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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Guiding Supply Ship to the International Space Station

Draper Technology Used for Orbital ATK Cygnus Commercial Resupply Craft 

CAMBRIDGE, MA – The Cygnus spacecraft launched Oct. 17, embarking on its sixth cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) effort. Using maneuvers enabled by software developed by Draper, the Orbital Sciences Corp. Cygnus spacecraft will rendezvous and dock with the ISS, soon after the Oct. 21 docking of a Soyuz spacecraft carrying three new ISS crew members.

The Cygnus spacecraft will deliver more than 5,100 pounds of crew supplies, scientific research and hardware to the ISS orbital laboratory to support the Expedition 49 and 50 crews. According to NASA, “new science experiments launching to the station include investigations on fire in space, the effect of lighting on sleep and daily rhythms, collection of health-related data, and a new way to measure neutrons.”

This NASA cargo delivery mission launched at 7:45 p.m. EDT, Oct. 17, above Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Orbital ATK successfully launched its Cygnus spacecraft on an Antares rocket at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia. This launch marks Orbital ATK’s first Antares rocket into space since 2014.

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.

Liftoff of Antares Rocket From NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia. Photo 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).

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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