How SpaceX uses AI?

SpaceX is revolutionizing the aerospace industry with cutting edge and unprecedented technological advances – for many more years to come

Ever since the initial launch of Space Exploration Incorporated (also known as SpaceX), CEO and founder Elon Musk has constantly been pushing his company into new boundaries and limits. He is constantly working to make their commercial rockets simplified and easy to use, allowing the learning curve and consumer satisfaction to grow at increasing rates. SpaceX has been at the forefront of aeronautical and space research and exploration in the past decade, constantly challenging themselves to allow humanity to reach farther into space such as going to Mars.

What makes SpaceX so unique though? What makes them different than their government rivals, NASA? SpaceX combines modern, cutting edge technology such as AI into their rocket’s capabilities and expand upon what hasn’t changed in the space industry for half a century. SpaceX, which operates out of Hawthorne, California sets their own self-imposed deadlines and has an aggressive work schedule, while also being able to launch their rockets time in and time out since they are a private organization and don’t have government imposed guidelines or restrictions (besides flying a safe rocket).

Since the inauguration of SpaceX, the company has accomplished a reusable and self-landing booster section of their rockets. This allows them to keep costs at a minimum since they are able to use their manufacturing less often. Typical space travel organizations discard of their rocket after the flight, costing billions of dollars every time this happens.

SpaceX is also credited with the world’s most powerful rocket fuel and engines. The Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, and Starship use liquid oxygen, refined kerosene, and other novel chemical compounds or reactions in order to create 5 million pounds of thrust at lift-off.

Additionally, they have near perfected the desirable sci-fi movie capsule for payloads for humans or cargo. The Dragon has made 20 ISS flights and resupply missions combined, and is capable of holding 7 passengers. The Dragon capsule combines state of the art modern architecture techniques in order to create a sleek interior design that feels like a luxury vehicle. They have also revamped the controls from the many buttons, switches, and control pads in standard industrial rockets to touch screens with controls simple to use, just like playing a mobile game on an iPad.

Where does AI exactly come to play in SpaceX’s day to day operations and on rockets? First, SpaceX uses AI to keep their satellites safe in space. The satellites are able to navigate themselves in space and down back to earth using AI and are equipped with sensors to prevent a collision with space debris. AI is used in SpaceX’s data processing to find patterns in satellites, planets, and space debris. The early recognition system allows them to plan out their missions for the future.

The most crucial need for AI in the real world is to reduce human error. That’s exactly what SpaceX does with their rockets. The rocket, for the most part is navigated by an autopilot AI until the docking/landing phase of the mission. The AI will set a trajectory to a specific point in space, say the ISS, and will calculate parabolic flight, fuel usage and reserves, and liquid engine sloshing among other information. Through calculating these pieces of data, the rockets are able to have the most effective flight path which keeps everyone and everything onboard safe. By implementing AI into the rocket, this allows humans less and less to work and worry about, simplifying space endeavors to places such as Mars. SpaceX also uses Machine Learning and data scientists in order to create a convex optimization algorithm. The convex optimization algorithm determines the best landing for the Dragon capsule, using mathematical reasoning and computer vision.

In emergency situations for astronauts aboard the SpaceX rockets, an evacuation system based on AI is used to make sure everyone returns safely to Earth, however, the exact details of this project is unknown to the public.

SpaceX launched an AI named CIMON, an oversized digital computer head, in one of its missions to the ISS. CIMON was responsible for assisting the astronauts with their routines and science experiments. CIMON is also capable of having conversations with the astronauts and is able to send data back to mission control. The AI is guided by voice control and cameras, and doesn’t suppress human opinions or decisions. At the end of the day, SpaceX has stated that they won’t replace the crew with AI, instead, the AI is just an assistance to the crew since the AI isn’t self-training. SpaceX and partnering companies believe in future space explorations the AI would be able to solve potential problems and warn the crew of malfunctions, or simply entertain them on their journey.

People tend to associate rocket science as being a very difficult subject, hence the phrase, “It’s not rocket science!” however, when you break down the different components of rocketry into smaller segments you want to focus on that interest you, rocketry is doable. Who knows, maybe the Community AI, in the future, will do something related to rocketry and maybe implement AI concepts into some rocketry projects!

At the Community AI, our goal is to educate others with AI concepts so they can apply it to projects they are passionate about. So the next time when you’re watching a rocket launch on TV or find a problem you want to solve, think about how you can use AI to pursue your project.

“A goal without a deadline is just a dream.” – Robert Herjavec

Author: Richard Lian

duPont Manual High School at Louisville, KY