Formation Flying Tools Development
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Benefits Provides next-generation multiple-spacecraft mission analysis systems. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Formation Flying Tools Development. At A Glance

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Benefits provides next generation multiple spacecraft mission analysis systems

Formation Flying Tools Development

At A Glance

The Formation Flying Tools Development task is intended to implement mission enabling methodologies into state-of-the-art software systems. The work focuses on trajectory optimization for multiple spacecraft missions, and flexible multiple spacecraft mission design systems.


To develop state-of-the-art software systems to enable the FDAB to provide complex multiple-spacecraft mission design solutions.

To implement appropriate methods and algorithms that have been identified and developed under the GMSEC Advanced Mission Design subtask, in software systems.


Numerous missions being considered at GSFC propose flying a distributed system of spacecraft that coordinate activities to achieve a common goal. These missions often require careful orbit design to ensure that the collection of spacecraft provides the maximum possible science return. The mission design problem is further complicated by real-world mission constraints that are often in conflict with the science objectives. Examples of such constraints include maximum and minimum spacecraft separations, mass to orbit limitations, maximum survivable eclipse duration, and navigation and control system constraints.

The Formation Flying Tools Development task is intended to provide software solutions to such challenging mission analysis problems described above. The approach is to provide analysts with a a suite of state-of-the-art numerical optimization routines and dynamics models to best address the specific problems associated with a particular mission. We are developing a suite of software tools that can be used to optimize formation configurations to maximize science return, while simultaneously satisfying real mission constraints. The system will use state-of-the-art numerical optimization techniques such as Sequential Quadratic Programming (SQP) and Genetic Algorithms (GA) to provide innovative mission solutions that maximize performance metrics provided by mission scientists. While the primary objective is to address multiple spacecraft missions, the suite of tools is being designed so that it is generally applicable to all GSFC missions. This effort will enable GSFC mission analysts to provide projects with the best possible orbit design to maximize the science return of complex distributed spacecraft missions and to clarify the relationships between specific mission constraints and science performance. The proposed system will also greatly decrease the amount of effort required for feasibility studies for future missions.

While working on this effort we have worked closely with the Office of Patent Counsel to ensure that the systems developed can be released with under an Open Source Software Usage Agreement. Hence, one of the goals of this task is to produce software systems that can be shared with and modified by others in the space community.

  • Benefits

  • Provides next-generation multiple-spacecraft mission analysis systems.

  • Provides a system designed to provide optimal mission design solutions.

  • Creates an open source system that can be shared among the space community.

  • Features

  • TrajOpt. A Trajectory optimization tool that can be interfaced to existing mission analysis systems.

  • Argosy. A prototype next-generation mission analysis system.

  • GMAT. The Goddard Mission Analysis Tool is the next generation mission analysis software currently being developed in-house.

Note: When available, this effort is complemented by funds from other sources.

NASA GSFC Mission Services Evolution Center, Code 581

Greenbelt, Maryland 20771


Benefits provides next generation multiple spacecraft mission analysis systems

Minimum Fuel Maneuver Planning

Minimum Fuel Maneuver Planning

GMSEC Formation Flying Tool Development


Several of the software systems developed under this effort are demonstrated below. The systems include the Trajectory Optimization Tool (TrajOpt); Argosy, a prototype mission analysis system; and GMAT, the Goddard Mission Analysis Tool which is currently under development.

Argosy (GMAT Prototype)

Trajectory Optimization Toolbox

GMAT ( Partial Mock Up)


The systems being developed under this effort are applicable to a wide range of GSFC missions including MMS, LISA, MAXIM, MAXIM Pathfinder, SI, and MagCon among others. Current versions of the software have been successfully applied to many problems. Two specific applications are included below including minimum fuel maneuver planning, and MMS trajectory optimization.