Spacecraft block scheduling for NASA’s deep space network

Timothy M. Hackett, Sven G. Bilén, Mark D. Johnston

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

5 Scopus citations


Currently, NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) is responsible for uplink to, downlink from, and/or tracking of dozens of missions for space agencies across the world. The DSN scheduling process starts about four months prior to the start of the schedule week, a process in which requirements are defined and then the schedule is created, de-conflicted, and negotiated over the next 2–3 weeks with a team of mission representatives. Now scheduled for late 2019, Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1) will deploy upwards of 12 SmallSat missions that will be served by the DSN. This will increase the DSN’s actively serviced spacecraft by up to 30%, further increasing the difficulty of meeting all mission needs via the oversubscribed network. To mitigate their impact on DSN scheduling, a block scheduling process is proposed for scheduling the SmallSats. Block scheduling consists of aggregating spacecraft together into larger “pseudo-spacecraft” based on geometric alignment that then follow the same process as any other DSN mission to receive segments of track time. These tracks are then decomposed into tracks for individual users based on their specific requirements. This paper describes a full novel scheduling toolset for building candidate blocks, evaluating the efficacy of these blocks, and optimal and suboptimal de-blocking schemes. To demonstrate these developed tools, results from three simulations are presented: a blocking example with lunar SmallSats, blocking potential in the greater DSN spacecraft catalog, and opportunistic multiple spacecraft per aperture potential for the DSN spacecraft catalog. Block scheduling has the potential to reduce overhead and scheduling resources for the EM-1 SmallSats while also providing them with a better means to meet their mission requirements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication15th International Conference on Space Operations, 2018
PublisherAmerican Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc, AIAA
ISBN (Print)9781624105623
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018
Event15th International Conference on Space Operations, SpaceOps 2018 - Marseille, France
Duration: May 28 2018Jun 1 2018

Publication series

Name15th International Conference on Space Operations, 2018


Conference15th International Conference on Space Operations, SpaceOps 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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