20 Years of Tier-Scalable Reconnaissance: Adoption of a Game-changing Mission Paradigm

Wolfgang Fink, James M. Dohm, Mark A. Tarbell, Trent M. Hare, Victor R. Baker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

2 Scopus citations


Over the course of the last 20 years, planetary exploration mission architectures have evolved from single-craft paradigms totally commanded from Earth, towards an adaptive multi-tier, multi-agent paradigm approximating full in-situ operational autonomy: Tier-Scalable Reconnaissance (TSR). The early beginnings of the TSR mission paradigm date back to 2001, in large part based on the realization that an integrated perspective from multiple vantages optimizes exploration and scientific return for the best possible scientific understanding. The notion of an overhead perspective when exploring planetary field sites was filed as a New Technology Report at JPL in May 2003, followed by the filing of three Caltech patents in 2003, 2005, and 2006, capturing the entire intrinsic nature of TSR. Moreover, the TSR paradigm was recognized by NASA with a NASA Board Space Act Award in 2009, and has been widely publicized and showcased in numerous public media over the years. This paper highlights several key elements of multi-tier and multi-agent planetary exploration mission architectures envisioned in the three originating Caltech patents. It also showcases past, present, and future missions with elements of the TSR paradigm, with the nearest to the full implementation of the paradigm thus far being the first autonomous flight of the Mars helicopter Ingenuity on April 19, 2021, which added an overhead perspective and guidance for a rover for the first time in the history of space exploration. TSR is fundamentally changing how planetary surface exploration is being conducted, and will optimize exploration and science return.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2022 IEEE Aerospace Conference, AERO 2022
PublisherIEEE Computer Society
ISBN (Electronic)9781665437608
StatePublished - 2022
Event2022 IEEE Aerospace Conference, AERO 2022 - Big Sky, United States
Duration: Mar 5 2022Mar 12 2022

Publication series

NameIEEE Aerospace Conference Proceedings
ISSN (Print)1095-323X


Conference2022 IEEE Aerospace Conference, AERO 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityBig Sky

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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