NASA funds K-State computer science lab director’s research

Published: Oct. 24, 2020 at 3:01 PM CDT
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MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) - NASA is funding the research of computer science lab director Arslan Munir for space research at Kansas State University.

Kansas State University says optimization of trajectories for spacecraft employing solar electric propulsion needs the solution of a nonlinear, nonconvex mathematical programming problem. NASA has awarded $750,000 toward a joint project involving researchers at Wichita State University, Kansas State University and the University of Kansas.

According to K-State, investigative lead for “Artificial Intelligence-Assisted Spacecraft Trajectory Optimization and Planning” at the university is Arslan Munir, assistant professor, Michelle Munson-Serban Simy Keystone research faculty scholar and founding director of the Intelligent Systems, Computer Architecture, Analytics and Security Laboratory in the computer science department of the Carl R. Ice College of Engineering.

K-State said the project focuses on developing a new, machine learning assisted optimization tool for on-ground mission design. It said the automated, fast and robust nature of the methodologies makes the tool suitable for onboard implementation too.

“The plan is to develop various innovative concepts such as using dynamical coordinates in trajectory optimization, a modified-state observer to estimate unmodeled acceleration and use of an artificial neural network for adaptive tuning of planning variables,” Munir said.

According to K-State, the research will directly benefit space mission design by incorporating machine learning to reduce the sub-optimality of trajectories computed in a fast and robust manner and to see unmodeled space environmental effects.

“Considering the increasing significance of space research in recent years,” Munir said, “this project will help enable K-State to make significant contributions to a challenging problem of spacecraft trajectory optimization that is paramount for planetary exploration missions.”

“It will also increase the recognition and leadership of Kansas State University in space research and will be a step forward in the direction of attaining both university and College of Engineering 2025 goals,” Munir said.

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