May 2nd & 3rd, 2018

Hosted By

Southwest Research Institute: Space Instrumentation Division

San Antonio, Texas

You are invited to attend the 22nd Annual Improving Space Operations Workshop, jointly sponsored by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), Space Operations & Support Technical Committee (SOSTC), the SpaceOps organization and Southwest Research Institute (SwRI).This year's workshop will be held on May 2nd & 3rd, 2018 at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, TX and hosted by Prachet Mokashi.

The workshop is a primary means by which the SOSTC achieves its objectives:

  • Investigate the development, implementation, and operation of systems that support space related activities.
  • Focus on operations technologies associated with space operations infrastructure, including the internet and other commercial technologies.
  • Develop positions on operational issues needing AIAA input from a cross section of member expertise.
  • Identify approaches and standards for making operations more affordable, more flexible, more productive, and safer.

As in past years, the emphasis will be on small groups working to advance the level of understanding in several technical areas relevant to space operations. For any questions, please contact

Call for Presentations

Presentations (no paper required) are solicited in each of the four tracks of the workshop. The presentation should be of an educational or problem solving nature involving exchange of ideas and not a product or service advertisement. Please do not include any export controlled information in abstracts or presentations.

Important Dates

Registration and Abstract Submission Opens Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Abstract Submission Deadline Wednesday, March, 7, 2018
Selection Notification Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Attendance Registration Deadline Wednesday, April 18, 2018
Final Presentation Submission Deadline Friday, April 20, 2018

Workshop Format and Track Descriptions

On each day of the workshop, a plenary session will be followed by two tracks running in parallel. A networking reception will be held at the conclusion of track proceedings on the first day. Breakfast and lunch will be provided on both days. Export controlled information should not be presented at this workshop.

The four tracks are described here. Please contact the track leads with any track specific questions.

Track 1: Mission Planning and Operations Systems

Leads: Ray Harvey & Prachet Mokashi

At the heart of every space mission is an operations system that enables the mission from planning stages to execution. Mission planning and operations systems are responsible for obtaining highly valuable data from space while keeping the spacecraft safe. These systems range from grudgingly manual to highly automated; cheap to very expensive; for missions ranging from simple to extremely complex. The type and cost of mission typically drive the type of operations system. For example, the operations system for a Hubble Class or a NASA flagship mission will be quite different than one required to handle hundreds or thousands of communication satellites for the planned SpaceX and OneWeb missions. These systems should be able to handle an extreme number of data collection events and other activities, be highly automated and support numerous users. On the other end of the spectrum may be simpler manual system required for a single earth orbiting CubeSat mission that makes routine measurements while solar arrays face the Sun and the instruments are nadir pointed. And an operations system for a crew carrying mission would be significantly different from others. We invite presentations on all mission planning and operations system topics including:

  • Mission planning and scheduling systems
  • Ground system architecture
  • Payload operations
  • Data management and distribution
  • Situational awareness tools and displays
  • Small satellite operations centers
  • Constellation management

Track 2: Orbital Debris Tracking and Remediation

Leads: Christopher Simpson & Dave Finkleman

Orbital debris is an increasing risk to safe operation of satellites in space. Companies including SpaceX, Boeing, and OneWeb plan on launching thousands of satellites over the next five to six years. SpaceX’s plan alone to launch 4,500 satellites is more than the total number of satellites currently orbiting the Earth, non-functioning or functioning. Small spacecraft, including CubeSats and SmallSats, are expected to become common as access to space becomes easier for universities and private companies. Events such as the Iridium-Cosmos collision in 2009 are much more likely to occur in this already crowded environment. That event alone created hundreds of thousands pieces of debris 1-centimeter or larger. A collision with a 1-centimeter size object could prove fatal to an active satellite. All papers are welcome but discussions about increasing space situational awareness, and orbital debris removal and disposal are particularly solicited. Areas of interest include but are not limited to:

Space Situational Awareness
  • Detection, tracking, and characterization
  • Conjunction analysis
Mitigation: Practices and Technologies
  • Impacts and shielding
  • Debris disposal and remediation
  • De-orbit technologies

Track 3: End-of-Mission Operations and Lessons Learned

Leads: Larry Bryant & Ron Freeman

End-Of-Mission operations encompass a gamut of potential events. They range from a controlled reentry to placement of the satellite in a permanent stable orbit to letting nature take its course in a possibly uncontrolled and indeterminate reentry with potential for disaster. Ideally, a controlled reentry or a permanent and safe orbit would be the preferable solution, but there may be other desirable options. Additionally, planetary missions face their own challenges in ending science missions such as satisfying planetary protection criteria and maximizing the data return during these unique end-of-mission events, as experienced by recently ended Cassini and Rosetta missions.

We are inviting papers which describe activities that have been successful, those that have not and the lessons learned from each. We are also inviting papers introducing new concepts that lead to less clutter in the sky above or around the other planets we explore. Topics include:

  • Satellite disposal policies and guidelines
  • New, non-propulsive, techniques for controlled re-entry
  • Capturing the last bit of data until the bitter end
  • Impacting moons and small bodies
  • Stable and graveyard orbits

Track 4: Satellite Servicing and Life Extension

Leads: Jeremy Jacobsohn & Pier Roviera & Justin Brannan

The satellite servicing era truly began in 1993 with the Shuttle mission that installed optical correction in the Hubble Space Telescope's primary imaging system, effectively saving the mission. That instrument's life has been extended multiple times, with the fifth and (probably) final servicing in 2009. Servicing can include replenishment of consumables, replacement of failed or degraded hardware, and installation of entire new capabilities to an existing platform in space. These are familiar activities on the International Space Station, yet servicing remains a rare and expensive activity overall. Advances in design for servicing, servicing hardware, and tele-operations capabilities all point to potential for increased activity in the near future. There are multiple projects underway that will blaze the trail.

This track will explore multiple aspects of satellite servicing, emphasizing mission design and operational aspects over spacecraft engineering. We solicit presentations and guided discussions on topics to include:

  • Historical, current and planned servicing missions
  • Operational aspects of rendezvous, docking and servicing including dynamical interaction and tele-robotics
  • Business cases and regulatory environment for servicing and life extension projects
  • Future application to on-orbit assembly and fueling

Accommodation and Transportion

A block of rooms has been reserved for the nights of May 1st, 2nd, and 3rd at the hotels listed below.

$129 / night

  • 204 Alamo Plaza
  • San Antonio, TX 78205
  • 210-233-4361
  • Group Rate Deadline: Apr 1
  • Group Code: 050118SPACEOP
  • Historic hotel in downtown San Antonio.
  • Approximately 25 minute drive to SwRI campus.
Direct Group Booking

$99 / night

  • 11605 State Highway 151
  • San Antonio, TX 78251
  • 210-509-3700
  • Group Rate Deadline: Apr 17
  • Approximately 12 minute drive to the SwRI campus.
Direct Group Booking

There are numerous other hotels in downtown San Antonio and in the general location of the institute, including several under the government lodging rate. If you are unable to secure a reservation, please contact

There are no convenient public transportation options between the hotels and SwRI, so reserving a rental car, using a taxi, or availing a ride share service will be necessary.


The 22nd Annual Improving Space Operations Workshop will be held in building 263 at Southwest Research Institue in San Antonio, Texas.

6220 Culebra Rd
San Antonio, Texas 78238