About the Challenge
Advancing technology through suborbital flight.
Photo Credit: Airborne Systems
The Autonomous Observation Challenge No. 1 invites individuals, teams, and organizations to submit applications for integrated, compact precision pointing systems for small spacecraft that can be used to autonomously detect, locate, track, and collect data on transient terrestrial events, such as aerosol dispersion in the atmosphere or maintain line of sight communication with an object on the lunar surface. The expectation is that the technology will be demonstrated using a suborbital vehicle at the end of the challenge.

NASA is interested in advancing observation capabilities made possible through the use of adaptive, distributed, heterogeneous networks of spacecraft, suborbital, and ground-based sensors working cooperatively.  

In particular, NASA seeks to further the use of these networks for autonomous detection, localization, and observation of transient events. Earth-based examples include the detection of aerosol dispersion in the atmosphere, high-resolution temperature and current measurements in the ocean, and discovery and precise measurement of Earth surface deformation and change. Examples beyond Earth include discovery and observation of geysers on the icy moons of Saturn and Jupiter. NASA is also interested in leveraging these distributed sensor platforms for autonomous cooperative observations. In this application, once any single platform detects an object of interest, it can share that target’s location and features across the network so that other platforms can automatically be brought to bear on this object for persistent observations.  

Similar capabilities could be leveraged for autonomous ad hoc optical communications networks. Example applications for lunar exploration include relays that can detect, locate, track, and establish line-of-sight communications with any lander, rover, or other object on the lunar surface.  Be sure to review the Technical Guidelines to understand how you can submit a competitive application.
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Photo Credit: Blue Origin