The aims of future exploration missions include the research of local phenomena, experiments on the utilization of resources and the construction of bases on different bodies such as mars, moon and asteroids. The ability to land autonomously, precisely and safely is a precondition for successful missions.
Optical systems are a promising navigation-technology for realizing landing missions because their measurements are not dependent on Earth and can be captured autonomously with a small delay. The image data can be used for an autonomous determination of the Lander’s position when combined with other sensor data, such as acceleration indicators. This is a necessary ability for independent and precise landing. Additionally, the image data can be used to choose a secure landing place.
ATON – Autonomous Terrain based Optical Navigation
The “Navigation and Control Systems” department is working collaboratively with other DLR institutes to develop a new optical navigation system within the scope of the ATON project. This new system should permit a landing vehicle to autonomously, precisely and safely land on the Moon. It will consist of a camera and a stereo recording optical system (stereo camera or LIDAR). The optical sensors will be complemented with further on-board sensor technology, including an acceleration indicator and a rotational speed sensor. The main part of this work comprises the development of image processing software for analysing optical sensor data and the navigation software. Using the image processing results and the on-board sensor data the navigation software creates an estimation of position and attitude. This project will result in hardware for demonstration purposes. The navigation system, consisting of the image processing software and the optical sensors, can be tested in the Testbed for Robotic Optical Navigation (TRON) and its function can be verified.
Research work for ATON in the department Navigation and Control Systems
The work in Bremen can be divided into three main parts:
The aim of the project is autonomous position estimation with an accuracy of a few hundred meters in Moon orbit and while approaching. The position will be determined using images of the Moon’s surface. Our approach is to use the existing craters on moon as landmarks. Over the next few years these craters will be indexed with an accuracy of about 10 meters. The sensor under development will use the indexed positions to determine which crater constellation is in a given image which yields the vehicle’s orientation. The planned procedure is: