LinkStar-X and the QuickSAT/Autonomy System: An AI Based System Supporting Tactical Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Functions For Small Satellites

A. Santangelo
United States

Keywords: machine learning, AI, communications, Linkstar, Cubesat, small satellite


sci_Zone, Inc has developed the QuickSAT/Autonomy System, an autonomous architecture and flight computer with a set of supporting application programmer interfaces (APIs) designed for cubesats and small satellites to support Tactical Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) functions. The goal is allow the cubesat through a range of sensors such as a hyperspectral camera in our test to collect data, “perceive” key select information, and alert to ground what is “sensed”, relaying rapidly only the required critical data. Operators can later download larger data sets as needed. This allows the streamlining what is communicated to the ground in a timely manner. Communications is a critical bottleneck in small satellites such as cubesats – on board autonomy can rapidly assist in ISR functions. Distributed systems using formation flying satellites can use synergy of autonomous payloads on­board of different satellites instead of a multiplying effect of constellations in order to enhance coverage. The goal is for QuickSAT/Autonomy System with our LinkStar avionics system is become the heart of future cubesats and small satellites providing a flexible vehicle management system, a range of autonomy tools, global communications, and accurate and rapid tracking of 3U and larger cubesats and small satellites, providing exceptional situational awareness and ISR support. The heart of the LinkStar avionics system is the Xilinx Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoC chip, a system that combines a quad core ARM-53 processor and Zynq-7000 FPGA. Our architecture is flexible to allow it to be scaled to smaller, less power consuming processors. LinkStar supports I2C, I2C multiplexer, Space Wire, serial, USB and CAN allowing for a range of sensors to be connected to the QuickSAT/Perception architecture; other data buses can be easily infused into the design. LinkStar also includes our power management software, software rad-hardening tools, and QuickSAT/Xen hypervisor to enable multiple, secure operating systems on the processor. The board design is a PC104 format with full support for the Cubesat bus. The integrated flight computer hosts our QuickSAT/VMS system providing vehicle control, communications, and instrument management functions. QuickSAT/VMS provides a web based interface for easy vehicle configuration, system testing, and management. Supporting APIs are provided with the system. For this briefing we will present key elements of the technology, show predict payload performance including system payload mass, power, processing and volume requirements, and detail payload interaction required with the host satellite. We will also define how operators would task, process, interpret, and disseminate LinkStar data and control the system. We will also show planned applications including the November 2020 flight on the CaNOP Cubesat Mission which will be deployed from the International Space Station.