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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Draper and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Announce New Partnership to Pursue Joint Science, Technology and Engineering Goals

CAMBRIDGE, MA – Draper and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) are announcing a new partnership that will leverage Draper’s expertise in spacecraft systems engineering, research and development with SAO’s deep sophistication in space science mission planning, space instrument execution and analysis. This new partnership will strengthen both organizations as they pursue new joint science and technology space programs.

“As space missions become more complex and costs grow exponentially, the number of mission opportunities is shrinking, making it difficult to sustain the space community’s industrial base,” said John West, a senior manager in human space exploration and operations at Draper. “By focusing on core strengths, we will each build and maintain superior leadership capability in our niche. Then, through strategic teaming with other leading organizations, we bring together the complete and robust set of capabilities to achieve brand new accomplishments and missions. That’s the idea behind the Draper-Smithsonian partnership.”

During the past decade, Draper and SAO have collaborated on a variety of successful space missions. Most recently, the two organizations developed a solar-wind sensing technology for NASA’s Parker Solar Probe spacecraft—the first mission that will fly into the sun’s upper atmosphere and “touch” the sun. The new partnership will enable strategic sharing of technology and closer collaboration in the definition and execution of new programs.

SAO’s Roger Brissenden, who is the Deputy Director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, added: “This partnership leverages SAO’s and Draper’s complementary skills and capacities, allowing us to pursue increasingly complex and challenging scientific programs. Through these programs, the SAO-Draper partnership will address some of the most exciting and important questions in astrophysics and space science today, and is poised to tackle those that emerge in the future.”

Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory is a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution. It is joined with the Harvard College Observatory to form the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). The CfA is organized into six research divisions, and with a staff of more than 300 research scientists, forms the largest astrophysical institution in the world. CfA scientists study the origin, content, evolution and ultimate fate of the universe over an extensive range of research areas. SAO operates telescopes or facilities in Arizona, Hawaii, and Massachusetts, as well as the space-based missions of Chandra, Hinode-XRT, and IRIS. SAO uses its extensive engineering capabilities, including thermal, mechanical, opto-mechanical, structural, systems, optical systems engineering, and optical systems assembly, integration and testing, to make important contributions to the development and application of instrumentation, technology and science operations for space missions.

Draper and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory have collaborated on a variety of successful space missions, most recently a solar-wind sensing technology for NASA’s Parker Solar Probe spacecraft.
Capabilities Used
Positioning, Navigation & Timing (PNT)

Draper develops novel PN&T solutions by combining precision instrumentation, advanced hardware technology, comprehensive algorithm and software development skills, and unique infrastructure and test resources to deploy system solutions. The scope of these efforts generally focuses on guidance, navigation, and control GN&C-related needs, ranging from highly accurate, inertial solutions for (ICBMs) and inertial/stellar solutions for SLBMs, to integrated Inertial Navigation System(INS)/GPS solutions for gun-fired munitions, to multisensor configurations for soldier navigation in GPS-challenged environments. Emerging technologies under development that leverage and advance commercial technology offerings include celestial navigation (compact star cameras), inertial navigation (MEMS, cold atom sensors), precision time transfer (precision optics, chip-scale atomic clocks) and vision-based navigation (cell phone cameras, combinatorial signal processing algorithms).

Autonomous Systems

Draper combines mission planning, PN&T, situational awareness, and novel GN&C designs to develop and deploy autonomous platforms for ground, air, sea and undersea needs. These systems range in complexity from human-in-the-loop to systems that operate without any human intervention. The design of these systems generally involves decomposing the mission needs into sets of scenarios that result in trade studies that lead to an optimized solution with key performance requirements.  Draper continues to advance the field of autonomy through research in the areas of mission planning, sensing and perception, mobility, learning, real-time performance evaluation and human trust in autonomous systems.

Precision Instrumentation

Draper develops precision instrumentation systems that exceed the state-of-the-art in key parameters (input range, accuracy, stability, bandwidth, ruggedness, etc.) that are designed specifically to operate in our sponsor’s most challenging environments (high shock, high temperature, radiation, etc.).  As a recognized leader in the development and application of precision instrumentation solutions for platforms ranging from missiles to people to micro-Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Draper finds or develops state-of-the-art components (gyros, accelerometers, magnetometers, precision clocks, optical systems, etc.) that meet the demanding size, weight, power and cost needs of our sponsors and applies extensive system design capabilities consisting of modeling, mechanical and electrical design, packaging and development-level testing to realize instrumentation solutions that meet these critical and demanding needs.

Fault-Tolerant Systems

Draper has developed mission-critical fault-tolerant systems for more than four decades. These systems are deployed in space, air, and undersea platforms that require extremely high reliability to accomplish challenging missions. These solutions incorporate robust hardware and software partitioning to achieve fault detection, identification and reconfiguration. Physical redundancy or multiple, identical designs protect against random hardware failures and employ rigor in evaluating differences in computed results to achieve exact consensus, even in the presence of faults. The latest designs leverage cost-effective, multicore commercial processors to implement software-based redundancy management systems in compact single-board layouts that perform the key timing, communication, synchronization and voting algorithm functions needed to maintain seamless operation after one, two or three arbitrary faults of individual components.

Materials Engineering & Microfabrication

Draper continues to develop its expertise in designing, characterizing and processing materials at the macro-, micro- and nanoscales. Understanding the physical properties and behaviors of materials at these various scales is vital to exploit them successfully in designing components or systems. This enables the development and integration of biomaterials, 3D printing and additive manufacturing, wafer fabrication, chemical and electrochemical materials and structural materials for application to system-level solutions required of government and commercial sponsors.

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