Dr Stuart Grey

My PhD Thesis - "Distributed Agents for Autonomous Spacecraft"

Jan 8, 2013

If you are at all interested here is a link to my PhD thesis. It’s full title is “Distributed Agents for Autonomous Spacecraft”. The research was carried out at the University of Glasgow in the Department of Aerospace Engineering from 2008-2011 and the thesis was defended in the summer of 2012.


Space missions have evolved considerably in the last fifty years in both complexity and ambition. In order to enable this continued improvement in the scientific and commercial return of space missions new control systems are needed that can manage complex combinations of state of the art hardware with a minimum of human interaction.

Distributed multi-agent systems are one approach to controlling complex multisatellite space missions. A distributed system is not enough on its own however, the spacecraft must be able to carry out complex tasks such as planning, negotiation and close proximity formation flying autonomously. It is the coupling of distributed control with autonomy that is the focus of this thesis. Three contributions to the state of the art are described herein. They all involve the innovative use of multi-agent systems in space missions. The first is the development of a multi-agent architecture, HASA, specifically for space missions. The second is to use embedded agents to autonomously control an interferometric type space telescope. The third is based on software agents that coordinate multiple Earth observation missions coupled with a global optimisation technique for data extraction.

The HASA architecture was developed in reaction to the over generality of most multi-agent architectures in the computer science and robotics literature and the ad-hoc, case-by-case approach, to multi-agent architectures when developed and deployed for space missions. The HASA architecture has a recursive nature which allows for the multi-agent system to be completely described throughout its development process as the design evolves and more sub-systems are implemented. It also inherits a focus on the robust generation of a product and safe operation from architectures in use in the manufacturing industry.

A multi-agent system was designed using the HASA architecture for an interferometric space telescope type mission. This type of mission puts high requirements on formation flying and cooperation between agents. The formation flying agents were then implemented using a Java framework and tested on a multi-platform distributed simulation suite developed especially for this thesis. Three different control methods were incorporated into the agents and the multi-agent system was shown to be able to acquire and change formation and avoid collisions autonomously.

A second multi-agent system was designed for the GMES mission in collaboration with GMV, the industrial partner in this project. This basic MAS design was transferred to the HASA architecture. A novel image selection algorithm was developed to work alongside the GMES multi-agent system. This algorithm uses global optimisation techniques to suggest image parameters to users based on the output of the multi-agent system.

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A History of Space Debris - Public Lecture at the Wolf Humanities Center at the University of Pennsylvania Mar 27, 2019

Young Weir-Wise 2019 Jan 29, 2019

Strathclyde Headstart 2018 Jun 27, 2018

Engineering the Future for Girls 2018 Jun 18, 2018

VR Space Debris for the Scottish Space School 2018 Jun 12, 2018

Strathclyde Teaching Excellence Awards 2018 May 11, 2018

Fast solar radiation pressure modelling with ray tracing and multiple reflections May 1, 2018

Reflecting Space Symposium Feb 2, 2018

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Autonomous orbit determination for formations of cubesats beyond LEO Jan 1, 2018

Angles-only navigation of a formation in the proximity of a binary system Jan 1, 2018

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2,000,000 YouTube Views! Aug 5, 2017

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Scottish Space School VR Space Debris Workshops Jun 14, 2017

Space Debris Workshops for P6/7 students at SmartSTEMS Jun 7, 2017

Autonomous orbit determination and navigation for formations of CubeSats beyond LEO Jun 1, 2017

Autonomous navigation of a formation of spacecraft in the proximity of a binary asteroid Jun 1, 2017

Sunlight illumination models for spacecraft surface charging May 1, 2017

Deformation of Space Debris due to Solar and Earth Radiation Fluxes - 7th European Conference on Space Debris 2017 Presentation Apr 17, 2017

Deformation of space debris and subsequent changes in orbit during eclipse due to solar and earth radiation fluxes Apr 1, 2017

Contributing to the 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial 22 October – 20 November 2016 Oct 9, 2016

Contributing to Natures Weirdest Events - Series 5, Episode 1, BBC2 Sep 29, 2016

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Video: Watch this Space - Episode 1 Jun 11, 2016

Space Debris Wallpapers - May 2016 Jun 6, 2016

Talking Space Debris with BBC Radio Bristol Jun 1, 2016

Modelling spacecraft illumination and the effect of specular, diffuse and multiple reflection on photoelectron emission Apr 1, 2016

Space debris talk at the Royal Institution Mar 11, 2016

Launch of the UCL Aerospace Engineering Minor Jan 20, 2016

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Video: Space Debris 1957-2015 Dec 22, 2015

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Future London 2015 Nov 5, 2015

Spark Festival 2015 Aug 31, 2015

St Pauls Way Science Summer School 2015 Aug 26, 2015

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2015 Student Choice Teaching Awards Nomination May 7, 2015

Aviation Xtended interview on my space debris research and new aerospace course at UCL Mar 6, 2015

NT12–230 Discrimination via Extremely High Accuracy Trajectory Modelling Mar 1, 2015

My appearance on episode 1 of "Keeping it Civil", the new podcast from CEGE at UCL Feb 11, 2015

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AIAA/AAS Astrodynamics Specialist Conference 2014 Presentation: Developments in High Fidelity Surface Force Models and their Relative Effects on Orbit Prediction Aug 4, 2014

Non-conservative torque and attitude modelling for enhanced space situational awareness Aug 1, 2014

Geomagnetic Lorentz force modeling for orbit prediction- methods and initial results Aug 1, 2014

Developments in high fidelity surface force models and their relative effects on orbit prediction Aug 1, 2014

2014 "How to Change the World" Course Jul 10, 2014

Spacecraft Charging Technology Conference 2014 Presentation: High Fidelity Modelling of the Photoelectric Effect on Spacecraft Jun 28, 2014

2014 Student Choice Teaching Awards Nomination Apr 30, 2014

My PhD Thesis - "Distributed Agents for Autonomous Spacecraft" Jan 8, 2013

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