Matlab and Simulink headed for space station

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MathWorks has announced that Matlab and Simulink have been deployed to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Synchronised Position Hold Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) project.

SPHERES are bowling-ball-sized spherical satellites used inside the space station to test a set of well-defined instructions for spacecraft performing autonomous rendezvous and docking manoeuvres. The space station crew, on-ground engineers, and guest scientists plan to use SPHERES to study satellite servicing, vehicle assembly, and formation flying spacecraft configurations.

By using Matlab and Simulink, the team can test algorithms related to relative attitude control and station-keeping between satellites, retargeting and image plane filling manoeuvres, collision avoidance, and fuel-balancing algorithms.

Matlab will also help to render real-time, three-dimensional animation of the satellites during the experiment, allowing on-ground researchers to better visualise the on-going experiment and view it from any angle. Until now, the only visualisation available was a video from a fixed location.

'We are excited that NASA has qualified and deployed Matlab and Simulink to the space station,' said Jon Friedman, aerospace marketing manager, MathWorks. 'This deployment will help the NASA SPHERES team accelerate their work as more complex algorithms and tools can be developed in Matlab and Simulink and reused directly on the satellites.'