7. April 2022

'Moon land­ing' per­formed with DLR Robot­ic Mo­tion Sim­u­la­tor

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Space
ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori in the DLR Robotic Motion Simulator
ESA as­tro­naut Rober­to Vit­tori in the DLR Robot­ic Mo­tion Sim­u­la­tor
Image 1/5, Credit: © DLR. All rights reserved

ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori in the DLR Robotic Motion Simulator

ESA as­tro­naut Rober­to Vit­tori was en­thu­si­as­tic about the DLR Robot­ic Mo­tion Sim­u­la­tor as a test fa­cil­i­ty. With the help of the mo­tion sim­u­la­tion, he was able to ex­pe­ri­ence re­al­is­ti­cal­ly as a pi­lot how the space­craft be­haves in crit­i­cal phas­es of the Moon land­ing and to in­ter­vene in a su­per­vi­so­ry role.
The 'Moon landing' could be followed on a large screen
Land­ing on the Moon
Image 2/5, Credit: © DLR. All rights reserved

Landing on the Moon

For the test cam­paign at DLR in Oberp­faf­fen­hofen, the cap­sule of the DLR Robot­ic Mo­tion Sim­u­la­tor was con­vert­ed in­to a lu­nar mod­ule. The ma­noeu­vres of the Lu­nar Mod­ule could be fol­lowed on a large screen. Here, ESA as­tro­naut and pi­lot Rober­to Vit­tori is com­plet­ing a safe land­ing in the con­trol mod­ule.
The astronaut familiarises himself with the system
Prepar­ing for the ex­per­i­ment
Image 3/5, Credit: © DLR. All rights reserved

Preparing for the experiment

The ESA project 'Hu­man-In-the-Loop Flight Ve­hi­cle En­gi­neer­ing for Ex­plo­ration Mis­sions' is in­ves­ti­gat­ing, among oth­er things, hu­man-ma­chine in­ter­faces and as­sis­tance func­tions for space ve­hi­cles. The find­ings will be used to de­fine the tech­ni­cal re­quire­ments for the next crewed Moon land­ing. Here, ESA as­tro­naut Rober­to Vit­tori sits in the DLR Robot­ic Mo­tion Sim­u­la­tor and fa­mil­iaris­es him­self with the sys­tem.
In the control room of the DLR Robotic Motion Simulator
In the con­trol room
Image 4/5, Credit: © DLR. All rights reserved

In the control room

View from the con­trol room of the DLR Robot­ic Mo­tion Sim­u­la­tor – the as­tro­naut in the cap­sule can be seen on the screen at the bot­tom left. At the top left, the sci­en­tists are look­ing at the us­er in­ter­faces. The screen at the top right shows the con­trol pan­el of the mo­tion sim­u­la­tor and at the bot­tom right im­por­tant pa­ram­e­ters can be seen. Dur­ing the ex­per­i­ment, the sci­en­tists were able to com­mu­ni­cate with the ESA as­tro­naut by ra­dio at any time.
Project team after the successful experiment at DLR Oberpfaffenhofen
Project team af­ter the suc­cess­ful ex­per­i­ment at DLR Oberp­faf­fen­hofen
Image 5/5, Credit: © DLR. All rights reserved

Project team after the successful experiment at DLR Oberpfaffenhofen

The DLR Robot­ic Mo­tion Sim­u­la­tor is op­er­at­ed by the Tech­lab at the DLR In­sti­tute of Sys­tem Dy­nam­ics and Con­trol in Oberp­faf­fen­hofen. In the pic­ture, the project part­ners in­volved in the ex­per­i­ment (from left to right): An­dreas Seefried (DLR), Vin­cen­zo Pesce (GMV), Rober­to Vit­tori (ESA), To­bias Bell­mann (DLR), Lu­ca Fer­raci­na, Miguel Neves (DLR), Eu­ge­nio Sor­belli­ni (Thales Ale­nia Space) and Csa­ba Jéger (HE Space Op­er­a­tions).
  • Test pilot and ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori tests the 'DLR Robotic Motion Simulator'.
  • Using the motion simulation, one can intuitively sense the behaviour of the lander and thus realistically control the lunar module.
  • The experiment is part of the ESA project 'Human-In-the-Loop Flight Vehicle Engineering for Exploration Missions'.
  • Focus: Space, Moon exploration

How will astronauts land safely on the Moon in the future? A seamless interaction between pilot and spacecraft is crucial to ensuring a successful Moon landing. Together with partners from industry and research, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) has conducted a special experiment. European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut and test pilot Roberto Vittori has tested various lunar landing manoeuvres for the first time during a fully mobile simulation in the flight deck of the 'DLR Robotic Motion Simulator'.

ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori tests manoeuvres

The motion simulator was developed at the DLR Institute of System Dynamics and Control and allows for extreme tilt angles and manoeuvres. As a test pilot in the simulator in Oberpfaffenhofen, the ESA astronaut was able to experience how a spacecraft behaves during critical flight phases and intervene to control it. This experiment is part of the ESA project 'Human-in-the-Loop Flight Vehicle Engineering for Exploration Missions'. Within this project, technology studies are being carried out for crewed landings at the Moon's South Pole.

In one test scenario, the auto pilot was set to land in a landing zone with boulders. Vittori was able to intervene within a given time window and select an alternative landing site free of boulders via touch screens. In another scenario, the autopilot experienced a technical fault. Here, the Italian astronaut was able to switch to fully manual control and successfully pilot the module manually as it descended onto the lunar surface.

Human-machine cooperation

A primary goal of the ESA project is to evaluate human-machine interfaces and assistance functions for spacecraft. For this purpose, the project participants developed a human-in-the-loop simulation that enables an astronaut to interact with the control system of the simulated lander. To simulate the final phase of a lunar landing, the DLR researchers converted the motion simulator into a lunar module.

The DLR Robotic Motion Simulator is based on an industrial robot arm with a flight deck capsule attached to the end. The system is highly customisable and has a particularly large available workspace. In contrast to classic mobile flight simulators, the DLR Robotic Motion Simulator makes it possible to achieve extreme tilt angles and manoeuvres.

"It was a beautiful run," said ESA astronaut Roberto Vittorio, stressing the intuitive feeling for motion the simulation system gave him. "The simulator is an incredible machine, probably one of the best I have experienced. This experiment is for me showing that Europe can play a key role in the future of exploration."

Successful ‘Moon landing’ using the DLR robotic motion simulator
European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Roberto Vittori has tested various lunar landing manoeuvres for the first time in the flight deck of the ‘DLR Robotic Motion Simulator’. The motion simulator was developed at the DLR Institute of System Dynamics and Control and allows for extreme tilt angles and...

For this experiment, the DLR team equipped the capsule with touch screens, new input devices for the astronaut and a virtual flight deck window. The researchers also developed a high-resolution lunar visualisation that allowed the manoeuvres of the lunar module to be observed on a large screen outside the simulator.

Intuitive, realistic control

Another goal of the ESA project is to investigate in greater detail how well an astronaut can control and navigate the lunar module while under the influence of motion. The resulting findings will be used to define the technical requirements for future lunar landing missions. As part of the project, DLR researchers are also studying how the conditions and effects of motion that occur in lower gravity can best be simulated on Earth.

After the series of experiments was completed, the Italian ESA astronaut Vittori was extremely impressed by the facility in Oberpfaffenhofen and emphasised that the motion simulation gave him an intuitive feeling for the lander, which allowed him to control the lunar module in a realistic way. ESA project manager Luca Ferracina commented: "The experiment has clearly shown that the DLR Robotic Motion Simulator is very suitable for conducting this type of tests."

About the project

The Technical Directorate of the European Space Agency (ESA) has initiated the project 'Human-In-the-Loop Flight Vehicle Engineering for Exploration Missions' as part of preparations for the planned Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G) space station. Among other things, the gateway is to serve as an intermediate station for crewed missions to the Moon.

The project is funded by ESA and is a collaboration between research and industry. Project partner Thales Alenia Space from Italy provided the user interfaces for manoeuvre control, in particular the software for the touch screens. The navigation and flight control of the simulated lunar module was developed by the Spanish company Grupo Tecnológico e Industrial GMV S.A. and adapted for the DLR simulator. The Robotic Motion Simulator was developed at the DLR Institute of System Dynamics and Control.

Contact
  • Bernadette Jung
    Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Ober­paf­fen­hofen, Weil­heim, Augs­burg
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)

    Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Me­dia Re­la­tions
    Telephone: +49 8153 28-2251
    Fax: +49 8153 28-1243
    Münchener Straße 20
    82234 Weßling
    Contact
  • Tobias Bellmann
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    In­sti­tute of Sys­tem Dy­nam­ics and Con­trol
    Space Sys­tems Dy­nam­ics
    Telephone: +49 8153 28-1833
    Münchener Straße 20
    82234 Weßling
    Contact
  • Miguel Neves
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    In­sti­tute of Sys­tem Dy­nam­ics and Con­trol
    Space Sys­tems Dy­nam­ics
    Münchener Straße 20
    82234 Weßling
    Contact
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