Optimizing competing tools with objective metrics

(ORDO NEWS) — Developing tools for spacecraft missions is always a compromise. There are stringent requirements for the power, mass and volume of space instruments because they are often exposed to risks that similar laboratory instruments do not face. Instruments are usually used for a series of experiments or observations.

Each study requires tools with certain properties. For example, geological observations may require high spatial and spectral resolution, while meteorological experiments may require high frequency observations. Balancing these competing needs is an important consideration in instrument design.

In the Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, the researchers propose a new objective metric to optimize the competing needs of instrument users.

Scientists called it the internal dimension (ID). It allows you to quantify the information content of a certain set of observations by counting the number of significant components in the data analysis by principal components.

To test their approach, the authors applied ID to NASA’s proposed Surface Biology and Geology spacecraft. They identified and processed sets of spectroscopic data from existing sources reflecting the predicted capabilities of the mission.

By resampling the inputs in various ways, they modeled the possible trade-offs between the tools, calculating an ID for each one.

The study showed that the intrinsic dimension decreases with low resolution observations with a lot of noise. They also found that the choice of location (for example, desert or forest) has a greater impact on ID for spatial observations, and to a lesser extent for spectral ones.

In the future, they will apply this concept to more areas of instrument and mission design, such as data rates, flight paths, and observation schedules.


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