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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Draper Guides Cygnus to Eighth Cargo Mission to Space Station

CAMBRIDGE, MA—The Cygnus spacecraft launched Nov. 12, embarking on its eighth cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. Using maneuvers enabled by software developed by Draper, the Orbital Sciences Corp. Cygnus spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station Tuesday, November 14.

The Cygnus spacecraft will deliver more than 7,400 pounds of cargo, including new science and technology investigations, to the International Space Station orbital laboratory to support the Expedition 53 and 54 crews. According to NASA, “the new experiments will include studies on antibiotic resistance, high-speed data transmission, plant growth and improved power and communication technologies.”

The NASA cargo delivery flight to the station launched at 7:19 a.m. EST on an Antares rocket at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Cygnus will remain at the space station until Dec. 4, when the spacecraft will depart the station and deploy several CubeSats before its fiery re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere as it disposes of several tons of trash.

Draper developed the guidance, navigation and targeting software, and provided the fault-tolerant computer design for the Cygnus. Additionally, Draper developed the software that enables the Cygnus spacecraft to rendezvous and berth with the International Space Station. This is the fifth flight of an enhanced Cygnus spacecraft, and the second using Orbital ATK’s upgraded Antares rocket.

Orbital ATK’s Antares awaits lift off at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The Cygnus spacecraft launched Nov. 12 to deliver 3 ½ tons of supplies and science experiments to the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls Credit: Orbital ATK/Thom Baur Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Capabilities Used
Positioning, Navigation & Timing (PNT)

Draper develops novel PN&T solutions by combining precision instrumentation, advanced hardware technology, comprehensive algorithm and software development skills, and unique infrastructure and test resources to deploy system solutions. The scope of these efforts generally focuses on guidance, navigation, and control GN&C-related needs, ranging from highly accurate, inertial solutions for (ICBMs) and inertial/stellar solutions for SLBMs, to integrated Inertial Navigation System(INS)/GPS solutions for gun-fired munitions, to multisensor configurations for soldier navigation in GPS-challenged environments. Emerging technologies under development that leverage and advance commercial technology offerings include celestial navigation (compact star cameras), inertial navigation (MEMS, cold atom sensors), precision time transfer (precision optics, chip-scale atomic clocks) and vision-based navigation (cell phone cameras, combinatorial signal processing algorithms).

Autonomous Systems

Draper combines mission planning, PN&T, situational awareness, and novel GN&C designs to develop and deploy autonomous platforms for ground, air, sea and undersea needs. These systems range in complexity from human-in-the-loop to systems that operate without any human intervention. The design of these systems generally involves decomposing the mission needs into sets of scenarios that result in trade studies that lead to an optimized solution with key performance requirements.  Draper continues to advance the field of autonomy through research in the areas of mission planning, sensing and perception, mobility, learning, real-time performance evaluation and human trust in autonomous systems.

Precision Instrumentation

Draper develops precision instrumentation systems that exceed the state-of-the-art in key parameters (input range, accuracy, stability, bandwidth, ruggedness, etc.) that are designed specifically to operate in our sponsor’s most challenging environments (high shock, high temperature, radiation, etc.).  As a recognized leader in the development and application of precision instrumentation solutions for platforms ranging from missiles to people to micro-Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Draper finds or develops state-of-the-art components (gyros, accelerometers, magnetometers, precision clocks, optical systems, etc.) that meet the demanding size, weight, power and cost needs of our sponsors and applies extensive system design capabilities consisting of modeling, mechanical and electrical design, packaging and development-level testing to realize instrumentation solutions that meet these critical and demanding needs.

Fault-Tolerant Systems

Draper has developed mission-critical fault-tolerant systems for more than four decades. These systems are deployed in space, air, and undersea platforms that require extremely high reliability to accomplish challenging missions. These solutions incorporate robust hardware and software partitioning to achieve fault detection, identification and reconfiguration. Physical redundancy or multiple, identical designs protect against random hardware failures and employ rigor in evaluating differences in computed results to achieve exact consensus, even in the presence of faults. The latest designs leverage cost-effective, multicore commercial processors to implement software-based redundancy management systems in compact single-board layouts that perform the key timing, communication, synchronization and voting algorithm functions needed to maintain seamless operation after one, two or three arbitrary faults of individual components.

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