Autonomous Systems

Role in Scientific Discovery

Autonomous Systems

Autonomous systems enhance and enable exploration and observation.


Benefit to JPL Mission

Autonomous systems improve reliability, improve productivity, reduce risk, and reduce development and operations costs for all missions. Missions that face critical time constraints benefit from autonomous systems. Autonomous systems are necessary in spacecraft that must operate independently for extended periods of time.



The current state of autonomous systems for planetary missions is limited by a lack of integration and sufficient space-rated computing capability. Advancing autonomous systems requires higher performance computing platforms and sustainability in the harsh environment of space.



  • Situational awareness and self-awareness: feature detection, lighting adaptability
  • Onboard reasoning and decision making: on-the-fly goal elaboration, state assessment and reasoning, terrain classification
  • Architectures for autonomous space systems: goal-based commanding, systematic and scalable V&V


Read more about this topic in JPL's 2019 Strategic Technologies document.