The project aims to design and develop an open-source satellite mission and communications analysis simulation tool. This too addresses the industry's main pain points and attempt to tackle them efficiently. The simulator is designed following the Agile Development methodology, aiming to create a set of core functionalities that turns this tool into a competitive product. When the tool’s initial version is completed, a more extensive Software Development Plan of the Full Version is compiled, focusing on the potential next steps to help turn the Full Version of the Simulator into a usable commercial product. In addition, for the needs of this project and to facilitate a better user support experience, a detailed user guide is compiled, and a series of video tutorials is released to provide users with informative training sessions. Once the tool is ready, the reaching out and dissemination part will be initiated. This includes promoting the tool to different online platforms, creating and running an online community dedicated to the tool, and generating a list of potential users that could become the community's first members.
This project's key challenges are identifying and defining the industry's pain points precisely and creating a simulator tool to tackle these efficiently. This means the simulator tool should be user-friendly, robust, diverse, cross-platform and affordable to become highly competitive with existing tools. Striking the right balance between versatility and cost-effectiveness. Another challenge is building a community around the tool, especially in the early development phases.
Here are some advantages of the potential simulator tool as they are considered at the moment. Cross-platform, with a web-accessible front-end to serve all different host computer architectures. Always up-to-date, with new developments on different modules or new functionalities added on the fly and available to new users. Community friendly, with access to others’ public simulator sessions and data, to easily share results and analyses or build upon others. Commercially sustainable, with a paid hosted service, with viable sustainability/commercialization plan following the "Controlled Ecosystem" model. Within this model, every component is released and developed as an open-source project, while the hosted service is offered as a paid service supporting the continued operation & development of the ecosystem. Scalable, with a hosted application capable of growing to meet the user’s needs on-the-fly through the right infrastructure deployment practices and techniques. Resource-efficient, with offloading resource-intensive computational tasks to a scalable infrastructure that only ever becomes better, end users benefit from speed and resource availability without being confined by their host machines’ capabilities.
The Propagator provides a unified, Python-based interface for calling semi-analytical and numerical propagators from multiple open-source astrodynamics libraries. The Event Detector provides functionality for detecting orbit events. The RF Simulator calculates link budgets for all possible point-to-point links. The Communications and Navigation Analyser provide end-to-end communications or GNSS metrics based on the link budgets and constellation state. The Constellation Optimiser collects information from all upstream analysis modules for multi-objective optimisation utilizing genetic or AI algorithms. While the simulator is fully scriptable through a Python API, all simulation parameters are configurable through a web-based GUI with 3D visualization capabilities implemented in React.js.
The Community Building aspect is integral to the project's success. With everything public and documented, early outreach activities occur to developers and potential users. Identifying contributors early on and integrating them. This approach also enhances the commercialization case, focused on the product’s sustainability. By fostering a viable ecosystem, with established revenue streams granting access to the online hosted tool and targeted development contracts to meet specific mission needs. With free tiers for open-source, non-profit missions (evaluated case-by-case) to ensure community engagement that becomes contribution and usage proliferation.
Beginning from a high-level architecture perspective and for the project’s needs, the re-purposing of existing open-source modules/libraries/code in a novel way takes place. Additional development is taking place where needed. This is the most efficient way forward for the project way as it emphasizes community building, as well as fosters a strong upstream/downstream relation among projects. The architecture of this project envisions a modular hosted microservices system with a web-based user interface that can be hosted and served to the end users.
Phase 1: User Needs and Planning
1.0Survey of other tools, defining user needs, requirements and features.
2.0 Tool production assessment and validation costs (future hosting, distribution, promotion, and maintenance).
Milestone 1: Verification and acceptance of URR, FAR
Phase 2: Design and Development of the Simulator
3.0 Designing the Simulator Tool.
4.0 Software Development Plan Update.
Milestone 2: Verification and acceptance of SSR
5.0 User Guide and Video Tutorials Preparation.
Phase 2: Next Steps and Outreach
6.0 Community building.
Milestone 3: Verification and acceptance of the outputs and all deliverables (Final Review)
At this point, the first phase of the activity has been completed. This includes the survey and assessment of the existing simulator tools. An assessment of the User Needs and requirements as defined by the interviewees. A list of the Software Requirements for a Full version of the Simulator and a preliminary assessment of community creation, building and maintenance. Once Phase 1 is completed successfully, and upon approval by the Agency, the next steps take place, including the actual design and development of the simulation tool.