Navigation Doppler Lidar Sensor Demonstration for Precision Landing on Solar System Bodies

PI: Farzin Amzajerdian, NASA/Langley Research Center

Future robotic and manned missions to the solar system bodies (Moon, Mars, Asteroids, etc.) demand accurate knowledge of ground relative velocity and altitude in order to ensure soft landing at the designated landing site. Some missions may even require landing within a few meters of pre-deployed assets or landing in a small area surrounded by rocks, craters, or steep slopes. To meet these requirements, a Doppler lidar sensor has been developed by NASA-LaRC under the Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology (ALHAT) project. A prototype version of the Doppler lidar has recently been completed and ready for demonstration flight tests. We propose a closed-loop flight demonstration of this Doppler lidar on the Masten suborbital reusable launch vehicle (sRLV).

COBALT Flight Demonstrations Fuse Technologies to Gain Precision Landing Results.

Technology Areas (?)
  • TA04 Robotics, Tele-Robotics and Autonomous Systems
  • TA09 Entry, Descent and Landing Systems
Problem Statement

The Doppler lidar will begin its operation during the powered descent phase from an altitude of a few kilometers above the ground. The GN&C system processes the lidar data to improve the vehicle position data from the Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) that after long travel time from Earth are grossly inaccurate by hundreds of meters. The improved position knowledge along with the lidar precision vector velocity data enables the GN&C system to continuously update the vehicle trajectory toward the landing site. In addition to the precision trajectory determination, the lidar data will play important role in performing the soft landing maneuver.

Technology Maturation

Flight demonstrations on the Masten sRLV will raise the TRL of the NDL from 5 to 6, and serve as a major step toward providing the NDL as a standard landing sensor. The sRLV flights will demonstrate the capabilities of the NDL for future landing missions and gain the confidence of the mission designers in this advanced technology.

Future Customers

This flight demonstration will reduce the risk of using the advanced Doppler lidar technology for future landing missions that may be launched as early as 2017 and certainly for recently-announced Mars rover launch in 2020. The flight demonstration will familiarize the potential users with the Doppler lidar measurements and gain the confidence of mission designers.

Technology Details

  • Selection Date
    AFO6 (Jun 2013)
  • Program Status
  • Current TRL (?)
    TRL 5
    Successful FOP Flights
  • 2 sRLV

Development Team

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