Planning in Interplanetary Space: Theory and Practice

Ari K. Jónsson, Paul H. Morris, Nicola Muscettola, Kanna Rajan, and Ben Smith

On May 17th 1999, NASA activated for the first time an AI-based planner/scheduler running on the flight processor of a spacecraft. This was part of the Remote Agent Experiment (RAX), a demonstration of closed-loop planning and execution, and model-based state inference and failure recovery. This paper describes the RAX Planner/Scheduler (RAX-PS), both in terms of the underlying planning framework and in terms of the fielded planner. RAX-PS plans are networks of constraints, built incrementally by consulting a model of the dynamics of the spacecraft. The RAX-PS planning procedure is formally well defined and can be proved to be complete. RAX-PS generates plans that are temporally exible, allowing the execution system to adjust to actual plan execution conditions without breaking the plan. The practical aspect, developing a mission critical application, required paying attention to important engineering issues such as the design of methods for programmable search control, knowledge acquisition and planner validation. The result was a system capable of building concurrent plans with over a hundred tasks within the performance requirements of operational, mission-critical software.

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