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A Self Contained Method for Safe & Precise Lunar Landing

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4 Author(s)
Stephen C. Paschall ; Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc., 555 Technology Square, Cambridge, MA 02139. phone: (617)258-2856 email: ; Tye Brady ; Babak E. Cohanim ; Ronald Sostaric

The return of humans to the Moon will require increased capability beyond that of the previous Apollo missions. Longer stay times and a greater flexibility with regard to landing locations are among the many improvements planned. A descent and landing system that can land the vehicle more accurately than Apollo with a greater ability to detect and avoid hazards is essential to the development of a Lunar outpost, and also for increasing the number of potentially accessible Lunar sortie locations. This descent and landing system should allow landings in more challenging terrain and provide more flexibility with regard to mission timing and lighting considerations, while maintaining safety as the top priority. The lunar landing system under development by the ALHAT (autonomous landing and hazard avoidance technology) project is addressing this by providing terrain-relative navigation measurements to enhance global-scale precision, an onboard hazard detection system to select safe landing locations, and an autonomous GNC (guidance, navigation, and control) capability to process these measurements and safely direct the vehicle to a landing location. This landing system will enable safe and precise lunar landings without requiring lunar infrastructure in the form of navigation aids or a priori identified hazard-free landing locations. The safe landing capability provided by ALHAT uses onboard active sensing to detect hazards that are large enough to be a danger to the vehicle but too small to be detected from orbit a priori. Algorithms to interpret raw active sensor terrain data and generate hazard maps as well as identify safe sites and recalculate new trajectories to those sites are included as part of the ALHAT System. These improvements to descent and landing will help contribute to repeated safe and precise landings for a wide variety of terrain on the Moon.

Published in:

Aerospace Conference, 2008 IEEE

Date of Conference:

1-8 March 2008