Ascending Node Technologies Wins Third NASA SBIR Phase I Grant for Spaceline Planning Software

Spaceline's mission planning tool continues to add new capabilities, now allowing users to create spacecraft mission observation plans directly within the Spaceline browser. Combined with Spaceline's centralized kernel management architecture, users can easily design and share spacecraft observations earlier in the mission planning process.

Spaceline demo image

Spaceline's 3D, rotatable, interactive timeline allows the user to move visualizations of mission activities forward and backward in time throughout the phases of the project. This Spaceline visualization demonstrates the relative positions and orbits of NASA's MRO (low cyan) and MAVEN (high cyan) spacecraft about Mars during the first week of 2018. Also shown are the orbits of Mars' two natural satellites, Phobos (inner gray) and Deimos (outer gray). Credit: Ascending Node Technologies

TUCSON, Ariz. - Ascending Node Technologies, LLC., the maker of the Spaceline mission planning software, announced that it has been awarded a third Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract from NASA. Spaceline is a web-based tool that provides user-friendly, telemetry-based visualizations of spacecraft data for observation planning. This Phase I contract will be used to further expand Spaceline's functionality to allow users to create custom observation plans directly within the Spaceline planning tool using flight proven technologies.

Historically, one of the biggest barriers to agile mission observation planning has been the need to manually create each of the observation-specific C-kernels that define a spacecraft's attitude with regard to other solar system bodies. Spaceline's new in-browser feature automatically creates these for the user, drawing on a centralized, global specification modeled data store that holds all possible kernel metadata.

"This new functionality allows Spaceline users to define their own observation targets, understand where the spacecraft is pointing at any moment in time, and determine how to slew the spacecraft between their targets," said John Kidd, Chief Aerospace Engineer of Ascending Node Technologies. "It also provides teams with the capability to maintain and track these kernels across the project, further streamlining a mission's planning processes."

The addition of this module in Spaceline's architecture provides an easily accessible platform for team members to communicate and collaborate while designing intensive observations. With Spaceline's kernel management architecture, updates to kernels will easily propagate, allowing users to quickly and easily understand the impact of their upcoming observations.

"Robust observation planning capabilities are critical to achieving spacecraft mission goals, whether the target is Earth or any other astronomical body," said Carl Hergenrother, Chief Scientist of Ascending Node Technologies. "The direct integration of complex science models into Spaceline's architecture allows users across a variety of disciplines to have immediate access to an environment in which they can analyze the impact of different proposed observation plans at every stage of the mission. This greatly increases mission efficiency and reduces risk."

This is Ascending Node's fourth SBIR award, having received previous Phase I and II contracts for the development of Spaceline. These highly competitive awards are designed to advance NASA's capabilities by supporting innovation from small businesses. Ascending Node was selected in this round for demonstrating the ability to visualize a spacecraft in multiple attitude modes for observation planning purposes. With this new award, Ascending Node will continue developing Spaceline to further establish its scientific, technical, and commercial merit for use in future interplanetary exploration missions.

About Ascending Node Technologies

Ascending Node Technologies, LLC, is a Tucson-based company that develops technology to allow spacecraft mission designers and operators to work better together. Spaceline is the company’s new web-based application that creates telemetry-based, interactive 3D visualizations of spacecraft operations right in your browser, which can then be shared across the mission team for easy collaboration and feedback. Ascending Node’s founders have more than half a century’s combined experience planning, developing and operating interplanetary exploration missions. In 2019 NASA ignited the development of Spaceline and has since awarded Ascending Node Technologies multiple SBIR contracts. Learn more at www.ascendingnode.tech.

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