ESA GNC Conference Papers Repository
Flash LIDAR for Space Rendezvous and Docking Missions
There is a growing need for spacecraft docking, and sensors that can accurately measure relative position and attitude in harsh space environments are essential for such missions. To realize the docking of JAXA's HTV-X spacecraft to the International Space Station, a new relative navigation sensor, Flash LiDAR, is currently under development. The Flash LiDAR employs a 3D image sensor developed jointly by JAXA and Hamamatsu Photonics. This newly developed 3D image sensor for LiDAR applications is so sensitive that it can detect even a single photon of a transmitted laser pulse and determine the time of flight with resolution of a few centimeters. The Flash LiDAR uses this sensor to overcome a short maximum operating range. Current development is to design and produce an engineering model. This paper provides an overview and features of the Flash LiDAR and its core component, the 3D image sensor. Next, it describes the scenario of the HTV-X docking mission, discusses two technical issues (sunglint and 6-DOF measurement accuracy) and analysis results. The paper concludes by discussing the possibility of applying the Flash LiDAR to future missions; the Gateway, an outpost orbiting the Moon, and Lunar landing and surface exploration missions.