Spaceflight Systems

Spaceflight Systems

NASA Mission Flight Dynamics

Metis works with NASA to meet the challenges of analyzing and customizing orbit characteristics to mission design requirements, including mission orbit design for science and technical requirements and transfer trajectory design in Earth orbit, lunar, and planetary missions.
Recent accomplishments include:

  • Developed mission simulations for swarms of multiple, interacting spacecraft
  • Flight Dynamics lead on the Arcus mission
  • Developed unprecedented equatorial, lunar orbit for the Dark Ages Radio Explorer (DARE) mission
  • Developed mission orbit analysis that addressed the constraints and requirements of cycler orbit flybys of Phobos and Deimos
  • Developed HelioSwarm mission orbits, with final swarm design decreasing maximum separations and addressing space communications limitations
  • Prototyped tool for relative motion in perturbed, eccentric, high altitude orbits

NASA SPHERES and Astrobee Mission

The NASA SPHERES - Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellite - and Astrobees are robotic free-flyers operating aboard the International Space Station. These robots are designed to work autonomously or via remote control by astronauts, flight controllers or researchers on the ground in support of Astronauts' activities. Metis engineers provide development, assembly, integration and test of ground and flight units, and in-flight operations support on ISS, as well as technical support for the SPHERES ground data system. Not only responsible for hardware prototyping and development, Metis engineers manage the day-to-day activities in the small satellite development laboratory at NASA Ames supplying support and on-hand experience. They recently played lead roles in the replacement of the SPHERES “blue” satellite propulsion system and successful return to flight.

Metis has pioneered the engineering services for Astrobee as lead in the development, assembly, integration and test of ground and flight units. In addition to our management of hardware prototyping and development, our engineers are critical in the developing the mission Safety Data Packages and Flight Certification packages for these ISS missions.

NASA Starling Mission

NASA Starling Mission

The Starling mission is a NASA Ames-led technology demonstration mission under the Small Spacecraft Technology Program designed to advance the readiness of several swarm-related technologies. Starling consists of four 6U CubeSats planned to launched to LEO in mid-2021. Metis engineers currently support Starling in flight dynamics and mission operations lead roles. As the flight dynamics team lead, Metis manages mission design and orbit determination. We oversee requirements development, modeling of the swarm’s relative motion, and maneuver design. Additionally, we lead the autonomous swarm maintenance experiment that will fly as a software payload. As the Mission Operation Systems (MOS) and Ground Data Systems (GDS) Lead, Metis manages ground data system development, integration, and testing on the GDS side. On the MOS side, we manage the Mission Operation Plan and Mission Operation Test (simulations, rehearsals, End to End Test, NEN Operational readiness test, and other required tests). We also coordinate NEN support, as well as training and certification for the mission operators.


Metis supports the Air Force Research Laboratory / Space Vehicles Directorate at the Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, through all phases of development, from concept; through design, integration, and testing; to launch and mission operations. Metis engineers support development of formation flight requirements, ConOps, and vehicle design, provide integration support for Attitude Determination and Control System (ADCS) subsystems, and develop the code base for attitude control and orbit determination simulations. Metis also performs systems-level cubesat propulsion engineering tasks including requirements development, trade studies, performance evaluations, product selections, and mission concepts.


Metis provided the Flight Dynamics team lead for the detailed mission orbit design on NASA’s LADEE mission. The LADEE lunar orbit called for several years of concentrated orbit design activity to balance science goals, spacecraft capabilities, operational constraints, and the unique, low-altitude gravitational environment. Metis took the lead in the development of customized design tools and ongoing collaboration with science and spacecraft engineering teams.

Metis’ experience with the LADEE project also included:

  • Designing with a significant trade space on the cis-lunar and transfer trajectory with potentially high launch dispersions.
  • Orbit estimation planning and execution through launch, transfer, capture, and mission phases.
  • Creation of the Flight Dynamics operational software environment based on STK and ODTK.

STPSat-5 Mission

Metis generates mission operations schedules for rehearsals, simulations and real-time operations, conducts planning using System Tool Kit (STK) to simulate new procedures and rehearse mission operations activities, conducts ground testing with the Multi-Mission Operations Center (MMOC) and the Near Earth Network (NEN) to verify command and telemetry integrity, and creates operations procedures for various stages of flight: launch and early orbit, acquisition and loss of signal timing and delta velocity maneuvers.

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