Sunday, April 03, 2005

DART from Nasa: Demonstration for Autonomous Rendezvous Technology

From a post on Slashdot, I found a reference to an experimental program at Nasa called "Demonstration for Autonomous Rendezvous Technology, or DART". This is a great example of autonomous decision-making by computer software. The Nasa site notes:
The Demonstration for Autonomous Rendezvous Technology, or DART, is a flight demonstrator vehicle designed to test technologies required to locate and rendezvous with other spacecraft. The DART mission is unique in that all of the operations will be autonomous - there will be no astronaut onboard at the controls, only computers programmed to perform functions. Developed by Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., the DART vehicle will be launched on a Pegasus rocket to test rendezvous, close proximity operations and its control
between the vehicle and a stationary satellite in orbit.

This is more of a robotics application than a software agent, but the basic concepts are still relevent. In truth, as difficult as orbital rendevous is, it is a relatively well-defined problem, whereas much of what we hope to achieve in the realm of software agents is to cope with very dynamic environments.

-- Jack Krupansky

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