Rapid growth in space missions necessitates the onboard intelligence, which creates autonomous space systems by providing high level decision making, robust execution of decisions, and automatic fault repairing. Mostly, autonomous space systems are implemented as hybrid architectures with a few conceptual layers. Validating the stability and evaluating the performance of an autonomous architecture is critical for space missions. Software-in-the-loop simulation is a suitable approach for addressing this demand. However, the data acquired from simulation is represented as alphanumeric values or diagrams, which needs to be interpreted. In this paper, we propose an intelligent architecture to provide onboard autonomy for an observation micro-satellite. The architecture integrates the low level physical actions with conceptual decision making ability in a hierarchical manner. To evaluate the proposed architecture, we have implemented a distributed software-in-the-loop simulation to simulate the space, satellite, ground stations, and intelligent onboard software. Moreover, for the first time, we have used virtual reality to visualize the satellite's autonomous behavior in the orbit. It lets the users have a high level feedback from integrated simulation. Scenario-based evaluations have shown the stability and efficiency of the proposed architecture. © 2013 IEEE.
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