Entries are now being welcomed for the 4th Global Trajectory Optimisation Competition. The competition seeks to find the best solution to an interplanetary trajectory problem. It has proved a unique playground for researchers to test new ideas and to compare methods.
Space travel can often be a long process, with years or even decades of cruise time before any science can be done. This competition was initiated in 2005 by ESA’s Advanced Concepts Team to stimulate research into techniques for finding the optimal trajectory for different missions. This year the competition is being organised by the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES).
“The competition is like The America's Cup, with the winners organising the next round,” says Dario Izzo of ESA’s Advanced Concepts Team.
CNES won the last competition with a solution to the way a single spacecraft could launch from Earth, rendezvous with three asteroids from a specified group of targets, and then return to Earth within ten years of departure. They are currently preparing this year’s challenge.
The problem will be released on 2 March to the first forty teams who have registered their interest by 27 February. A website will be created to display the problem and a list of participating competitors. Solutions must be submitted by 30 March, just four weeks later. The solutions will be verified and ranked during April.
The judges are looking not only for success but also for creativity and potential. As a result, selected teams will be invited to present their methods and results in September at a one-day workshop in Toulouse. At the workshop, the GTOC trophy will be passed on to the new winners where it will stay until the following competition.
Previous winners have also included the Outer Planets Mission Analysis Group of JPL and the Aerospace Propulsion Group, Polytechnic of Turin.