite ground station contact scheduling.
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Atlas Freedom Scheduler
NASA has asked Atlas Space Operations to develop a machine-to-machine scheduler that defines clear customer goals and allows the customer to prioritize their satellite communications tasks through the Atlas Freedom Scheduler. // Image courtesy of Atlas Space Operations

A space technology company in Traverse City has been awarded a NASA contract to further the development of a solution to satellite ground station contact scheduling.

The space agency has awarded Atlas Space Operations a $750,000 Small Business Innovation Research Phase II grant to further develop an algorithmic solution to optimize ground station antenna usage and satellite ground station contact schedules.

NASA has asked Atlas to develop a machine-to-machine scheduler that defines clear customer goals and allows customers to prioritize their communications tasks. These goals populate in the Atlas’ Freedom Scheduler, which will compare the tiered tasks and the ground-side availability to automatically produce an optimized orbital pass schedule for customers to use for their missions. In accomplishing this, Atlas says it addresses system-wide load balancing, acceleration of data pipelines, and scheduling management all in one package.

Atlas says the goal is to provide this ability to satellite communications ground antenna owners, enabling automated analysis of a mission’s requirements and providing intelligent satellite communications schedules on a lights-out basis.

“We are thrilled to have been awarded the SBIR Phase II contract,” says Brad Bode, co-founder and chief technology officer of Atlas. “As mega-constellations become more prevalent in space, this tool will not only allow us to scale with our customers but provide critical mission support and savings to both commercial and government satellite operators.”

This new system will create a customer-focused and optimized solution, shortening what would otherwise take days or weeks with the manual process of current scheduling systems, Atlas says. This transforms the scheduling process into a seamless, customer-centric operation, resulting in cost reduction for customers.

Through Atlas’ application programming interface (API), commercial and government customers will be able to access and adjust their mission goals on a day-to-day basis or with machine-to-machine exchange of spacecraft or mission status.

Atlas will refine this capability into a stand-alone prototype cognitive constellation management scheduler as a precursor to an operational capability. This prototype will enable three operational items:

System Wide Load Balancing – Define clear goals and allow customers to adjust their importance, generate task requests, and feed them into the lower lever Flex Scheduler.

Time Reduction – Translate satellite management into a simple-to-understand set of goals that the customer can adjust on a day to day basis.

Rapid Re-scheduling via Machine to Machine – Define a concise, cloud hosted, API that allows the submission of external data such as spacecraft state parameters and event queuing information and alerts.

The contract is part of the NASA SBIR program’s annual investment in U.S. small businesses with new technologies whose benefits are strongly aligned with NASA’s future goals. Atlas was one of 124 small businesses from 31 states selected in the Phase II awards — which cumulatively provides $104 million to advance new technologies.

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