ESA GNC Conference Papers Repository
Autonomous Planetary Landing using a LIDAR Sensor: the Full Scale Flight Test Experiment
The next generation of space exploration missions to the Moon, Mars and small bodies will require the ability to navigate and land safely in close proximity to potential hazards on the surface. These missions require the capability to identify boulders and slopes on the surface of the celestial body and react rapidly in order to guide the spacecraft toward a safe region. This capability is known in the literature as Hazard Detection and Avoidance (HDA). In papers presented at previous ESA GNC conferences, the design of a Lidar-based autonomous planetary landing system and its validation using software simulators and scaled hardware-in-the-loop simulators were presented , , . This paper is a continuation of this work and presents the first full-scale demonstration of this technology using a helicopter-based flight test, with Lidar measurements processing and HDA software functions operated in real-time using a flight-representative Lidar instrument. The flight test experiments were successfully performed in October 2010. This paper begins with a description of the design of the Lidar-based autonomous planetary landing system. Next, the paper presents the methodology adopted to validate the interfaces and the performance of the landing system in a scaled and repeatable environment using a robotic test bench (the so-called Landing Dynamic Test Facility or LDTF). This laboratory environment enables the efficient, low-cost and low-risk validation of the complex landing system before proceeding to the more expensive and more risky flight experiment. The paper then presents the flight test validation methodology using a helicopter on a steep descent trajectory toward terrains with representative slopes, rocks and boulders. The paper concludes with the presentation of the flight experiment results and a detailed analysis of the achieved performance.