Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Analytics for Advanced Autonomous Space Systems

From Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

The challenge is to apply artificial intelligence and big data analytics to bring tangible advancements in the operation and utilization of space assets in support of government operations, public safety, public health and discovery.

Sponsoring Department: Canadian Space Agency

Funding Mechanism: Contract

Opening date: February 19, 2018
Closing date: April 11, 2018, 14:00 Eastern Daylight Time (EDT)

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Challenge

Problem statement

While space operations environments, including those in Government of Canada, continue to incrementally automate data processing and analysis pipelines, this automation tends to be focused within missions. There has been little advancement in merging large and diffuse datasets, despite the ongoing growth of open data archives across the globe. Such datasets are no doubt complementary but new methods – leveraging recent advancements in artificial intelligence and big data analytics - are needed to take advantage of and draw new meaning from the data from multiple space, airborne and ground platforms.

Benefits of such large-scale analysis include:

  • Improved coordination and efficiency of planning of spacecraft tasking;
  • Improved identification of anomalies, hazards or performance degradation over time;
  • Innovative autonomous detection and learning of subtle phenomenon not easily observed or expected by studying data in isolation.

The challenge is to apply artificial intelligence and big data analytics to bring tangible advancements in the operation and utilization of space assets in support of government operations, public safety, public health and discovery. Mining of long-term telemetry archives can lead to enhanced operations of space assets. In space exploration, recombination of data from a variety of sensors observing space and other celestial bodies could lead to new discoveries and new lines of inquiry into the universe. Terrestrially, these methods could enable autonomous prediction of natural or man-made disasters and lead to transition from reactionary imaging in response to crises to new services in predicting and preventing disasters (including fires, floods, disease outbreak, space weather events, etc.).

Desired outcomes & considerations

The potential benefits of applying artificial intelligence and big data analytics to large and heterogeneous space data sets include:

  • Improved coordination and efficiency in task planning, for example, to minimize redundancy between disparate missions imaging the same targets (which can even cause interference in the case of active sensing);
  • Improved identification of and recovery from anomalies, hazards or performance degradation by discovering new information in mission telemetry. Such discovery could lead to new techniques/calibration and to maintain/improve performance and extend mission duration. In the case of the International Space Station (ISS), this could include taking advantage of its many cameras to draw knowledge on the state of the ISS structure over time and/or insights into the surrounding environment and potential shielding strategies;
  • Learning subtle new phenomenon to enable autonomous prediction of natural or man-made disasters, which could allow Earth observation platforms to transition from reactionary imaging in response to crises to new services in predicting and preventing disasters, (including fires, floods, disease outbreak, space weather events, etc.);
  • Enhancing space exploration by combining data and applying relevant new techniques to the datasets from the variety of telescopes and sensors looking into space, or observing other celestial bodies, to contribute to new discoveries and an improved understanding of processes relevant to space exploration or astronomy;
  • Other discoveries not envisioned above, but enabled by applying new techniques to the wealth and depth of available space-based data.

Background & context

Space platforms are becoming increasingly popular, with several private companies announcing new satellite constellations/platforms to provide a multitude of services on Earth and far beyond. With lower cost, higher productivity and increasing autonomy of such space assets, the space operations community will soon be dealing with a multitude of missions becoming operational and an exponential increase in the amount of data available to be processed, analyzed and turned into operational products.

Beyond the large telemetry archives typically available within space operations data centres, commonly accessible archives of potentially relevant data include:

  • Government of Canada Open Data Portal;
  • National Earth Observation Data Framework Catalogue (NEODF);
  • NASA Open Data Portal;
  • Canadian Astronomy Data Centre (CADC);
  • Minor Planet Centre;
  • USGS Landsat Global Archive;
  • Copernicus Open Access Hub.

It is believed that new methods based on recent advancements in artificial intelligence and big data analytics can be applied to directly support the Canadian Space Agency in managing its space asset fleet and yield far-reaching potential in improving public safety, public health and discovery.

This initiative is aligned with the Government of Canada's Open Data Policy, which is challenging for space data, given data policy factors such as security and commercial sensitivity for some subsets of the data. Segregating the data to ensure compliance with all applicable data policy factors would also need to be addressed as part of the work.

Please refer to the tender notice for this challenge on Buy and Sell.

Maximum value and travel

Maximum contract value

Multiple contracts can result from this Challenge.

The maximum funding available for any Phase 1 Contract resulting from this Challenge is $150,000.00 CAD (plus tax) including shipping, travel and living expenses, as applicable.

The maximum funding available for any Phase 2 Contract resulting from this Challenge is $1,000,000 CAD (plus tax) including shipping, travel and living expenses, as applicable. Only eligible businesses that have completed Phase 1 could be considered for Phase 2.

This disclosure is made in good faith and does not commit Canada to contract for the total approximate funding.

