Kansas State U professor is lead investigator of NASA spacecraft project

Arslan-Munir assistant professor at Kansas State University is the lead investigator at his institution, of a NASA funded project to optimize the trajectory of human-tended lunar orbiting platforms. Photo: K-state.edu

Arslan Munir, assistant professor at Kansas State University, is the investigative lead at his institution, for a NASA project on how to optimize the trajectory of a spacecraft, which is a critical aspect of space mission analysis.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has awarded $750,000 toward a joint project involving researchers at Wichita State University, Kansas State University and the University of Kansas, a press release from K-State said.

NASA has been increasingly interested in applying machine-learning algorithms to improve the performance of human-tended lunar orbiting platform for crews to travel from earth and  transit to and from the moon’s surface, and to depart to and return from Mars.

It plans to do this by improving the trajectory optimization solvers in preparation for these human-tended orbiting platforms.

Munir is the Investigative lead for “Artificial Intelligence-Assisted Spacecraft Trajectory Optimization and Planning” at Kansas State University. He is the Michelle Munson-Serban Simu Keystone research faculty scholar and founding director of the Intelligent Systems, Computer Architecture, Analytics and Security Laboratory in the computer science department at the Carl R. Ice College of Engineering.

“The plan is to develop various innovative concepts such as using dynamical coordinates in trajectory optimization, a modified-state observer to estimate unmodeled acceleration and use of an artificial neural network for adaptive tuning of planning variables,” Munir is quoted saying in the K-State press release.

The proposed research is expected to directly benefit space mission design by incorporating machine learning to increase the optimality of trajectories computed at high speed, and to capture unmodeled space environmental effects, the press release said.

“Considering the increasing significance of space research in recent years,” Munir said, “this project will help enable K-State to make significant contributions to a challenging problem of spacecraft trajectory optimization that is paramount for planetary exploration missions.

“It will also increase the recognition and leadership of Kansas State University in space research and will be a step forward in the direction of attaining both university and College of Engineering 2025 goals.”

Munir was a postdoctoral research associate in the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) department at Rice University, Houston, Texas, from May 2012 to June 2014. He received his M.A.Sc. in ECE from the University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver, Canada, in 2007 and his Ph.D. in ECE from the University of Florida (UF), Gainesville, Florida, USA, in 2012.

He also worked as a visiting graduate research student at the University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada for one semester during his Ph.D. From 2007 to 2008, he worked as a software development engineer at Mentor Graphics in the Embedded Systems Division. He also worked as a software engineer at Techlogix Limited in 2007.




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