Ascending Node Technologies: An Interactive Visualization Tool for Space Mission Planning

Sanford Selznick, Chief Software Architect and Co-Founder, Carl Hergenrother, Chief Scientist and Co-Founder and John Kidd, Chief Aerospace Engineer and Co-Founder , Ascending Node TechnologiesSanford Selznick, Chief Software Architect and Co-Founder, Carl Hergenrother, Chief Scientist and Co-Founder and John Kidd, Chief Aerospace Engineer and Co-Founder
As tech giants fund advancements to commercialize space, the industry must learn to play by new rules. However, when it comes to space mission planning, specialists equipped with old-school tools are burdened by a lack of interconnectivity, arduous manual setup, and cumbersome maintenance processes that take months to apply and integrate the simplest of updates. With these difficulties, mission designers and operators are continuously challenged as they try to collaborate with their teams and share their latest ideas.

Ascending Node Technologies addresses these complexities with its innovative space mission planning and simulation tool, Spaceline®. The web-based application enhances and streamlines cumbersome mission planning processes by providing real-time demonstrations and simulations to the many teams that create and operate a mission, whether they are spacecraft mission designers or operators. Moreover, Spaceline is a server-based tool that automatically pushes updates to all participating entities.

“Spaceline is a web-based application that creates 3D, interactive visualizations of a space mission right in the browser,” explains John Kidd, co-founder and chief aerospace engineer, Ascending Node Technologies.
The founders of Ascending Node Technologies started developing Spaceline after their experience on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, which was designed to collect samples from the near-earth asteroid Bennu. To handle data from more than ten instruments, six engineering teams, and 12 science working groups in near realtime, a cohesive architecture and design pattern were necessary. In addition, this data required structuring inputs and outputs from more than 100 automated calibrations, validation, and analysis tasks. The final system demonstrated its adaptability during the many surprises encountered during the mission but was hard wired only to support OSIRIS-REx. Spaceline is the culmination of the lessons learned from the collaborative effort during OSIRISREx—providing a simple online service for any space mission where all participants can share their ideas and expertise.

The Spaceline ecosystem is built upon a solid foundation that organizes and manages SPICE kernels from NASA’s Navigation and Ancillary Information Facility (NAIF)—the highly nuanced system necessary to fly a spacecraft in deep space. The tool also allows users to load and leverage kernels to ‘draw lines in space,’ through relevant spacecraft trajectory and attitude data, simplifying the intricate data to present a clear and accurate visualization of a flight profile.
  • Spaceline is a web-based application that creates 3D, interactive visualizations of a space mission right in the browser


“If you can fly a spacecraft with it, you’d better be able to render it on a computer screen. And that’s what we do,” says Sanford Selznick, co-founder and chief software architect at Ascending Node Technologies.

With a simple link, Spaceline shares visualized plans across all space mission teams for easy comparison, review, and feedback. It also generates synthetic scientific mission data to help fasttrack calibration and validation pipelines while maintaining the essential provenance necessary for any mission and allowing all team members to maintain configuration-managed inputs easily.

Mission designers can acquire their Spaceline server from Ascending Node Technologies by providing a few details about their mission and its complexity. Additionally, Spaceline can be configured to enable seamless compliance with the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) or Export Administration Regulations (EAR). Based on these competencies, NASA has awarded Ascending Node Technologies Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) phase II awards to support Spaceline’s future features, like observation planning for various astronomical phenomena.

In the future, users can develop an observation plan directly within Spaceline without needing external tools. Above all, the company seeks to become the go-to for reliable mission planning and design support for the space exploration community.
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Company
Ascending Node Technologies

Headquarters
Tucson, AZ

Management
Sanford Selznick, Chief Software Architect and Co-Founder, Carl Hergenrother, Chief Scientist and Co-Founder and John Kidd, Chief Aerospace Engineer and Co-Founder

Description
Ascending Node Technologies develops solutions to allow spacecraft mission designers and operators to work better together through their flagship product Spaceline, which is supported by several NASA SBIR Phase II awards. This web-based application creates 3D, interactive visualizations and simulations that can be shared across teams for easy collaboration and review

Ascending Node Technologies