Revolutionising space travel: using AI & ML for Edge Flight Monitoring in reusable, eco-friendly space rockets

Sending a rocket into space is tricky, right? Well, yes and no. 

If you’re a rocket scientist, combining liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen to generate thrust to propel a rocket may seem deceptively straightforward. However, the extreme conditions generated and where they operate dictate the need for precise and robust controls. This is challenging to overcome. Amongst the most critical tasks is ensuring that engine system faults are detected quickly and reliably.

This sounds complex, and truthfully, it is! Thankfully, the power behind machine learning and AI is changing how this is done.

Merging AI and machine learning with space travel

The minds behind Proekspert’s Data Science team, comprised of Alfonso García-Sosa, Karl Kaspar Haavel, Henry Ginter, and Laura Päeske, are implementing Transformer Autoencoder anomaly detection and classifications on dozens of complex sensors required, including:

  • engine valves, 
  • combustion chambers, 
  • pumps,  
  • turbines, 
  • temperature, 
  • pressure, 
  • rotational speed, and 
  • positional data.

The Engine Health Monitoring System developed by Proekspert makes it possible to follow and detect faults before they transpire and within fractions of seconds on the edge chip, a device on-board the space rocket. 

Such a monitoring system makes diagnosing and reconfiguring engine parameters easier during flight and postflight analysis. Thus, return on investment is created by faster, more reliable, and cheaper control of flights, complete use of fuel tanks, readjustment of pressure and vibrations, as well as the redesign of rockets for reusability and more efficient and cleaner fuels.

This framework methodology is advantageous for rockets and anything that feeds sensor data and needs to know if it has a fault and where it is located. 

It is a general solution that can be used in: 

  • predictive maintenance (monitoring equipment, condition-based maintenance), 
  • fraud detection (monitoring transactions), 
  • healthcare monitoring (tracking patient data), 
  • energy consumption (tracking for unusual spikes or changes in normality), 
  • network security (monitoring unique traffic patterns), and 
  • quality assurance (monitoring for defects), amongst others.

What is the ENLIGHTEN project?

The European iNitiative for Low cost, Innovative & Green High Thrust ENgine project is a program to advance the trial of cutting-edge production and deployment technologies for reusable rocket engines.

The ENLIGHTEN project and network allows Proekspert AS to continue to apply its advanced technology to the fast-developing space industry with trusted partners. The technology derived is of vital use to machine- and industrial health diagnostics and monitoring.

Alfonso Garcia-Sosa, Data Scientist – Tech Lead at Proekspert

The Enlighten consortium, headed by ArianeGroup, comprises 18 partners from eight countries: Austria, Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Portugal. It consists of industrial firms (ArianeGroup GmbH, Avio S.p.A., APP, ADIRA Metal Forming Solutions), research institutes and universities (DLR, Fraunhofer, IREPA, KU Leuven, Onera, Silicon Austria Labs), as well as SMEs and start-ups (Aiko, Areelis, AZO, Edgise, Erneo, Laser Cladding Venture, Proekspert).

Who are the ArianeGroup?

ArianeGroup emerged from a joint vision of Airbus and Safran to elevate the European space sector to new heights. Equally held by both entities, it integrates their collective civil and military space launcher activities and expertise into one unified organization.

In July 2022, the ArianeGroup was selected by the European Commission to carry out the Enlighten project, which was given a budget of €17.4 million under Horizon Europe, its framework research program.

Enlighten aims to develop and test advanced production and implementation technologies for reusable rocket engines, following the Prometheus® program. It will reinforce the new propulsion system initiatives ESA has awarded ArianeGroup to create a family of reusable, high-power engines fuelled by bio-methane or green hydrogen.

Tech Tomorrow

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