Travel: For Phase 1 it is anticipated that three meetings will require the successful bidder(s) to travel to the location identified below:

Kick-off meeting
CSA
St-Hubert, Québec

Progress Review Meeting
Teleconference/videoconference

Final Review Meeting
CSA
St-Hubert, Québec

Eligibility

Solution proposals can only be submitted by a small business that meets all of the following criteria:

  • for profit
  • incorporated in Canada (federally or provincially)
  • 499 or fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) employeesFootnote *
  • research and development activities that take place in Canada
  • 50% or more of its annual wages, salaries and fees are currently paid to employees and contractors who spend the majority of their time working in CanadaFootnote *
  • 50% or more of its FTE employees have Canada as their ordinary place of workFootnote *
  • 50% or more of its senior executives (Vice President and above) have Canada as their principal residenceFootnote *

Application guide

All federal departments and agencies that issue ISC challenges, regardless of whether they use a grant or a contract as the financial instrument to support research and development (R&D) in Phases 1 and 2, will assess proposals and bids from small businesses based on standard questions. The online application and bid submission system will contain these standard questions and provide guidance on the length of responses.

Assessment process

Once a complete application or bid is submitted, it will be sent to the department and agency that issued the challenge as well as to the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) for assessment. It is the prerogative of the challenge sponsoring department or agency to decide which businesses will receive funding for Phase 1. All businesses that submit an application or bid will receive feedback.

In advance of accepting applications and bids from eligible businesses, the following is meant to provide guidance to businesses on what could be asked as part of the application and bid submission process. The information below may be used to evaluate proposals and is subject to change.

Innovation

  • Please be prepared to identify the starting technology readiness level (TRL) of the solution and the anticipated TRL at the completion of Phase 1. Reminder, Phase 1 is meant for solutions in the TRL range from 1 to 4.
  • Be prepared to describe the novelty of your solution and how it advances the state-of-the-art over existing technologies, including competing solutions. Include in your description the scientific and technological basis upon which your solution is proposed.
  • Be prepared to identify what are the key scientific and technical risks facing your solution and how those risks would be addressed in Phase 1.

Benefits to Canada

  • Please be prepared to provide a brief description of your proposed solution and how it addresses the problem identified by the department or agency that issued the challenge statement.
  • Be prepared to describe the benefits to Canada that could result from the successful development of your solution, with a focus on three types of benefits: Economic Benefits, Innovation Benefits, Public Benefits.

Economic Benefits: Consider the proposed solution's potential impact on the growth of your firm but other firms in Canada more broadly. This could include the development of new clusters and supply chains. Consideration should be given to the number of jobs created, number of high-paying jobs, project-related revenue growth, etc.

Innovation Benefits: Consider the proposed solution's expected contribution towards the enhancement or development of new industrial or technological innovation within your firm. For example, potential spillover benefits, creation of intellectual property, impact on productivity of the new technology, etc.

Public Benefits: Consider the proposed solution's expected contribution to the broader Canadian public, including but not limited to inclusive business and hiring practices (e.g., gender balance), investment in skills and training and the environment.

Management and technological capability

  • Please be prepared to identify the work plan for Phase 1 including key milestones and activities anticipated, the total time foreseen to complete Phase 1 (not more than 6 months), resources required to complete the project and the key success criteria.
  • Be prepared to identify the potential project risks (e.g., financial, project management, human resources, etc.) to the successful development of the solution and how those risks would be managed in Phase 1.
  • Be prepared to provide a brief description of the project implementation team including specific members, partners, their roles and responsibilities, and how their expertise is relevant to the project. The team members must include a Project lead.
  • Be prepared to describe what your business is doing to encourage greater inclusivity in its innovation activities. One of the objectives of the program is to encourage greater participation of under-represented groups (e.g., women, Indigenous people, youth, persons with disabilities, visible minorities) in the innovation economy.

Financial capability

  • Please be prepared to provide a financial proposal for R&D in Phase 1. Be sure to check the details of each challenge posting which will indicate the maximum funding available for Phase 1 as well as any eligible or ineligible costs.
  • In addition, please be prepared to provide information on funding received from other orders of government (i.e., federal, provincial and municipal) for the same work being proposed in your application or submission.
  • Please be prepared to describe the financial controls and oversight that your business has in place to manage public funds if selected to proceed into Phase 1.

Commercialization

  • Please be prepared to describe how you envision the commercialization of your solution and how potential risks or barriers to further commercialization would be mitigated.

Application guide

Questions and answers

Please visit Buy and Sell for all Questions and Answers related to this challenge.

Please visit Buy and Sell for all Questions and Answers related to the Call for Proposals.

If you have a question about a challenge, please send it to ISED-ISDE@canada.ca.

You can also consult the Frequently asked questions about the Innovation Solutions Program.

A glossary is also available.

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