What are the benefits of an integrated mission planning system?

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”.

Satellite missions have an untold number of factors and variables to juggle and manage. Overlooking even small details in your mission can end up being costly, and often irredeemable.

Tight mission planning is essential for minimising the chances of these errors, and there’s no better route to accurate planning than by a system for that very purpose.

Why is mission planning important?

Once in orbit, satellites are often severely limited in what they can do at any given time. Some tasks, if missed, may not have another chance to complete for hours or even days.

For instance, the position of a satellite while orbiting the Earth affects whether or not it can link with a ground station or whether its solar arrays can gather energy from the Sun.

The former task relies on the satellite being in a certain position in the sky and over a relatively limited location above the ground, and the latter can be rendered impossible if the planet itself is blocking the satellite’s exposure to the Sun’s rays.

If these windows are overlooked, it may be that a satellite is left unable to use its payloads due to a lack of available energy, or that it has to wait for a long period of time before it can offload data and make room for more. All the while, precious, limited time is being wasted.

For satellites such as CubeSats, this wasted time is felt especially keenly, given their shorter lifespans and the fact that once a CubeSat’s orbit erodes enough, it will be destroyed upon re-entry.

Even relatively simple nanosatellite missions are costly and involve significant time investment. When so much work goes into developing a space mission and launching its respective satellites, having a mission ruined by insufficient planning is a tragic waste of potential.

In-depth planning and variable comparison are necessary to avoid this heartbreak and ensure successful missions that serve to push their goals forwards; goals which often benefit many more people than just the satellite’s operators.

What is a mission planning system?

Mission planning systems are utilised before the launch of a satellite mission. These systems are equal parts logical and predictive.

Users input the needs of their mission—for example, what the satellite’s payloads will be doing, how and where the satellite will be manoeuvring, and any known time windows for certain activities such as taking in solar energy and uplinking with ground stations—and the system will appraise this schedule.

The required tasks are compared for time compatibility, and any clashes within the proposed schedule are flagged for resolution.

Mission planning can quickly become highly complex when competing priorities and objectives pile up, but these systems are able to process them as data points and compare them easily without suffering the confusion that befalls a human planner.

What are the benefits of an integrated mission planning system?

Integrated mission planning systems are able to take a 360-degree view of the mission and its various moving parts. This fully unlocks the system’s planning capabilities and allows it to detect not only clashes in terms of time and priority, but also pick up on conflicts between systems and software tasks.

Mission planning systems are able to work quickly and without the same limited bandwidth for multiple tasks that a person faces, which can easily lead to human error.

Using the system, a mission can be planned, refined, tweaked, and retested for conflicts repeatedly. This allows mission design to be an iterative process, making any necessary sacrifices or perhaps even revealing more opportunities for tasks and windows of time than was previously calculated.

Mission planning systems can also ease the pressure on satellite development teams by being an objective source of data, giving black-and-white figures and painting a realistic picture of available time across a mission’s lifespan.

This can be invaluable for teams that are forced to make tough decisions or downscale a mission due to lack of available resources. By calculating time without favour for one task over another, planning systems can help to resolve or avoid conflict and keep development teams focused on the realities of their mission.

Integrated planning can unearth conflicts between systems that might have never been discovered otherwise—until they were causing issues that can no longer be remedied.

How Bright Ascension’s new integrated system can help with mission planning

Bright Ascension’s integrated mission planning system is the answer for all small satellite missions.

This new system marries all the powerful capabilities of Bright Ascension’s software kits to provide everything your mission needs: from planning beforehand, to launch and maintenance during.

Being an integrated system, it works alongside other components to produce the most inclusive and in-depth planning, ensuring that any and all creases in your mission planning are ironed out.

With this system, you can ensure that your small satellite mission will be a successful and well-managed one.

To find out more about our software or to book a demonstration, contact Bright Ascension today.