Autonomy in Space: Current Capabilities and Future Challenge

  • Ari Jonsson
  • Robert A. Morris
  • Liam Pedersen


This article provides an overview of the nature and role of autonomy for space exploration, with a bias in focus towards describing the relevance of AI technologies. It explores the range of autonomous behavior that is relevant and useful in space exploration and illustrates the range of possible behaviors by presenting four case studies in space-exploration systems, each differing from the others in the degree of autonomy exemplified. Three core requirements are defined for autonomous space systems, and the architectures for integrating capabilities into an autonomous system are described. The article concludes with a discussion of the challenges that are faced currently in developing and deploying autonomy technologies for space.