Maximizing Dust Devil Follow-Up Observations on Mars Using Cubesats and On-Board Scheduling. Woollands, R., Rossi, F., Stegun Vaquero, T., Sanchez Net, M., Bae, S. S., Bickel, V., & Vander Hook, J. The Journal of the Astronautical Sciences, May, 2022.
Maximizing Dust Devil Follow-Up Observations on Mars Using Cubesats and On-Board Scheduling [link]Paper  doi  abstract   bibtex   
Several million dust devil events occur on Mars every day. These events last, on average, about 30 minutes and range in size from meters to hundreds of meters in diameter. Designing low-cost missions that will improve our knowledge of dust devil formation and evolution, and their connection to atmospheric dynamics and the dust cycle, is fundamental to informing future crewed Mars lander missions about surface conditions. In this paper we present a mission for a constellation of low orbiting Mars cubesats, each carrying imagers with agile pointing capabilities. The goal is to maximize the number of dust devil follow-up observations through real-time, on-board scheduling. We study scenarios where cubesats are equipped with a 2.5 degree boresight angle camera that accommodates twenty-one slew positions (including nadir). We assume a concept of operations where the cubesats autonomously survey the surface of Mars and can autonomously detect dust devils from their surface imagery. When a dust devil is detected, the constellation is autonomously re-tasked through an onboard distributed scheduler to capture as many follow-on images of the event as possible, so as to study its evolution. The cubesat orbits are propagated assuming two-body dynamics and the ground tracks and camera field of view are computed assuming a spherical Mars. Realistic inter-agent communication link opportunities are computed and included in our optimization, which allow for real-time event detection information to be shared within the constellation. We compare against a powerful ``omniscient'' oracle which has a priori knowledge of all dust devil activity to show the gap between predicted performance and the best possible outcome. In particular, we show that the communications are especially important for acquiring follow-up observations, and that a realistic distributed scheduling mechanism is able to capture a large fraction of all dust devil observations that are possible for a given orbit configuration, significantly outperforming a nadir-pointing heuristic.
@Article{Woollands-et-al-2022,
author={Woollands, Robyn
and Rossi, Federico
and Stegun Vaquero, Tiago
and Sanchez Net, Marc
and Bae, S. Sandra
and Bickel, Valentin
and Vander Hook, Joshua},
title={Maximizing Dust Devil Follow-Up Observations on Mars Using Cubesats and On-Board Scheduling},
journal={The Journal of the Astronautical Sciences},
year={2022},
month={May},
day={31},
abstract={Several million dust devil events occur on Mars every day. These events last, on average, about 30 minutes and range in size from meters to hundreds of meters in diameter. Designing low-cost missions that will improve our knowledge of dust devil formation and evolution, and their connection to atmospheric dynamics and the dust cycle, is fundamental to informing future crewed Mars lander missions about surface conditions. In this paper we present a mission for a constellation of low orbiting Mars cubesats, each carrying imagers with agile pointing capabilities. The goal is to maximize the number of dust devil follow-up observations through real-time, on-board scheduling. We study scenarios where cubesats are equipped with a 2.5 degree boresight angle camera that accommodates twenty-one slew positions (including nadir). We assume a concept of operations where the cubesats autonomously survey the surface of Mars and can autonomously detect dust devils from their surface imagery. When a dust devil is detected, the constellation is autonomously re-tasked through an onboard distributed scheduler to capture as many follow-on images of the event as possible, so as to study its evolution. The cubesat orbits are propagated assuming two-body dynamics and the ground tracks and camera field of view are computed assuming a spherical Mars. Realistic inter-agent communication link opportunities are computed and included in our optimization, which allow for real-time event detection information to be shared within the constellation. We compare against a powerful ``omniscient'' oracle which has a priori knowledge of all dust devil activity to show the gap between predicted performance and the best possible outcome. In particular, we show that the communications are especially important for acquiring follow-up observations, and that a realistic distributed scheduling mechanism is able to capture a large fraction of all dust devil observations that are possible for a given orbit configuration, significantly outperforming a nadir-pointing heuristic.},
issn={2195-0571},
doi={10.1007/s40295-022-00317-z},
url={https://doi.org/10.1007/s40295-022-00317-z},
clearance = {CL#21-0583  URS298324},
project = {mosaic}
}

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