THE TRAVELING SALESMAN IN SPACE: USING ADVANCED SATELLITE MODELING AND SIMULATION TO OPTIMIZE GROUND SYSTEM PERFORMANCE

By: Paul Parry, Director of Aerospace Engineering Programs at Radiant Solutions, a Maxar Technologies company

Posted on Mar 14, 2019

During a recent meeting with several key government customers, Radiant Solutions presented a viable solution to a military problem that was widely thought of as impossible to solve. Using our advanced, high-fidelity satellite modeling and simulation processes, we were able to reveal insights that unlocked the impossible. Our customers quickly requested more in-depth analysis from us.

That’s what excites me about what we do here at Radiant Solutions – we’re incredibly agile and nimble, and we can clearly quantify the effectiveness of potential solutions to answer the complex problems that really matter to our customers.

The Traveling Salesman in Space

Earth observation satellites and ground data collection sensors can be expensive to build, launch and modify, and many of our customers have legacy systems that are only collecting 70-80% of their capacity. This is due to the limitations of ground systems to schedule their collections and download the data when satellites pass overhead.

Through our proprietary modeling and simulation programs, we’re able to help ground systems achieve their maximum collection capacity, gaining as much as a 50% more yield when coordinating collections of the satellites and constellations our customers already have in orbit.

We call this kind of optimization the ‘traveling salesman problem,’ named for a door-to-door salesman who needs to plot the most efficient route to visit the most customers in the least amount of time. It’s the same idea with individual satellites passing overhead, capturing the most useful images per orbit, and then downloading those images to ground stations in the most efficient manner possible – except we can calculate it for a constellation of satellites, not just one.

Many factors go into our modeling and simulation and satellite scheduling processes. We look at which satellites are best to take the collections, the capacity of the on-board data recorder, battery life between solar rechargings, position of ground stations to download images, sun angle for the best lighting and much more. This ensures that the actual collection accurately reflects the scenarios we test in advance.

Providing a Better Solution at a Lower Cost

It’s a great feeling to know that we’re enabling our customers to make the right decisions based on a more comprehensive collection of images, while helping to lower the cost of their missions and making better use of existing systems. I’m very excited to continue expanding our programs into new use cases throughout the DoD and intelligence communities as we continue to win more awards.

My colleague, Rich Rosenthal, is the program manager responsible for capturing new aerospace engineering programs for Radiant Solutions among DoD and Intelligence customers. In this role, he is responsible for aligning the image sourcing needs of government customers with our unique capabilities.

“I’ve had the pleasure and honor to work with the U.S. Military and Intelligence Community over the past 35 years,” said Rosenthal. “It excites me to know that we’re able to apply our unique technology solutions to real government challenges, and it also gives me tremendous satisfaction, knowing that I’m doing everything I can to help make the country a little bit safer for us and for those who serve us.”

“Radiant Solutions has some amazing capabilities,” he continued. “The work we’re doing in virtual reality, advanced data analytics, machine learning and agile development are all tremendous areas of growth for us and our customers, and the possibilities are limitless in terms of how we can apply these capabilities to solve really tough challenges for our government customers.”

DARPA’s Blackjack mission is one such example. Radiant Solutions is competing to develop a space constellation that’s completely autonomous – it thinks for itself on how to solve the mission by applying artificial intelligence to a large constellation of satellites all working together to detect missiles and provide images of ground targets. Initially comprised of 20 satellites, this endeavor is positioned to ultimately expand to up to 200 satellites, representing an unprecedented scale of military systems thanks to our innovative approach that made this affordable.

Going Above and Beyond for our Customers

Radiant Solutions puts a lot of effort into satisfying its customers, and if it takes working extra hours to meet or beat a deadline, that’s what we do. Our people here at Radiant Solutions know that the job they’re doing is really important. We’re helping to make our country a safer place. And that gives everyone here tremendous pride and satisfaction in their work.

Join our Team

We’re always looking for smart people that can work together to solve big problems. There are incredible opportunities for people to work with leading-edge technology and solve hard problems that make our country, and the world, a safer and better place.

If you or someone you know likes a challenge and is inspired by the amazing capabilities and opportunities that we offer, please visit radiantsolutions.com/careers.