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Morpheus Uses Hazard Detection System to Land Safely in Dark [2014-05-29]

news imageDuring testing, Morpheus -- an unmanned spacecraft capable of carrying 1,100 pounds (499 kg) of cargo -- powered its way up to more than 800 feet (244 m) into the dark Florida sky at NASA's Kennedy Space Center using solely ALHAT's Hazard Detection System for guidance.

The Hazard Detection System, assisted by three light detection and ranging (lidar) sensors, located obstacles -- such as rocks and craters -- and safely landed on the lunar-like hazard field a quarter mile away from the NASA Center.

"The team has been striving for almost eight years to reach this point of testing the ALHAT system in a relevant space-flight-like environment on Morpheus," said Eric Roback, ALHAT flash lidar lead engineer at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

During testin... more>


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ABOUT
Future lunar missions will require the capability to land in close proximity of specific resources that are located in potentially hazardous terrain. To enable this capability, landers must be able to automatically identify the desired landing-site location while also detecting landing hazards during the final descent to the lunar surface. A critical technology called the Hazard Detection System is under development at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to make this capability possible. The Hazard Detection System consists of active sensors for measuring the topography of the landing site, along with terrain analysis algorithms to identify the landing site and the local hazards.

To prove that these technologies are ready for flight, they must be tested through both hardware-in-the-loop terrestrial field tests and high-fidelity Monte Carlo simulations of lunar landing. The terrestrial field tests validate the real-time performance and capabilities of the combined hardware, sensors and algorithms within the Hazard Detection System in a relevant dynamics environment, and the simulations improve confidence in the system for a high variety of lunar landing scenarios. Initial field testing of the prototype systems was conducted onboard a helicopter with flights over relevant terrain. Upcoming testing of the system will be conducted on the Morpheus vehicle, a rocket-propulsive terrestrial testbed under development at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) that has the capability to fly up to 1 kilometer altitudes and over 1 kilometer ranges. Test with Morpheus will be conducted initially at JSC, followed by flights over a simulated lunar terrain field under construction at Kennedy Space Center (KSC).

The multi-year development of the Hazard Detection System has been conducted within the Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology (ALHAT) program lead by Johnson Space Center (JSC) with support from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Langley Research Center (LaRC), the Charles Stark Draper Labs (CSDL) and the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). JPL is the lead center for design and development of the Hazard Detection System, has led several of the field testing campaigns, and designs and implements the terrain analysis algorithms, including terrain and environment models, hazard detection algorithms, hazard relative navigation algorithms and terrain relative navigation algorithms.
Related Links: [JPL Robotics] [NASA ESMD] [Project Morpheus]
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