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NASA Advanced Exploration Systems Division awards ASTRA contract for autonomous systems in space

D2K Technologies, a team member of the NASA’s Stennis Space Center Autonomous System Lab (ASL) and a key contributor to the architecture of the NASA Platform for Autonomous Systems (NPAS), is excited to announce being a part of the Stennis winning team for the space agency’s newest Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEMOD) initiative, Project Polaris.

HEMOD Project Polaris, sponsored through NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) Enterprise, is designed to help address the difficult challenges associated with sending humans to the Moon and beyond. Project contracts were recently awarded to only 10 teams agency-wide, including Stennis. D2K will work with the south Mississippi center on project ASTRA – Autonomous Satellite Technology for Real-time Applications.

The ASTRA team includes, D2K Technologies, Stennis ASL, and Sidus Space, and all will collaborate to design, build, and test the ASTRA autonomous systems hardware and software that will be launched into orbit on a small satellite from the International Space Station.

ASTRA will test auonomous control/operation on a small satellite in Earth orbit.
ASTRA will test auonomous control/operation on a small satellite in Earth orbit.

As NASA supports Artemis Missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond, autonomous systems will be required to assist astronauts in decision making, free up time for mission operations, and enable autonomous control/operation of major components of spacecrafts, habitats, landers, and rovers,” said Dr. Lauren Underwood, director of the Stennis ASL. “ASTRA will help NASA advance autonomous operations in space, by testing this capability on a small satellite in Earth orbit.

ASTRA will demonstrate, for the first time, the AES-derived autonomous operations technology, NPAS, in a spaceflight environment, while providing flight heritage for an autonomous system manager platform. The autonomous systems capabilities demonstrated by ASTRA are immediately applicable to multiple HEOMD-identified capability gaps.

Autonomous Systems will be present in many elements to assist astronauts, such as spacecrafts and habitats.
Autonomous systems will be present in many elements to assist astronauts, such as spacecrafts and habitats.

Artemis crew missions may only last days; however, Artemis elements (e.g., Gateway, lunar terrain vehicle, human landing systems, and habitation modules) will remain uncrewed in lunar orbit and on the lunar surface for many months and will rely entirely on autonomous systems to maintain function. Keeping these systems viable is vital to the success of Artemis.

The Stennis ASTRA team will leverage D2K’s years of experience in developing autonomous operations software and, more specifically, their critical role in the development of NPAS. D2K will be working with NASA to develop and architect autonomous operations satellite management and system functions. D2K has also delivered autonomous systems, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and Integrated Systems Health Management (ISHM) solutions at NASA’s Kennedy and Johnson Space centers.

About D2K

D2K Tech is based in Oceanside, CA, and has over 30 years’ experience developing AI, machine learning, model-based reasoning and decision support systems for both government and commercial industry. D2K collaboratively worked with NASA Stennis to pioneer the application of AI methodologies to ISHM, operational decision support, and autonomous operations at NASA. Since the formation of the Stennis ASL, D2K has been its lead vendor for autonomous operations software engineering.

D2K Tech is an integral architect of Stennis-developed autonomous operation technology NPAS, currently operational at the center and undergoing flight certification. D2K has received multiple awards from NASA for work on the Artemis program, both directly with agency and with other Artemis commercial contractors.

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