Welcome to the European Space Agency's web site on the Global Trajectory Optimisation Competition
To organise the first international competition to find the global optimal of an interplanetary trajectory was a risky idea. We saw it, a bit romantically perhaps, as a sort of "sailing challenge", with our galaxy as the racing waters and mathematical tools as the competing boats. In keeping with this idea, we hoped each successive winner would become the host (and referee) for the next event. The competition was opened to the widest international community including industry, academia and research groups. Still it was far from certain that any of these specialists and researchers would be willing to devote their (usually scarce) free time to such a contest. As it turned out, luck was indeed on the side of those who dare, and not only seventeen different groups participated to the first contest, but the winner also accepted to carry on and organise the next event, thereby fully supporting the original vision.
With hindsight, we may say that this contest indeed fills a need, which goes well beyond the sporting challenge: since there is no obvious "best trajectory" for many deep space missions, different global optimisation models and tools are used. Comparing them proves to be difficult, if not impossible, since there are many parameters to compare and different methods work better for different classes of trajectories, and they're usually presented with such trajectories as examples. Therefore, by taking one specific problem and asking the scientific community to measure its tools on this single problem (maximum change to the semi-major axis of the asteroid 2001 TW229 through an impact) and under the same boundary conditions, the ACT Global Trajectory Optimisation Competition has for the first time allowed such a comparison. We are confident that after some rounds we will not only be able to see how different global optimisation techniques evolve over time but also have a nice database of standardised problems with many kind of solutions against which developers can measure their own new codes.
As initiators and scientific responsibles of the competition, we had the chance to follow the event from the very beginning up to the presentation of its final results in February 2006 at ESTEC, the European Space Research and Technology Centre in the Netherlands. The different teams truly represented the international community from China to the United States to the European Community to Russia. Our Japanese colleagues were extremely busy with the exciting operations of the Hyabusa spacecraft and therefore could not participate even though they followed the event closely. We received all the solutions from the different teams within two days and each one of them made us really excited. We were certainly not expecting, nor we could guess, how diverse and creative all the trajectories would have been. When we came out with what would then become the competition problem, we actually were not even sure that it was possible to invert the orbital motion of the chosen spacecraft by pure thrusting as it instead resulted from some of the solutions returned. Once more, our gratitude goes to all those who participated in the event.
Taken up by the community!
After its first edition the competition has been taken up by the scientific community that is now the only responsible for its planning and success. Discussions have been made on the time schedule of the competition, on its frequency (one or two years) and on other organizational issues. As a general rule, the team that organizes the edition is free to decide on all these things.
The Trophee (GTOC cup)
The Global Trajectory Optimisation Competition (GTOC) trophee has been designed and realised by PinturasapArte (http://www.pinturasaparte.com/), a group of Spanish artists established in 1995 by Victoria Eugenia Colomer and Tate Garrigasait. The artist Isabel Genovard, the youngest of the group, has been the main responsible for this project. The trophee is a steel sculpture where the names of the teams that won the various editions are engraved. The shape of the trophee has been inspired by the curves of the trajectory from the Jet Propulsion Laboratories that won the first edition of the competition. Each year the trophee passes from the previous winner to the team who wins the latest edition. The GTOC cup will last for ten years, after these it will be assigned permanently to one of the partecipants and it will be replaced by a new trophee
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