A new approach to signal prediction and prognostic assessment of spacecraft health resolves an inherent difficulty in fusing sensor data with simulated data. This technique builds upon previous work that demonstrated the importance of physics-based transient models to accurate prediction of signal dynamics and system performance. While models can greatly improve predictive accuracy, they are difficult to apply in general because of variations in model type, accuracy, or intended purpose. However, virtually any flight project will have at least some modeling capability at its disposal, whether a full-blown simulation, partial physics models, dynamic look-up tables, a brassboard analogue system, or simple hand-driven calculation by a team of experts.

Many models can be used to develop a “predict,” or an estimate of the next day’s or next cycle’s behavior, which is typically used for planning purposes. The fidelity of a predict varies from one project to another, depending on the complexity of the simulation (i.e. linearized or full differential equations) and the level of detail in anticipated system operation, but typically any predict cannot be adapted to changing conditions or adjusted spacecraft command execution. Applying a predict blindly, without adapting the predict to current conditions, produces mixed results at best, primarily due to mismatches between assumed execution of spacecraft activities and actual times of execution. This results in the predict becoming useless during periods of complicated behavior, exactly when the predict would be most valuable. Each spacecraft operation tends to show up as a transient in the data, and if the transients are misaligned, using the predict can actually harm forecasting performance.

To address this problem, the approach here expresses the predict in terms of a baseline function superposed with one or more transient functions. These transients serve as signal templates, which can be relocated in time and space against the signal background. One then has the ability to reconstruct a signal regardless of the precise timing of the transients. During operation, one applies the actual start times of spacecraft activities as they occur, and produces a reconstructed, accurate predict in real-time.

This general approach is valid under two important conditions. First, the transients themselves must be time-invariant. Second, the transients must be reasonably consistent with respect to different operating points. Both of these assumptions are generally valid, but in the case of a complicated system with numerous types of overlapping transients, this approach may not be effective. Fortunately, there tend to be few transients in spacecraft telemetry of sensor quantities or low-level health and status information because these signals rarely reflect multiple different types of operation. Furthermore, if the predict is at least reasonably close to actual operation, the shift — either in time, or in the operating point when the transient occurs — is likely to be small.

The proposed approach considers three ways to recognize a transient. The first and most reliable is to use a different signal that identifies operating mode — often the transient will be correlated to a change in operating mode, and this change can usually be detected positively from discrete signals in spacecraft telemetry. If there is no useful mode signal, the second option is to identify the transient template by hand, and detect the onset of the transient using a curve-fitting approach. Finally, if one elects not to choose by hand, there is an option for automatic selection.

This technique has been applied to sensor data from several JPL missions and industrial applications, demonstrating an improvement in accurate prediction of future behavior and early detection of system problems. This technique is applicable to practically any time-varying, quantitative sensor measurement.

This work was done by Igor K. Kulikov and Ryan M. Mackey of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, download the Technical Support Package (free white paper) at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Information Sciences category. NPO-47159

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Template Matching Approach to Signal Prediction

(reference NPO-47159) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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This article first appeared in the October, 2010 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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