Trusted Autonomous Operations of Distributed Satellite Systems Using Optical Sensors †

Kathiravan Thangavel, Dario Spiller, Roberto Sabatini, Stefania Amici, Nicolas Longepe, Pablo Servidia, Pier Marzocca, Haytham Fayek, Luigi Ansalone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Recent developments in Distributed Satellite Systems (DSS) have undoubtedly increased mission value due to the ability to reconfigure the spacecraft cluster/formation and incrementally add new or update older satellites in the formation. These features provide inherent benefits, such as increased mission effectiveness, multi-mission capabilities, design flexibility, and so on. Trusted Autonomous Satellite Operation (TASO) are possible owing to the predictive and reactive integrity features offered by Artificial Intelligence (AI), including both on-board satellites and in the ground control segments. To effectively monitor and manage time-critical events such as disaster relief missions, the DSS must be able to reconfigure autonomously. To achieve TASO, the DSS should have reconfiguration capability within the architecture and spacecraft should communicate with each other through an Inter-Satellite Link (ISL). Recent advances in AI, sensing, and computing technologies have resulted in the development of new promising concepts for the safe and efficient operation of the DSS. The combination of these technologies enables trusted autonomy in intelligent DSS (iDSS) operations, allowing for a more responsive and resilient approach to Space Mission Management (SMM) in terms of data collection and processing, especially when using state-of-the-art optical sensors. This research looks into the potential applications of iDSS by proposing a constellation of satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for near-real-time wildfire management. For spacecraft to continuously monitor Areas of Interest (AOI) in a dynamically changing environment, satellite missions must have extensive coverage, revisit intervals, and reconfiguration capability that iDSS can offer. Our recent work demonstrated the feasibility of AI-based data processing using state-of-the-art on-board astrionics hardware accelerators. Based on these initial results, AI-based software has been successively developed for wildfire detection on-board iDSS satellites. To demonstrate the applicability of the proposed iDSS architecture, simulation case studies are performed considering different geographic locations.

Original languageBritish English
Article number3344
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • astrionics
  • bushfire
  • disaster management
  • distributed satellite systems (DSSs)
  • edge computing
  • hyperspectral imagery
  • intelligent DSS (iDSS)
  • mission management
  • optical sensors
  • trusted autonomous satellite operations (TASO)
  • wildfire


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