Thesis Defense: Investigating Shallow Neural Networks for Orbit Propagation Deployed on Spaceflight-like Hardware

Monday, September 25, 2023 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Announcing the Final Examination of Hunter Quebedeaux for the degree of Master of Science.

Orbit propagation is the backbone of many problems in the space domain, such as uncertainty quantification, trajectory optimization, and guidance, navigation, and control of on orbit vehicles. Many of these techniques can rely on millions of orbit propagations, slowing computation, especially evident on low-powered satellite hardware. Past research has relied on the use of lookup tables or data streaming to enable on orbit solutions. These solutions prove inaccurate or ineffective when communication is interrupted. In this work, we introduce the use of physics-informed neural networks (PINNs) for orbit propagation to achieve fast and accurate on-board solutions, accelerated by GPU hardware solutions now available in satellite hardware. Physics-informed neural networks leverage the governing equations of motion in network training,
allowing the network to optimize around the physical constraints of the system. This work leverages the use of unsupervised learning and introduces the concept of fundamental integrals of orbits to train PINNs to solve orbit problems with no knowledge of the true solution. Numerical experiments are conducted for both Earth orbits and cislunar space. The results show that the use of PINNs can decrease solution evaluation time by several order of magnitude while retaining accurate solutions to the perturbed two-body problem and the circular restricted three-body problem for deployment on spaceflight-like hardware. Implementation of these neural networks aim to reduce computational time to allow for real-time evaluation of complex algorithms on-board space vehicles.

Committee in Charge:
Tarek Elgohary, Chair, Mechanical And Aerospace Engineering
Tuhan Das, Associate Professor, CECS Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Alain Kassab, Professor, CECS Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

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